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Student Drop-Outs

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action is taken in the event of a student dropping out from a course of higher education (a) during and (b) at the end of an academic year to recover costs for the institution involved in respect of (i) uncollected private tuition fees and (ii) transfers from the Higher Education Funding Council in respect of the education of that student. [120958]

First YearFinal YearFirst YearFinal Year
English and Drama810.10.01527.815.9
Modern Languages318.826.11559.50.0
Total secondary705.1110.71,0278.13.8


—no one training in subject

1 95 per cent. of entrants to PG courses in 2000/01 were on a 1 year course

2 As a proportion of those entering ITT

3 As a proportion of those entering final year of course

4 Those on PGCE courses which are more than one year in duration

5 Technology includes Design and Technology, Information Technology, and Business Studies and Home Economics

6 Other includes Social Studies, Economics, and Classics


TTA Peformance Profiles 2002

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what evidence he collates on the relationship between prior academic attainments and the drop-out rate of students. [120589]

A number of research studies have explored the factors associated with dropping out of higher education. These include:

Guidance issued by Universities UK (UUK) and the Standing Conference of Principals (SCOP) in July 2002 recommends that where a student withdraws from a course during an academic year, the institution should charge the student a reduced fee contribution fixed in proportion to the number of weeks that the student attended. In particular, the total fee contribution due for the year is divided by 30 and multiplied by the number of weeks the student spent at the institution. Students who complete a full year would be liable for the full fee. Higher education institutions are responsible for pursuing any uncollected tuition fees.The Higher Education Funding Council for England's (HEFCE) teaching funding method provides funding for students who complete their year of study. Students who do not complete the year of study are not fundable.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what proportion of students in each subject area dropped out after (a) one year, (b) two years, (c) three years and (d) before the completion of their course in the last year for which figures are available. [118124]

The table shows the number of trainees who dropped out of undergraduate and postgraduate courses of initial teacher training at institutions in England in their first or final year in 2000/01, the latest year for which data are available. Data on wastage in other years of teacher training are not collected.Improving student achievement in the English higher education sector HC 486, Parliamentary Session 2001/02;"Dropping Out: A study of early leavers from Higher Education" (2003) Rhys Davies and Peter Elias, DfES Research Report 386; and Smith J. and R. A. Naylor, "Dropping out of University: a statistical analysis of the probability of withdrawal for UK university students", Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 2001, vol. 164, pp. 389–405.Several of these have investigated the effect of prior attainment and found that students with lower prior attainment are where they do not receive appropriate support are less likely to complete their higher education course. However, the evidence also shows that non-completion is a complex process that cannot normally be explained by any single factor. Other important factors (many of which are inter-related) include

  • incompatibility between the student and their course or institution;
  • lack of preparation for higher education;
  • lack of commitment to the course;
  • financial hardship;
  • poor academic progress;
  • health or other personal reasons;
  • age;
  • gender; and
  • whether or not the individual applied through clearing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action his Department is taking in conjunction with higher education institutions to reduce student dropout rates. [120590]

In spite of a considerable expansion of student numbers, the UK non-completion rate has stayed broadly the same at 17–18 per cent. since 1991–92, representing one of the highest completion rates in the world. We are determined to maintain that performance as we increase participation towards 50 per cent. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has allocated £265 million to higher education institutions in 2003–04 for widening access and improving retention. This figure recognises the additional costs of supporting students from non-traditional backgrounds.Research indicates that there is no single cause of non-completion. However, students making the wrong initial choice of course or institution is a major factor. Under our plans set out in The Future of Higher Education' (Cm 5735), more information will be available about institutions and their performance to assist prospective students. We are also working with HEFCE to develop an electronic portal to give faster access to all available information. In addition, HEFCE is working with institutions to improve retention rates, and to disseminate good practice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the student percentage drop-out rates were for each academic year since 1992/93. [120591]

Since 1996/97, information on non-completion rates has been published annually by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in "Performance Indicators in Higher Education". The latest figures giving overall non-completion rates for students starting full-time first degree courses in the UK are as follows:


Students starting courses in:

Non-completion rate


Non-completion rates for earlier years were calculated and published by the Department and are shown in the following table. These figures also cover students on full-time first degree courses but the methodology and institutional coverage used by the Department was different to that used by HEFCE, so the two sets of figures are not directly comparable.


Students starting courses in:

Non completion rate:


1 A range is given for these years because the introduction of a new data source in 1994/95 made it difficult to measure non- completion, as it was then calculated, accurately.

Figures published in 2002 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the UK as a whole has one of the lowest non-completion rates among OECD countries.