Students with unconditional offers more likely to drop out

New analysis reveals that young people who receive unconditional offers before getting their exam results are more likely to drop out in their first year of university.

Student studying with laptop

The analysis, published today by the Office for Students (OfS), shows that the dropout rate was 10 per cent higher for students who accepted unconditional offers than would have been expected if they had accepted conditional offers. Across the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, this equated to almost two hundred students dropping out who would otherwise have been expected to continue.

This increase explicitly discounts other factors about those students that are associated with dropout rates, including what subject they study and where, and demographic characteristics.

If this pattern persists while rates of unconditional offer making continue to rise, the analysis shows that over 200 students per year could drop out who would otherwise have been expected to continue.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said:

‘We already know that students who receive an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted grades at school. It is a cause of real concern that they are also more likely to drop out of university once they get there.

‘Dropout rates are overall low in England, so this is a small effect. But we are not talking about one or two students. This is a couple of hundred students per year who have made a significant investment of time and money in a degree from which they are unlikely to benefit.

‘We have always been clear that some unconditional offers are necessary and in a student’s interests. But many of them are not. Although it is up to universities to decide who to admit and how, they must take responsibility for the impact of those decisions, and provide the right support for all students to be successful – especially if the offer they receive makes them less likely to do well at school.

‘As our regulatory framework sets out, admissions practices must be reliable, fair and inclusive. What we are seeing here are admissions practices that are not fair, and are not working in students’ best interests.’

See the analysis

For further information contact Aislinn Keogh on 0117 905 7676 or [email protected]

Notes

  1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. The population included in this analysis is 18 year olds in England at universities, colleges and other higher education providers on the OfS Register. Find out more about the OfS Regsiter.
  3. The non-continuation rate shows the proportion of students who don’t continue from their first to second year, either at the same university or by transferring to another. Our analysis suggests that this rate is 0.65 percentage points higher – or 10 per cent proportionally higher – for students who accept an unconditional offer. In calculating this increase, we have compared students who received conditional and unconditional offers based on their predicted grades and other factors. This means that the impact of receiving an unconditional offer on the grades students actually attain is likely to explain much of the effect on continuation rates.

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