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The percentage of full-time students who do not continue into a second year of higher education (HE) in England has remained low over the last decade. Between 2003-04 and 2009-10 it was around 8 per cent, and new data [Note 1] show that it then decreased in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Low non-continuation rates have been a consistent feature of English higher education since the mid-1990s [Note 2]. The latest information shows that retention rates have improved, even though numbers entering higher education have increased and there are more students going to university from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The trend in percentage of entrants transferring from one institution to another has been similar: around 3 per cent between 2003-04 and 2008-09, then fell to around 2 per cent between 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Successful participation for all students in higher education is critical to social mobility. While the overall figures are encouraging, the findings for 2011-12 reveal very different rates between particular groups [Note 3]:
These data can be explored further via the online interactive tool.
Whilst we know that factors including entry qualification, subject and age have an effect on non-continuation rates and degree outcomes, we also know, from other HEFCE analysis [Note 4], that there still remain some types of students who experience differential outcomes from higher education compared with others. HEFCE will be working with and supporting universities and colleges to understand and address these differences as a priority.
Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:
‘This new HEFCE information confirms that non-continuation rates in England remain low relative to other countries and have improved despite the increase in participation during the last decade’.
‘There is, however, no room for complacency as we see very different rates for men, students with disabilities, students from certain ethnic minority groups and mature students, as well as variations by region and subject. The interactive web pages that we have provided allow staff in universities and colleges to explore the data by different student and course characteristics, which will help them to understand and address the issues arising in their particular setting. We also want to work with institutions to get behind the statistics and support practice that will genuinely address barriers to student success.’
It revealed unexplained differences in outcomes for student from ethnic minority groups, men, student with disabilities not in receipt of Disabled Students Allowance and students from low participation neighbourhoods.