Recent HESA performance indicator data has shown another increase in the proportion of degree students who are no longer in higher education a year after starting.
The figure now stands at 7.5 per cent of UK domiciled full-time first degree entrants. This is the fourth successive year that this increase has occurred from its lowest level of 6.6 per cent in 2011-12. So what does the data tell us about what could be causing this increase?
We have released a tool that allows users to explore the data.
The increase is affecting young students slightly more than mature students. Non-continuation rates for young entrants saw a large increase between 2011-12 and 2012-13 but has broadly levelled off since then. The increase is consistent for both male and female entrants. There has been a general increase across all ethnicities, with the exception of Chinese entrants who have seen a decrease in non-continuation rates since 2011-12.
Have there been changes in the entry profile of the students?
In 2013-14, 77 per cent of young entrants held three A-levels, 16 per cent held three BTEC qualifications, 5 per cent held a combination of A-levels and BTECs and 1 per cent held International Baccalaureate. However, by 2015-16, only 73 per cent of students held three A-levels, 19 per cent held three BTECs and 8 per cent entered with a combination of A-levels and BTECs.
This represents a 47 per cent increase in the number of entrants entering with a combination of A-levels and BTECs.
So given that the entry profile of students has changed, is this what has led to the change in non-continuation rates?
There has been little change in the non-continuation rates for the entrants with higher grade A-levels. Students with CCD and below have seen a decrease in non-continuation rates.
While things have been staying the same or improving for students with three A-levels on entry, the story is not the same for those with BTECs. All BTEC grades have seen an increase in non-continuation rates with the exception of students with D*D*D* where there hasn’t been a change since 2013-14.