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Universities With Highest and Lowest Dropout Rates

A new report from Debut Careers reveals the UK universities with the highest and lowest student dropout rates.

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6 in every 100 (6.3%) - that's how many students drop out of university in the UK on average. With drop-out rates amongst UK students rising, perhaps there is a need to look closer into the divide - and that’s what the team at Debut Careers have done.

Looking into dropout rates of over 140 of the country's higher education institutions, they can reveal the universities with the highest and lowest percentage of students who have dropped out of their courses.

UK Universities With Lowest Dropout Rates 

  1. The University of Cambridge (1% dropout rate)
  2. The University of Oxford (1.2% dropout rate)
  3. Royal College of Music (1.5% dropout rate)
  4. Courtauld Institute of Art (1.6% dropout rate)
  5. The University of Bath | Royal Academy of Music (1.7% dropout rate)
  6. University of Bristol | Durham University | University of Exeter | Royal Veterinary College | St George's, University of London (1.9% dropout rate)
  7. Glasgow School of Art | University of St Andrews (2.1% dropout rate)
  8. London School of Economics and Political Science (2.4% dropout rate)
  9. University of Birmingham (2.5% dropout rate)
  10. University of Sheffield (2.7% dropout rate)

UK Universities With Highest Dropout Rates 

  1. London Metropolitan University (18.6%dropout rate)
  2. The University of Bolton (15.4% dropout rate)
  3. University of Bedfordshire (15.2% dropout rate)
  4. University of the Highlands and Islands (14% dropout rate)
  5. University of Suffolk (13.6% dropout rate)
  6. SRUC (12.9% dropout rate)
  7. Middlesex University (12.6% dropout rate)
  8. Plymouth College of Art (12.5% dropout rate)
  9. University of Wolverhampton (12.2% dropout rate)
  10. University of Abertay Dundee (12.1% dropout rate)

London Metropolitan University has the highest dropout rates in the UK at a huge 18.6%, while the University of Cambridge has the lowest. The more ‘prestigious’ and well-known institutions seem to sit at the top of the league, with a certain degree of stability evident.

The research, from  student careers service, Debut Careers, also shows the dropout rates by subject. Their insights reveal that computer sciences are the subjects which suffer from the highest dropout rate at 9.8%, with medicine, dentistry and veterinary science being the subjects which see the lowest, at just 1.5%.

There could be many reasons for a student to drop out of education. No matter your background or university choice, the sudden change in lifestyle can sometimes be too much to cope with. For many, it can be an overwhelming shift.

Whatever the reason you may have for considering dropping out, it's important to look into your options. If you are beginning to feel withdrawn or see grades slipping, take a moment to address these and question why, considering what your next steps could be. It could be that instead of dropping out altogether, you could transfer to a new course or uni.

Keep in mind that support is out there and talking to someone is always a great help. After all, most students who need support don't tend to ask for help.

Usmann Qureshi, Client Success Manager from Debut Careers, believes that while leaving an undergraduate course does limit some opportunities, it opens many doors to other exciting ones:

 “Leaving an undergraduate course before completion does rule out some opportunities, but opens up many others.

“When we speak with candidates, they are often really surprised at the companies with opportunities that are still available to them for Higher/Degree apprenticeships.

“The apprenticeship levy has changed the landscape. Not only is there a much bigger incentive for employers to bring on apprentices, but the data suggests they are often much better value. Retention rates are roughly double that of graduates and often the employee can contribute positively much earlier on.”

Ten Year Difference in Dropout Rates

The research also looked into the difference in dropout rate by subject between 2007/08 and 2017/18. From this, we can see that every subject has seen a reduced dropout rate over time. Combined subjects have reduced their dropout rate by 23.8%, while physical sciences have dropped by 12.7%. Medicine, dentistry and veterinary science saw the smallest drop of 1.4%, followed by education, which had a reduction of 3.4%. 

Does this show that the decision of attending university is becoming a much more thought-about choice? Are institutions doing more to keep their students happy or is it that the alternative options of internships and schemes are being taken advantage of instead? If there is such a need to improve student retention, maybe measures such as more student advisors were put into place in recent years?

Regardless of the reasons for dropout rates, the most important solution to this problem is to address any worries in a timely manner and know that there are numerous options today. There are so many support systems, and it's crucial that you make use of them; from recruitment companies to internships, schemes, work experience and much more, there are so many avenues you may have not explored if your first choice was university study.

Often, you won’t know that university wasn't right for you until you get there and stand in the lecture hall. Sometimes it just won't work out and the reality isn't quite what you expected. And guess what? That's more than ok. It's not an easy position to be in, but don't worry, you're not the only one.


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You can see the full research and more advice and guidance into future career and education options from Debut Careers in their career insights here.  

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