St Andrews’ drop out rates lowest in Scotland

Photo: Peter Gordon

The University of St Andrews has the lowest student drop out rate in Scotland and the fifth lowest in the UK, according to recently published figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The numbers reveal that, of the total 915 full-time first degree entrants in 2011-2012, only 25 (2.8  per cent) had dropped out of St Andrews by the end of the year.

Of  these  students who dropped out, 10 transferred to another higher education institution (HEI). The other 15 were reported as no longer being in higher education at all.

The proportion of students continuing or finishing their degree at St  Andrews is now 97.2 per cent. The University therefore boasts one  of the lowest drop out rates of any HEI in the UK. Only the Universities  of  Oxford,  Cambridge and  Buckingham,  and  the  London-based  Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, have higher continuation rates.

The national Scottish average rate is 90.2 per cent, while the averages for Wales and Northern Ireland are 92.6 per cent and 92.7  per  cent respectively. HESA has reported that the UK  average is only marginally lower, at 91.4 per cent.

Furthermore, non-continuation rates from previous academic years show that increasing numbers of students are choosing to remain at St Andrews. In the academic year 2001-2002, 91.7 per cent of all entrants  to the University continued or qualified here. Five years later, this figure had increased to 96.5 per cent.

These changes reflect a national decrease in drop out rates throughout tertiary education. A decade ago, only 87.8 per cent of all UK enrolled students stayed or graduated at their original institution of higher education. By the 2005-2006 academic year this had risen to 88.7 per cent.

The University of St Andrews’ director of communications, Niall Scott, told The Saint: “St Andrews has maintained a consistently  low drop out rate for many years.

“St Andrews is a highly selective university. Competition for places is significant and we aim to recruit the most academically potent  students. It  is  probable, therefore, that many of our students arrive at university already well prepared for higher education and less likely to succumb to the pressures which can lead to non-continuation.”

He did add, however, that “the pressures of studying for a degree at St Andrews can be considerable.”

A wide variety of help is available to students, from CAPOD to the Advice and  Support  Centre.  Mr Scott said:  “We also invest a lot in student support systems and services to ensure that we can offer appropriate support to those students who need assistance with  study  or in their personal life.”

He also mentioned “the work of the Students’ Association” and the size of St Andrews as a town as further “significant factors” in the University’s increasingly low drop out rates.

He commented: “These are of course advantages which you may not find in big city universities.”

The statistics from HESA, which collects data about a range of higher education institutions throughout the UK, also revealed that the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Edinburgh were among the other Scottish institutions with high continuation rates. 94.5 per cent of entrants to the University of Edinburgh and 94.9 per cent of entrants to Glasgow School of Art continued or qualified at the same institution.

Conversely, the lowest rate in Scotland came from the University of West Scotland, where only 79 per cent of students continued or finished their studies.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David,  whose campuses are based across south Wales and Swansea, had the highest drop out rate  in Wales, with 14.5 per cent of entrants leaving the University.

Figures for Northern Ireland showed that the largest proportion of non-continuing students came from the University of  Ulster. Only 90.1 per cent of entrants continued their studies there.

Representing the lowest rate of continuation in both England and the UK as a whole, almost one in five students enrolled at the London Metropolitan University in 2011-2012 did not continue after their first year.

Recently, separate analysis by Sylke Schnepf, a researcher at the University of Southampton, found that the UK has the lowest drop out rates in Europe, with just 16 per cent of  students at universities, colleges and technical training institutions leaving their course before they finish.

Norway has the second-lowest drop out rate, with  17  per  cent  of students leaving higher education before  graduation. This is followed by France where the figure is 19 per cent.


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