non-continuation rate post

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.

Changes in entrants by entry qualifications

Changes in entrants by entry qualifications copy

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.

Non continuation by entry qualifications w shading

Changes in non continuation by entry qualifications copy

So has the change in entry profile been the reason for the increase in non-continuation? The data here suggests that it is not entirely the case, particular for those entering with BTEC qualifications, but there is potentially a factor outside those that we measure that is driving these trends.