One in five stu­dents doesn’t progress straight to year two

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Holly.else@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

One in five stu­dents at English uni­ver­si­ties does not progress straight into the sec­ond year of their de­gree, ac­cord­ing to a re­port that sheds new light on the scale of non­con­tin­u­a­tion.

Higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions’ dropout rates are pub­lished an­nu­ally and they av­er­aged 7.4 per cent in Eng­land in 2014-15.

But those fig­ures are not de­tailed enough to flag up stu­dents who re­take their first year or trans­fer to an­other univer­sity, and new fig­ures pub­lished by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Fund­ing Coun­cil for Eng­land re­veal that al­most as many re­take year one as drop out al­to­gether.

An eight-year dataset shows that the pro­por­tion of stu­dents re­tak­ing their first year in the same sub­ject peaked at 6.8 per cent in 2014-15, hav­ing last reached this level in 2008-09.

Ad­di­tional stu­dents re­take the first year at the same in­sti­tu­tion in a dif­fer­ent sub­ject: this ac­counted for 1.8 per cent of stu­dents in 2014-15.

A fur­ther 2.4 per cent of stu­dents trans­ferred to an­other univer­sity in 2014-15: into the sec­ond year of a de­gree, into the first year of a de­gree in the same sub­ject or into a course in a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline.

This means that the pro­por­tion of stu­dents con­tin­u­ing straight into the sec­ond year of their de­gree in the same univer­sity stood at 81.6 per cent in 2014-15, the low­est fig­ure since 2009-10.

Stephen McDon­ald, a se­nior econ­o­mist at He­fce, said that the re­port had re­vealed for the first time the ex­tent of retakes and trans­fers, de­scrib­ing the pro­por­tion of stu­dents who did retakes as “quite sig­nif­i­cant”.

The data re­veal that in 2011-12, the year be­fore tu­ition fees were in­creased to £9,000 in Eng­land, there was a dip in the rates at which stu­dents dropped out of higher ed­u­ca­tion or re­peated their first year in the same sub­ject.

“It could be that since stu­dents knew that the cost of higher ed­u­ca­tion was go­ing to be higher in the fu­ture, they were more likely to per­sist with their orig­i­nal choices,” the re­port says.

A sep­a­rate re­port, also pub­lished by He­fce, looks in de­tail at stu­dents who trans­fer to a dif­fer­ent univer­sity but re­main in the same area of study.

It finds that the rates at which stu­dents trans­fer are high­est in Lon­don, which it says is most likely down to the fact that there are nu­mer­ous uni­ver­si­ties in the city, mak­ing switch­ing eas­ier.

Be­tween 2012-13 and 2014-15, 29 per cent of stu­dents trans­fer­ring be­tween uni­ver­si­ties but re­main­ing in the same sub­ject area went into the sec­ond year at the new in­sti­tu­tion, sug­gest­ing that they were able to trans­fer aca­demic credit. How­ever, male, black and Asian stu­dents ap­peared less likely to be able to trans­fer credit.

Sixty-seven per cent of stu­dents who trans­ferred into year two at a new in­sti­tu­tion went on to qual­ify within six years, com­pared with 94 per cent of stu­dents who con­tin­ued at the same in­sti­tu­tion. For stu­dents who trans­ferred into year one, the fig­ure was 72 per cent.

The re­port adds that the “lim­ited scale” of stu­dent trans­fers sug­gests that “more might be done to en­able flex­i­bil­ity and choice for stu­dents once they have started a first de­gree”.

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