More than 40,000 students drop out of UK university courses

Roughly one in 37 UK students dropped out last year, according to Student Loans Company data

September 28, 2023
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More than 40,000 undergraduate students withdrew from courses at UK institutions last year, figures reveal.

New statistics from the Student Loans Company (SLC) show that 41,914 undergraduate students dropped out of their courses between the start of August 2022 and the end of August 2023.

This was up 5 per cent from 2021-22, and the highest figure since the data was first recorded in 2018-19.

The real figure across the whole of the UK will be even higher because it only includes those studying in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – not Scotland.

And because not all undergraduates receive student funding, the figures are not representative of the entire student body.

Comparisons with previous years reveal that about 9,300 students dropped out in the final three months of the academic year – down slightly from roughly 9,900 over the same period in 2022.

About 96 per cent of all undergraduates who withdrew from higher education providers were full-time students.

The figures include full-time and part-time undergraduates receiving student funding, and include a small number from the European Union.

Across all students receiving funding, the data shows that 2.7 per cent dropped out in 2022-23 – up slightly from the year before, and also the highest since comparable records began.

Northern Ireland continued to have the lowest dropout rate of UK nations, falling to 2.4 per cent, while England’s rose slightly to 2.7 per cent.

In Wales, 3.3 per cent of undergraduates withdrew last year – including 3.8 per cent of those studying full-time.

And it was even higher for students doing a foundation year in Wales, with 10.4 per cent of them dropping out.

This was almost double the rate for those at the same level in Northern Ireland, and almost double the rate in Wales just two years ago.

The SLC said a withdrawal is counted if a student leaves and does not intend to re-engage in their course. It means there is no further obligation on the student to pay fees to their university, and terminates a student’s period of student finance eligibility.

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Reader's comments (1)

I don't think you emphasise enough that last year you reported a dropout increase of 23% from 2020-21. So over a two-year period that is an increase in dropouts of over 29%