Nearly 20,000 students withdraw from UK courses

Westminster government warned that number of dropouts will continue to rise if it does not increase maintenance loans

March 31, 2023

Almost 20,000 students have withdrawn from undergraduate courses in the UK so far this academic year, figures show.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, student finance website Save the Student warned that many more dropouts could follow if the government does not increase maintenance loans.

Data from the Student Loans Company (SLC) shows that 18,280 undergraduate students withdrew from their courses between the start of the 2022-23 academic year and 21 February. Of those withdrawals, 16,463 were for England-domiciled students.

This is down by 1 per cent from the number who had dropped out by a similar point last year, but it is well up on every other year since such figures began to be collected in 2018-19. As a proportion of total student numbers, however, the SLC figures show that 1.2 per cent of all undergraduates receiving student finance quit their courses – up slightly from 2021-22, and the highest on record.

The figures include full-time and part-time undergraduate students from the UK (excluding Scotland) and the European Union, who receive student funding.

The SLC cautioned that as the figures do not cover a full academic year, they should be treated with caution.

Recent polling from the Office for National Statistics revealed that more than a third of students in the UK said that the financial difficulties they have incurred have made it less likely they would go on to further study.

Laura Brown, head of editorial at Save the Student, said it was “extremely concerning” that so many students had quit their university courses. “Unfortunately for many, money is likely to be a significant factor in this decision, highlighting the urgent need for the government to improve maintenance funding to prevent more students from dropping out.”

Within the UK, the withdrawal rate was highest for foundation years students in Wales and Northern Ireland, where 4.1 per cent dropped out.

By contrast, just 0.2 per cent of fourth-year undergraduates ended their studies early.

Ms Brown said maintenance loans fall more than £400 short of covering the average student’s monthly living costs. And while notable increases in maintenance funding in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are due, the uplift in England is unlikely to be enough, she said.

“Unless the government significantly increases the financial support on offer, I worry that more and more students will find themselves in a situation where they are struggling to get by, and are thinking about dropping out of university as a result,” Ms Brown added.

The Department for Education said it was increasing loans and grants for living and other costs for a further year, in addition to providing £276 million in student premium funding for this academic year.

“Many universities are already stepping up efforts to support their students through a variety of programmes, and we urge students who are worried about their circumstances to speak to their university,” a spokesperson added.

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Reader's comments (1)

Most of the students who have pulled out of their courses should probably have not been there in the first place. Universities are increasingly used for reducing the length of the dole queue by pretending that certain people will benefit from having a degree when they won't. There are too many people doing degrees which re either useful or which are useless for the particular student.