Ethnic minority and poorer students more likely to drop out of English universities
London’s universities have the worst drop-out rates in England, a new report reveals, with nearly one in ten students dropping out during their first year of study.
The report ‘On course for success? Student retention at university’, also finds that students at universities in England from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to drop out than other students.
‘On course for success? Student retention at university’ was commissioned by the UPP Foundation, a charitable trust created by University Partnerships Programme (UPP) to help tackle the biggest issues facing the higher education sector across the UK, and the report was produced by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent think tank.
The report’s author, SMF research director Nigel Keohane said:
“It’s futile to direct significant efforts to get poorer and ethnic minority students into higher education if the same students subsequently drop out. The Government, the Office for Students and universities themselves should now focus as much on retention as on widening the pool of applications and enrolments.
“Tackling non-continuation at university is vital. Each drop out represents a loss of potential, a poor and probably confidence-sapping experience for a student and an investment in tuition costs which is likely to have a low return.”
Dr Paul Marshall, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the UPP Foundation, said:
“The available data sets show us that universities are currently doing a very good job at providing a higher education closely tailored to the needs of their students. However, like other industries, UK HE cannot be complacent and needs to keep improving to remain a world-leading sector.
“The UPP Foundation sees the task of tackling non-continuation as an important element to improving social mobility throughout HE. While it is important to think about retention at an institution-level, each non-completion is a lost opportunity for the individual from a welfare and economic perspective and for the economy at large. It’s wasted talent that we believe should be nurtured and inspired.”
The report urges the Government to introduce a new target to close the completion gap for black students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2025; this means reducing the Black student dropout rate from 10.3% to 6.9%, which is the current English average for young and mature students in all years of study.
It also recommends that the Mayor of London seeks to improve university retention rates in the capital through his new skills task force. This could include assessing what more could be done through housing, transport and leisure amenities to help students participate fully in university life.
- London performs worst across all English regions with nearly one in ten students dropping out during their first year of study.
- London over-performs in getting its young people into university, but the capital’s universities struggle to keep students. London’s drop-out score among young students is high, second only to the North West.
- Many of the disadvantaged groups targeted through the government’s Widening Access programme are also the groups who are most likely to drop out. Institutions are more likely to have higher drop-out rates where:
– They have a higher in-take of black students.
– They have a higher proportion of students whose parents work(ed) in lower level occupations.
– They have a higher proportion of students who come from low participation localities.
- Universities with lower student satisfaction scores in the National Student Survey have higher drop-out rates on average.
- Campus universities may have inherent advantages in holding on to students as compared with non-campus institutions. This is likely to derive from the importance of a ‘sense of belonging’
- The Government should introduce a new target to remove the completion gap for black students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2025; this means reducing the Black student dropout rate from 10.3% to 6.9%, which is the current English average for young and mature students in all years of study.
- The Mayor of London should seek to help to improve university retention rates in the capital through his new skills task force Other mayors should follow suit. This could include assessing what more could be done through housing, transport and leisure amenities to help students participate fully in university life.
- The Office for Students should consider introducing rewards for institutions that facilitate successful transfer of students from their institution to another institution.
- An ‘Innovation Challenge Fund’ should be set up to finance the most exciting ideas for how to address high drop-out rates among some ethnic minority groups.
- Universities, schools and other institutions should make greater efforts through outreach to prepare and support students in advance of university, whether through open days, taster sessions or other interventions.
Notes to editors
- The report can be read here: https://www.smf.co.uk/publications/on-course-for-su…on-at-university/
- About the Social Market Foundation
The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is an independent, non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this. https://www.smf.co.uk
- About the UPP Foundation
The UPP Foundation is a registered charity that offers grants to universities, charities and other higher education bodies.
In recent years, as higher education has expanded, the burden of paying for a degree has shifted towards the individual. This naturally presents difficulties in terms of maintaining the ‘University for the Public Good’, as well as ensuring there is greater equity in terms of going to, succeeding at and benefiting from the university experience. We believe the UPP Foundation can make a small but significant contribution in helping universities and the wider higher education sector overcome these challenges.
The UPP Foundation was created in 2016 by University Partnerships Programme (UPP), the leading provider of on campus student accommodation infrastructure and support services in the UK. UPP is the sole funder of the UPP Foundation.
The UPP Foundation is an autonomous charity and all of its grants are reviewed and authorised by its Board of Trustees. The Foundation is supported by an Advisory Board. More information is available at the UPP Foundation website: www.upp-foundation.org
- Interviews/media enquiries
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