Recent figures compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that 6 per cent of degree students aged 21 and under who enrolled on a degree course in 2013-14 didn’t continue beyond the first year.
Disadvantaged youths suffer
This was a 0.3 per cent increase from the previous year, and the first time the number of people dropping out has increased in four years.
But the dropout rate for students from disadvantaged backgrounds has risen even more, and stands at 8.2 per cent.
ABE chief executive Gareth Robinson said this represents a need for more sustainable routes into employment, and importantly, more affordable training and education options.
He commented: “University proves to be a fantastic opportunity for academic development for many young people and it will remain a viable path to a successful career. However, these figures prove that, for a variety of reasons, university might not be a sustainable course of action for a growing number of aspirational young people.
“The dropout figure for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is even more telling, and demonstrates how there is an urgent need for alternatives for those who might be stretched financially or academically.
Vocational qualifications are growing
“There is a vibrant, growing market for vocational business qualifications that provide young people with essential skills to ensure not just success in the workplace in a wide variety of disciplines, but also the ability to set up their own companies and become entrepreneurs.
“Higher levels of these qualifications are equivalent to a full bachelor’s degree, and provide an affordable alternative option that can ensure social mobility regardless of a young person’s background.”
He highlighted that although the university dropout rates are a “concern”, youngsters should not worry, as there are other ways into higher education and training.
He concluded: “Alternative options to the congested university process are there: vocational qualifications are becoming more valuable to a work-ready society and can prove to be just as valuable as a degree in terms of the business skills and entrepreneurial spirit they can cultivate.”