Your front-page story and editorial about student non-completion rates (THES, March 19) were helpful in putting the issue in an international context by showing that drop-out rates in this country are lower than elsewhere.
Your assertion that drop-out rates for first degree students are rising is more questionable. The figure you cite, a 25 per cent non-completion rate for England, was calculated by The THES using provisional data provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to institutions. Even if that figure were correct, it would be misleading to compare it with the 19 per cent 1995-96 figure produced for the Department for Education and Employment, which was produced on a different basis.
One reason for producing performance indicators relating to student progression is to provide a basis to compare completion rates from year to year. We do not yet have data that enables us to do this with certainty. Our preliminary analysis, however, suggests that there has not been a significant rise in non-completion rates in recent years.
Bahram Bekhradnia Director of policy, Higher Education Funding Council for England