University of Portsmouth sees increase in drop-out rates

MORE students are dropping out of the city’s university than five years ago.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 6:41 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th January 2020, 12:22 pm
Like many colleges and universities, The University of Portsmouth has seen a rise in the number of students failing to continue with courses.

Latest data for the University of Portsmouth shows a 1.2 per cent increase in students both leaving the institution and higher education altogether.

Figures from Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show of the 5,320 students who started their first degree in 2016/17 there are 350 who dropped out. That brings the rate up from 5.4 per cent in 2011/12 (260 students) to 6.6 per cent.

But this remains far below the 8.8 per cent benchmark for the university calculated by Hesa, meaning it is doing well in retaining students.

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While the University of Portsmouth has experienced a rise in non-continuation rates it has still fared better than many other universities.

A university spokesman said: ‘Significantly lower numbers struggle when they study at Portsmouth compared to the average 8.4 per cent benchmark calculated by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

‘These factors were an important factor in gaining our Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) Gold rating.’

He added: ‘We are proud to have the doors to learning and achievement wide open to all who could benefit from higher education. This is an ethos and responsibility we take seriously.’

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The university has a £1m financial hardship fund for students, one-to-one tutor support and access to experts who can support student welfare.

All of these were brought in to help retain students.

The increase in non-continuation rates reflects the national picture with two-thirds of universities experiencing a similar situation.

Research revealed that 67 per cent of UK institutions saw an increase in the proportion of students dropping out with just under a third (31 per cent) experiencing a decrease. Two per cent remained the same.

In Scotland the University of Abertay, Dundee, saw the largest rise – an 8.6 per cent increase – while in England, Bedfordshire University had the biggest increase in non-continuation rates, at 6.9 per cent.

Seven institutions had an increase of more than five per cent, while 19 had an increase of more than three per cent.

Researchers examined data over a five-year period from 2011/12 - the year before tuition fees in England were trebled to £9,000 - to 2016/17.

A well as increased financial pressures, many universities point to a widening of student intake as potential reasons for the rise.

It’s a view echoed by the vice-chancellors' group, Universities UK. A joint statement said: ‘Universities are committed to widening access to higher education and ensuring students from all backgrounds can succeed. However, it’s clear that non-continuation is still an issue and institutions must continue to work to support students to progress and succeed.’

Universities minister Chris Skidmore said: ‘Many universities are doing excellent work to support students but it's essential that dropout rates are reduced.’

Solent University bucked the national trend with a 2.2 per cent decrease in non-continuation rates.