Rise in University drop outs from poor backgrounds
Increasing numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are dropping out of universities in England.
A worrying 8.8% of young, full-time students from poorer backgrounds dropped out before completing their first year in 2014/15 making it the highest amount for 5 years.
The data from the Office for Fair Access (Offa) also shows that in 2014-15 less than 5% of those from wealthier backgrounds dropped out in the same year. This means that those from a poorer background are almost twice as lucky to drop out than their wealthy counterparts.
The Offa report concludes that: “Higher education can be a transformational experience that opens doors to rewarding careers and social mobility, but this is only the case if students achieve successful outcomes.”
Who else is affected?
Black students are also affected, being 1.5 times more likely to leave higher education before finishing their course than white or Asian students.
Levels of attainment between different ethnic groups is also concerning. Of white students who graduated, 76% were awarded either a first or a 2:1, while only 52% of black students achieved this.
Part-time study is also in danger. The report’s findings highlight a growing need to do more for part-time students.
It found that part-time entrants have fallen by 58% since the year 2010-11. Mature students comprise 93% of part-time learners, so people choosing to study later in life have been seriously impacted by this.
The report states that “immediate action is required in this area”.
What is being done about this?
Degree-awarding institutions (all universities) had to sign an “access agreement” with Offa in 2015-2016 if they wanted to raise tuition fees, to a maximum of £9,250 from this September.
The report has now measured the progress of these institutions in encouraging more disadvantaged young people to join, against their targets in this agreement.
Universities are spending more on schemes to widen participation (like this one). In 2015-2016 the total investment in this across institutions was £883.5m, compared to £842.1m in 2014-2015.
However, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said there was “still more work to do to ensure no student is missing out”.
He explained that the Higher Education and Research Act will improve this by requiring institutions to publish applicant, dropout and attainment statistics broken down by gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background.
Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, confirmed that its universities were “investing significantly in widening access” but also highlighted that the recent Social Mobility Commission’s report made it clear the UK still has a long way to go in ensuring people from all walks of life have the chance to succeed.
She added: “our members work to ensure more young people apply to leading universities, and more students from disadvantaged backgrounds graduate with qualifications and skills that help them into the workforce.”
Whether any of these policies on widening participation will have an impact has yet to be seen but there's no doubt that the increase in tuition fees as well as a rise in living costs has caused a lot of students (from all backgrounds) a lot of stress.
Have you dropped out of uni or ever thought about doing so? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.