Student University Dropout Rates Hit Record Low During COVID Pandemic
woman in black and yellow shirt sitting on chair
Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash

Student University Dropout Rates Hit Record Low During COVID Pandemic

Rachael Grealish March 24, 2022

The number of students dropping out from university hit a record low during the COVID pandemic, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The HESA recently reported the ‘UK Performance Indicators: Non-continuation 2020/21‘ relating to students who entered higher education between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020 including the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dropouts hit record low

According to the stats in 2019/20 the dropout rate was 5.3 per cent out of a total 329,315 full-time first degree entrants – a fall of 1.4 percentage points on the previous year.

This is the lowest dropout rate to be observed since UK Performance Indicators have been calculated and this is despite the world being plunged into the pandemic and students moving to remote learning.

The HESA stated in the report: ‘The increase in the proportion of entrants continuing in HE after their first year cannot be directly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic but there is often a trend for increased HE enrolments in periods of economic uncertainty.

‘This behaviour may extend to a desire to continue degree courses when other paths outside HE are less certain’

The trend for falling dropout rates continued into mature students (those over 30) – the non-continuation rate for mature entrants also reduced from 13.5 percent to 11.9 percent of full-time first degree entrants not continuing into their second year.

Where you study not what

The data showed the likelihood of a student not continuing their studies depended on where they study, with nearly a third of students dropping out at some institutions, compared with virtually none at others.

According to the HESA stats a total, 27 institutions had dropout rates of more than 10 percent out of 179 institutions analysed.

Elite universities such as the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford had a dropout rate of 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent of students discontinue their courses, respectively.

Whereas at Arden University in 2019/20, 32.3 percent dropped out of their courses, while 19.2 percent had dropped out at Point Blank Music School and 16 percent had discontinued their studies at London Metropolitan University.

But those already based online such as the Open University had a zero percent of students dropout.

Lowest Rates In Northern Ireland

The drop-out rate in Northern Ireland for students who began their degree course in 2019-2020 was lower than the overall rate for the UK.

Fewer than one-in-25 (3.9 percent) Northern Ireland students aged under 21 who began a full-time undergraduate degree in 2019-20 dropped out of their course.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Rachael is the Senior Content Editor at Freshered. She is NCTJ qualified with an MA in journalism. Rachael has almost ten years experience as a journalist in regional, national and international press and is passionate about creating engaging content.