CEIAG & Careers Leaders

University drop out rate increasing

University drop out rate increasing

Thursday 24th March 2016

The headlines in today's Times shouts 'More students dropping out of degrees"

Today's Schools Improvement News leads with a quote from Sir Les Ebdon the director of fair access to HE

I am disappointed to see that the trend of improvement has not continued.

I'm not sure what improvement he's referring to, quality of teaching, value for money? That is not made clear in the article but the crux of the story is that in 2014/15 academic year 6% of students drop out of uni in their first year up from 5.7% in the previous year.

Schools Improvement then asks...

What do you think is behind this? Is there a mismatch between expectations and reality? Is it because of increased financial concerns? Are too many people being encouraged to go to university in the first place?

Well you know me, my answer won't fit in 140 characters so here it is...

Pupils who entered University last academic year were the first to be affected by the abolition of Connexions in 2012 and the resultant decimation of school careers provision seen throughout England. These pupils would have, in a majority of cases, not had a qualified careers adviser to speak to. One who is trained in supporting young people, not only by providing access to information, but also to process and act on all the information available to them. All this at the crucial point in life - their A level results.

I'm not saying that this is the only driver behind these figures. It's impossible to tell as the figures don't record reasons for undergraduates dropping out.

There is however, another disturbing trend - Whilst more students are completing their degrees than did previously this figure is also predicted to fall and more are expected to transfer to other degrees or to other avenues of study - again the specifics of these figures aren't reported. So the bottom line is that 18% of last year's bright eyed uni first year students won't achieve the degree they signed up for.

This, to my experienced eye is a clear indicator that young people are not only going to University because schools are routinely recommending the academic route for any that are able (or in some cases vaguely able) but they are also not supporting their students adequately in choosing the correct course. There is a 2 fold driver behind this:-

1 Schools efficacy is judged by the amount of pupils it sends to university

2* Most school staff don't have the time to support pupil choice* and don't fully understand the difficulties young people face in university choice, not just cost, being away from home, fitting in with the university demographic, teaching methods etc. A good careers education programme embedded within a school supports young people to be able to research and consider these aspects of the choice. In addition a careers adviser who is experienced at coaching and counselling and they can look at the whole package of pupil, situation and results and support the young person.

So - you want to ensure that your pupils are not part of the drop out statistics?


1) Put careers learning at the heart of your curriculum - All subjects have some careers learning input - staff need to be alerted to it, careers is a whole school issue. Ensure there is a written programme, as required by the statutory guidance issued by the DFE The CDI Framework for Careers, Enterprise and Employability provides lots of support. Make use of the Careers & Enterprise Company's offer to ensure curriculum buy in
2) Ensure there are clear expectations that all routes of progression are signposted to ALL pupils, university, apprenticeships, jobs with training, vocational study
3) Take time to identify pupils that are struggling to make decisions - ensure they have QUALIFIED support preferably from level 6 qualified careers advisers - You can find a searchable list of careers advisers on the Career Development Institute website here You will also be able to find highly qualified consultants who can help you develop your careers program in a cost effective way.

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