Low number of first-year students dropping out of Portsmouth university courses testament to staff’s ‘excellent work’ during the coronavirus pandemic, deputy vice-chancellor says

FEWER first-year students dropped out of courses at the University of Portsmouth last year, figures show – despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education.

Monday, 4th April 2022, 9:28 am
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 9:28 am

The deputy vice-chancellor of the university says the numbers reflect the ‘excellent work’ done by staff to support learners during a challenging period.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan also welcomed the statistics, which show the proportion of students dropping out of degree courses fell to a record low last year across the UK.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency demonstrate that around 4,465 students aged under 21 began a full-time first degree course at the University of Portsmouth in 2019-20 – and 235 quit before the second year.

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Professor Paul Hayes of the University of Portsmouth

That means the non-continuation rate for young entrants was 5.3 per cent – down from 6.8 per cent the year before.

The vast majority of students (92.3 per cent) continued at the provider last year, while 2.5 per cent transferred to another university.

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Professor Paul Hayes, deputy vice-chancellor of the university, said: ‘The university was pleased to see this external confirmation of the excellent work we have done supporting students during a difficult period.

‘Our staff worked incredibly hard to introduce new approaches at the start of the pandemic, to ensure our students had the best chance of successfully continuing on their courses. We introduced ‘blended and connected learning’ which integrated face-to-face teaching and online provision for students.

‘We invested in laptops to help students working from home together with major investments in online e-books and other learning resources.’

The figures show that the proportion of mature students dropping out last year fell to a record low nationally.

Of the 685 mature students at the University of Portsmouth, 70 discontinued their studies before the second year – a non-continuation rate of 10.4 per cent.

Professor Hayes added: ‘We worked closely with our Students Union to make sure that our plans really met students' needs.

‘This included bringing students on campus safely to reduce isolation and its impact on mental health.

‘Our library was open whenever government requirements permitted and we opened up laboratories and other facilities for students as soon as we were able to do so.’

The HESA said that while the increase in the proportion of students continuing with their courses after their first year cannot be directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is often a trend towards increased university enrolment in ‘periods of economic uncertainty’.

Minister for higher and further education Michelle Donelan said getting on at university is just as important in getting in, and providers must continue to focus on tackling drop-out rates.

She added: ‘This is real progress, impacting real lives – and I want to put on record my thanks to our universities for their hard work, especially through a challenging pandemic, in reaching this milestone.’

The Office for Students said it was pleased that despite the challenging conditions of the pandemic, overall dropout rates have remained low.

A spokesperson added: ‘However, the gaps between different universities and courses remain significant.

‘It is vital that students, particularly those from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds, have the support they need to complete their studies.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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