Fewer dropouts, more state students

Hesa figures show modest changes in vital indices. Rebecca Attwood reports

April 15, 2010

Universities have reduced their dropout rates and succeeded in attracting more students from state schools into higher education, according to new figures.

Data published today by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that among students starting full-time first degrees in the UK in 2007-08, the proportion who had dropped out a year later was 8.6 per cent, down from 9 per cent in 2006-07.

Meanwhile, the proportion of young full-time undergraduate entrants from state schools rose to 89 per cent in 2008-09, up from 88.5 per cent the previous year.

However, data on changes to the proportion of students from lower socio-economic groups are not available due to a change in the question asked of applicants on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service form.

The University and College Union criticised the fact that the data would not be available in the year of Lord Browne of Madingley’s independent review of student funding.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “It is quite incredible that the question on students’ backgrounds has been changed and that comparisons with previous years are impossible. There is a review of student funding happening right now and we need that information.”

Ucas has subsequently reverted to the old format, meaning that data should be comparable with earlier figures when they are released this time next year.

But Ms Hunt said this was “little comfort when we are being denied the full picture of participation at university by students from the poorest backgrounds”.

The Hesa figures show that Harper Adams University College is once again the most inclusive institution, with 58.4 per cent of its students coming from lower socio-economic groups. It is followed by London Metropolitan University (57.5 per cent) and the University of Greenwich (56.2 per cent).

The least inclusive institution is the Courtauld Institute of Art (7.9 per cent), followed by the University of Oxford (11.5 per cent) and the University of Cambridge (12.6 per cent).

However, Oxford and Cambridge also reported the lowest dropout rates among full-time first-degree entrants, with just 1.1 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively quitting their studies after one year.

The highest dropout rate was once again at the UHI Millennium Institute (25.4 per cent). It was followed by the University of the West of Scotland (21.4 per cent) and the University of Bolton (19.8 per cent).

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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