There’s lots in the news today talking about tackling the degree drop out rates and how it is essential but I think they’ve got it the wrong way round. What needs to be tackled is this dogged insistence that university is right for everyone. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) has lobbied the government to do more to tackle the rise in drop out numbers but I think their time would be better spent lobbying schools to ensure good advice is given before students wrack up even a term’s worth of debt.
I wrote about this already but it seems it’s back on the agenda and nothing more than the regular platitudinous statements have been issued, all the while ignoring the real issue. https://edducan.blog/2017/06/29/turn-up-tune-in-drop-out/
Some facts and figures –
The national drop-out rate rose from 6.6% in 2011-12 to 7.4% in 2014-15, with each dropout representing “a loss of potential” although that is the worse kind of editorialising as it presumes their potential may not be fulfilled outside the strictures of HE.
Out of all the regions in England, London is the worst, with a drop-out rate of 9.3% in 2014-15, which is hardly surprising given the proliferation of new, greedy and ultimately worthless universities that have popped up with their arms and bank accounts wide open.
The SMF study demonstrates that many of the disadvantaged groups that the widening access programmes are targeted at are also those most likely to drop out. Hardly newsworthy, inevitable almost, again it goes back to the patronising insistence that uni is the only way to get ahead but people with nothing aren’t that impressed carrying that level of debt just to get a job they could access for free through an apprenticeship.
Institutes with an intake of more black students, those whose parents work in lower level occupations or students who come from low university participation areas are more likely to have higher drop-out rates. – Maybe if the fees were lower, advice better, jobs attainable and interest on loans at a realistic level this could be diminished but again no great surprise.
“Each dropout represents a loss of potential, a poor and probably confidence-sapping experience for a student and an investment in tuition costs which is likely to have a low return.” It may, it may also represent a student who has been lied to by their school and having been promised the earth turned up to find a small principality waiting for them. They have then taken the proactive and positive decision to squander neither their time or money chasing a degree that may well be materially useless to them going forwards. But the stats don’t account for that.
The report posits the idea that the cost of living may be a factor in London’s poor performance with it having the highest proportion of students living at home (31%).
“It is possible that distance and staying at home during their studies is influencing their individual sense of belonging. Students are less likely to feel a full sense of belonging to their university life if they remain connected, both mentally and physically, to their home environment.” Which is another example of how the advice schools are giving out is so flawed and primitive. Of course living at home is terrible when you’re at uni, all the embarrassing mistakes you need to get out of your system should be done far away from the prying, judgemental eyes of your family. As detailed in this fascinating article I wrote… https://edducan.blog/2017/06/15/world-university-rankings-released-why-are-we-brits-so-unambitious-when-it-comes-to-university-selection/
Anyway you cut it, drop out is bad when it’s the result of a disengaging student cohort but it’s worse when it’s the result of being lied to by those who should know better.