RISING numbers of students from more disadvantaged homes are dropping out of universities in England before completing their studies, figures show.
The proportion of youngsters from disadvantaged families who do not continue after their first year has reached the highest level for five years, says the Office for Fair Access. Official data shows that in 2014-15, 8.8% of young, full-time, disadvantaged undergraduates did not continue in higher education beyond their first year – up from 8.2% the year before.
By comparison, in 2014-15, less than 5% of those from the wealthiest backgrounds did not continue their studies. The Offa report says: ‘The gap between the non-continuation rates of the most advantaged and most disadvantaged students has widened in the past year.
‘While more disadvantaged young people are in higher education than ever before, the numbers of those students leaving before completing their studies has risen for the second year in a row.’ The report says: ‘The significance of this for students is huge. 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.’
The report also finds the non-continuation rate for black students is almost 1.5 times higher than it is for white and Asian students. For black students who complete their degree, the level of attainment is also markedly different: while 76% of white students graduated with a ‘good degree’ (first or 2:1), only 52% of black students did the same,’ the report says.
Offa also wants universities to do more to address the needs of part-time students, saying targets focused on mature entrants were the most frequently missed. ”The steep decline in part-time numbers has had severely negative implications for mature numbers, as 93% of part-time learners are mature,’ the report says.
‘The fall in part-time entrants for a seventh consecutive year has meant an overall decline of 58% since 2010-11. Immediate action is required in this area.’