Damian Hinds is calling on universities to tackle high rates of students dropping out as new figures are published today (8 Mar).

Universities must do more to cut ‘damaging’ dropout rates or risk undermining the progress made in improving access to higher education, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said today (8 March).

As new figures are published showing dropout rates by institution – identifying those with the worst non-continuation rates – Mr Hinds has challenged universities to focus on successful participation as well as admissions, particularly for students from disadvantaged and under-represented groups who are more likely to drop out.

The Education Secretary has told universities with the highest dropout rates that their figures create the impression that providers are only interested in ‘bums on seats’, rather than offering all-round support for students throughout their studies to complete their degree.

The new data published today by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that in 2016/17, disadvantaged students were more likely to drop out of university in their first year (8.8% of full-time first degree students under-21) compared to their more advantaged peers (6.0%) – a figure that slightly widened from the previous year but has broadly remained stable over the past few years.

Starting university can be both exciting and challenging for some and the figures released today come as Mr Hinds has announced a new task force to help universities support students with the challenges that going into higher education can present. The taskforce will look at ways of helping students manage challenges in four key areas, which includes aspects of student life including managing finances, getting used to independent study, and finding your feet among a large new group of peers.

The Education Secretary is urging universities to look at the data published today and the work of the new taskforce to make sure their students are supported.

Whilst recognising that a range of unpreventable circumstances may lead students to drop out, Mr Hinds is concerned by institutions with rates worse than their benchmarked ‘expected performance’ – an indicator that predicts the non-continuation a higher education provider ought to achieve given its student profile.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

We have made huge progress in ensuring universities are open to all, with record rates of disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in higher education, but every step we make on access is undermined if a larger number students then drop out of their courses.

No student starts university thinking they are going to drop-out and whilst in individual circumstances that may be the right thing, it is important that all students feel supported to do their best – both academically and in a pastoral sense. Today we have announced a new taskforce to help universities support students with the challenges that starting university can involve, but universities need to look at these statistics and take action to reduce drop-out rates.

If they don’t, we have given the Office for Students power to take action. I expect them to do that and challenge institutions to look at what support they can offer – particularly to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups – to turn these figures around.

Other headline figures published by HESA today show that 7.6% of full-time first degree entrants at English HEIs were no longer in HE the following year, while 6.3% of students who were younger than 21 at entry were no longer in HE the following year.

The data also revealed the subjects where students had the highest non-continuation rate among young first degree entrants at UK HEIs.

The subjects with the five highest non-continuation rates include:

  • Computer Science - 9.8%
  • Business & administrative studies - 7.4%
  • Engineering & technology - 7.2%
  • Mass communications & documentation - 7.2%
  • Creative arts & design - 7.2%

In comparison, medicine & dentistry and veterinary science students had the lowest non-continuation rate among young entrants to UK HEIs at 1.5%.

Government reforms created a new watchdog for the higher education sector in 2018 – the Office for Students (OfS) – with the remit to act in the best interests of students. The OfS has been given range of interventions and sanctions to use where necessary, which can include fines, suspension from the OfS Register, or ultimately de-registration.

Damian Hinds wrote to the OfS last week to make clear that access and successful participation is key priority of his and he expects the regulator to continue their efforts in this space.

An OfS spokesperson, said:

These statistics show a welcome reduction in the number of students who are not continuing their courses across the sector as a whole. Despite the expansion of higher education in England, our continuation rates remain high relative to other countries.

We should not, though, let a positive national picture mask the situation at some universities and other higher education providers where non-continuation rates are higher than students deserve.

We know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to complete their studies than their more advantaged peers. That's why the Office for Students' new approach requires universities to ensure that all students are given the support they need, not just to access higher education but also to complete and succeed in their studies.

Where universities are not making enough progress in this area, we will expect them to turn the situation around to ensure that higher education's life-changing benefits can be realised.

The Department for Education is already taking a number of actions to mitigate drop-out rates even further, which includes the introduction of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, alongside a record amount of data on universities – both of which give students information on which university is the best place for them to study.

This forms part of the government’s drive to make sure students know exactly where they can get the best value for money, excellence and teaching to make informed choices for their studies.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page