The unis with the highest drop-out rates, revealed
Genuinely shocked that over 95 per cent of people manage to stay in Southampton for three years
It’s a threat you make whenever something embarrassing happens to you in the SU. It’s a mantra you whisper again and again in the library as your dissertation somehow gets further from being finished the more you work on it. But how many people actually follow through with dropping out?
Uni stats agency HESA has collected data on students who started uni in 2017/18 – so those who would be third years this year – to find the unis with the highest drop-out rate.
London’s Queen Mary has the highest drop-out rate of any Russell Group uni, with 5.8 per cent of students dropping out. It’s closely followed by Glasgow, with 5.2 per cent dropping out.
Oxford and Cambridge are the lowest, predictably – but it’s worth bearing in mind that the drop out percentage covers people who are no longer in any form of higher education, so people could be leaving Oxbridge to go elsewhere.
Exeter, Durham, and Edinburgh also manage to keep drop-out rates to a bare minimum, perhaps suggesting the spectre of parental disappointment is enough to keep the £9,250s coming in.
The full ranking for the Russell Group unis with the highest drop-out rates:
Queen Mary: 5.8 per cent
Glasgow: 5.2 per cent
Imperial 4.9 per cent
King’s College London: 4.2 per cent
Liverpool: 4 per cent
Cardiff: 3.9 per cent
Queen’s University Belfast: 3.9 per cent
Manchester: 3.6 per cent
LSE: 3.5 per cent
Southampton: 3.5 per cent
Nottingham: 3.5 per cent
Newcastle: 3.3 per cent
Warwick: 3.3 per cent
Leeds: 3.2 per cent
UCL: 3.2 per cent
Sheffield: 3 per cent
Birmingham: 2.8 per cent
Bristol: 2.8 per cent
York: 2.8 per cent
Edinburgh: 2.6 per cent
Exeter: 2.5 per cent
Durham: 2.3 per cent
Oxford; 1.2 per cent
Cambridge: 1 per cent
Drop-out rate is calculated as the percentage of people who started in 2017/18 and are no longer in higher education.
Drop-out rates have become a controversial measure of a uni’s success. Their use in rankings has, some argue, led to an incentive for unis to avoid taking students from poorer backgrounds, as they are more likely to drop out due to financial pressures. Birkbeck – the largely part-time uni – even withdrew from uni rankings because it felt they punished unis who made attempts to diversify.
This may go some way to explain why diverse unis like Queen Mary, Imperial, and King’s sit at the top of the table, while places like Durham, Exeter, and Oxbridge lurk at the bottom.
Whilst the HESA data isn’t for this year, and doesn’t take the impact of the pandemic into account, uni bosses are worried the coronavirus crisis will make drop-out rates worse.
Online learning, a lack of socialising, and bleak halls isolation conditions have led to a worse uni experience for many, while part-time jobs have essentially vanished, leaving students without a means to financially support themselves. Together, the circumstances have got unis fretting about retention.
A Russell Group Vice Chancellor told The Guardian: “We know they will struggle. I’m expecting that we may have a high dropout rate and that worries me. For an individual, the impact of dropping out can be far worse than not getting in in the first place.”