UOS reports highest student dropout rate pre-pandemic

There are ambitions to create an Integrated Care Academy at the University of Suffolk. Picture: Archant

The University of Suffolk said retention rates have improved since 2018-19 - Credit: Archant

The region's university has pledged it has improved retention after recording the highest dropout rate in the country pre-pandemic. 

The University of Suffolk said "several measures" have been put in place after statistics revealed its student dropout rate was the highest in the country in 2018-19. 

The figures, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), showed that 23.8% of the 780 - or around 185 - first-year University of Suffolk students in 2018/19 were no longer enrolled the following academic year. 

The pre-pandemic statistics followed the news that universities and colleges are set to face tough regulations and fines under new proposals from the Office for Students (OfS). 

In a consultation published on Thursday, the regulator said it will set thresholds for the number of students who drop out of courses, while ratings of university teaching will include a new "requires improvement" category as well as ratings of gold, silver and bronze.

The OfS said it is looking to stop students receiving a "performance that is below our minimum expectations", given they "are likely to be paying substantial sums".

At least 80% of students should continue studying into their second year of an undergraduate degree, it said, 75% should finish their degree, and 60% should go on to further study or professional employment.

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Universities not meeting the thresholds could be investigated, face fines, or have their access to student loan cash restricted.

Mohammad Dastbaz, who from January 1 will be the University of Suffolk's deputy vice-chancellor

Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Suffolk, said there has been significant investment in student and academic support. 

“Since 2018-19, which is referred to in this data, the University of Suffolk has put in place several measures to improve retention rates and support our students to complete their university experience," he said. 

"Our internal data for 2019/20 and 2020/21 shows significant improvement -10% improvement - in the retention of our students.

"It is also worth noting that the 2018-19 data is skewed due to withdrawal  rates at the foundation level courses at the outset of a new partnership we started in London, where the university instigated a quality review process which has improved tracking and support for students who may be experiencing difficulties.  

"We have invested heavily in our student support services and academic support especially supporting those who have returned to learning. We have expanded our student recruitment and outreach team who are working with students from secondary school to prepare students earlier for university.

"Our student experience rating continues to improve and in the last year we have risen 30 places in The Guardian University Guide and 17 places in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022."