Students in Scotland are more likely to drop out of university than elsewhere in the UK. Despite a small improvement on last year, the student dropout rate north of the border is 10.9% compared to the UK average of 9%, figures released recently by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed.
Of all 18 universities in Scotland, student dropouts were highest at the University of the Highlands and Islands, at 28.2% and Napier University in Edinburgh came second, had a student dropout rate of 16.0%. The best scoring university in terms of percentage of dropouts was St Andrews, with 1.8%, second was the Glasgow School of Art with 2.0%. Edinburgh scored a dropout rate of 4.6% and Glasgow 8.0%.
The University and College Union claimed that the wide fluctuations in student dropouts were the result of wide recruit bases of the universities; students from poorer backgrounds have been labelled as more likely to dropout due to financial constraints.
Whilst there has been improvement against last year’s figures, the change is marginal. In 2008, 11.0% of students dropped out in Scotland compared a UK average of 8.8%. In 2007, the percentage of dropouts in Scotland was a staggering 12.0%. The figures really do highlight the need for more to be done to ensure students complete their further education programmes.
Tony Acton of the University and College Union had the following comment on the issue of student drop outs:
“It tends to be the institutions that recruit people from poorer backgrounds that tend to have the higher drop-out rates. More resources should be put in for support when you are recruiting from poorer backgrounds.
“Those who go to university and have a family history of university tend not to drop out because they have more support.
“The Scotland-wide issue is that Scotland has recruited more people into higher education from different backgrounds, so that tends to mean that you are not recruiting the very top people all the time, so that wide recruitment probably contributes to the fact that Scotland has higher drop-out rates.
“But the first factor is financial. People drop out because they haven’t got money and what we need to concentrate on is giving more students support while they are at university, especially in the time of recession when getting a part-time job and getting a loan from a bank is more and more difficult.
“With the University of the Highlands and Islands, it might be that distance learning courses have a bearing, but it is difficult to say why that is happening.”
A University of the Highlands and Islands representative had the following to offer in response:
“The performance indicator quoted is for young (under-21) full-time degree entrants.
“Around 60% of our students are part-time and 72% are 21 or over, so this constitutes a relatively small window on UHI.
“Nonetheless, it is part of our mission to provide access to university-level education to as many potential students as possible, especially those who are not in a position to move away from home to study at a traditional university. For example, many of our students come from backgrounds where there is no history of university-level education in their family.
“In these circumstances, it is to be expected that some of these students will decide not to continue their studies, for a wide variety of reasons. This includes students who, subsequent to starting their course, find full-time employment – which for them is a very positive outcome.
“Of course it is of concern to us that the non-continuation rate among this particular group of students stands at around 33% and we are taking action to address it.”
Edinburgh College of Art 5.2%
Glasgow Caledonian 12.3%
Glasgow School of Art 1.8%
Queen Margaret 9.4%
Robert Gordon 9.3%
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama 7.1%
St Andrews 2.0%
West of Scotland N/A