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.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

This is how much you’ll earn after uni, based on the degree you study

Ranked: This is how many students at your uni have been punished for Covid partying

These are the unis you should’ve gone to if you wanted to earn £40k out of uni