St Andrews 1st for student retention in Scotland, 12th equal in the UK overall

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Data for 2016-17 released earlier this month by the Higher Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that, at 2.8%, St Andrews has the lowest drop out rate of any Scottish university. This compares with  Edinburgh 3.5%,  Glasgow 4.5%, Dundee 4.7%, Aberdeen 4.9% and Stirling, 6.2%. The average for Scotland was 5.8% and 6.2% for the UK as a whole.

Amongst multi-faculty universities in the UK, Cambridge had the lowest drop out rate at 0.8%, with Oxford second at 1.1%.

Professor Paul Hibbert, St Andrews Vice-Principal Education, said: “We are delighted that the quality of learning and teaching and the wider student experience here is reflected in the encouraging data on student retention that have been released today.

“The figures also provide us with confidence that the University of St Andrews is a diverse and inclusive community, a community where students from many different backgrounds can feel that they are at home and are supported to do their best.”

The percentage of mature (>21) full-time first-degree entrants who continued at St Andrews increased to 87.5%, compared with 86.1% the previous year.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, pointed out this is now the second year in a row where the retention rate in Scotland is better than the UK average.

“This is significant and a cause for celebration,” he said. Universities have dedicated significant time and effort to ensure that students get the most of their studies and time at university. Retention is such an important part of our work on widening access”.

“Universities’ goal is to support students to achieve positive outcomes and that is bigger and more meaningful than just getting students into university.“We take heart from today’s figures but we are not complacent. The work to improve retention will continue at all our universities with continued investment in student support, creating a welcoming campus for students of all ages, background and experience.”

Editor’s comment: A number of factors, both institutional and personal, influence student retention. Principal institutional factors are academic and pastoral support. A  number of studies have shown that the important personal factors are:

  1. Academic performance at entry (higher performance = higher retention)
  2. Socioeconomic background (higher socioeconomic status = higher retention)
  3. Ethnicity (ethnic minority = higher drop out rate))
  4. Gender (male gender = higher drop out rate)
  5. Highest level of parental education achieved (tertiary parental education = higher retention)

What  a number of high retention universities, including St Andrews, Edinburgh, Cambridge and Oxford have in common, in addition to high levels of academic and pastoral support, is a student demographic which favours retention.  This may change as contextualised admissions policies are introduced.

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St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

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