Dropout rate tumbles, but not among IT crowd

Hefce figures show overall attrition rate down to 6.6 per cent but computer science struggles to improve retention

July 31, 2014

Fewer students are dropping out of universities than ever before, according to new data.

But there are huge differences between subjects, with more than one in 10 computer science students dropping out, compared with fewer than two in 100 taking medicine and dentistry.

The latest data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England show that in 2011-12, 6.6 per cent of full-time UK students doing a first degree in England had quit after their first year.

This is almost one percentage point less than the previous year, and is the latest in a series of declines since 2003-04, when the dropout rate was 9.2 per cent.

But differences in dropout rates between subjects remain stark. Eleven per cent of computer science students dropped out in 2011-12, according to the data. This is an improvement on the previous year, but since 2003-04 dropout rates have generally stayed above 12 per cent, despite almost all other subject areas having seen significant improvements in retention.

A detailed breakdown of the figures shows that software engineering has a particularly poor retention record, with nearly 17 per cent of students dropping out after the first year. Artificial intelligence courses, on the other hand, do much better.

Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World, a report released earlier this month by the UK Digital Skills Taskforce, suggested that computer science courses are “extremely varied” and that “some students arrive at university to find that the courses do not match their expectations”.

The data also show that men (7.6 per cent) are more likely to drop out than women (5.9 per cent). Students from areas with the lowest levels of participation in higher education also had higher dropout rates than those from other neighbourhoods. Neither of these differences could be fully explained when controlling for age, subject and qualifications on entry.

Black students and those from state school also have higher than average dropout rates, but these differences did largely disappear when other factors were taken into account.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Professor in Music and Performance UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor in Design UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor of Storytelling UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor of Creative Industries UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Postdoctoral Position in Modelling of Farming Systems SWEDISH UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES SLU

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest