A study by the Lancaster University School of Management has evaluated the effect of the tuition fee increases of 2006. According to the study, which used data from 2003 to 2010, drop-out rates fell by 16 per cent for those studying in the first year of their undergraduate degrees.
The authors of the study suggested that personal responsibility was increased when costs were increased.
A similar rationale, they said, would be that you would take better care of something you paid for than received for free.
A complementary explanation offered by the authors is that higher fees made disadvantaged students choose not to go to university at all.
Since they are the likeliest to drop out, a policy which makes poorer students not sign up for university in the first place means they will not contribute to drop out statistics later on.
The authors, economists Steve Bradley and Giuseppe Migali, also investigated the effects of the trebling of tuition fees in 2006.
The recession in 2008, which caused the loss of job opportunities for many young graduates, was also found to have encouraged students who would otherwise have dropped out, to remain in university.
The study also found that when tuition fees were increased again in 2012 it had no effect on the drop-out rates of students, which remained the same as the previous year at 5.7 per cent.
In Scotland, tuition fees have been free since 2008. Over this period, the study noted drop-out rates have fallen in Scotland by 1.4 per cent. In comparison, drop-out rates in England fell by only is 0.7 per cent over the same period.
The biggest drop, of 33 per cent, was among students at Russell Group universities and, in particular, male students. In terms of subject areas, the biggest reduction was in the social sciences.
The research comes as record levels of students are beginning university courses, with the latest admissions figures showing recruitment is running at 3 per cent higher than last year.
This follows the government’s removal of a cap on the number of students who can attend universities in the UK.