An analysis of survey data by academics at the University of Southampton has revealed that among the 14 EU countries, the UK has the least number of student dropouts within Further and Higher Education.

Tertiary education (universities, colleges and technical training institutions) dropout rates are lowest in the UK at 16 per cent, followed by Norway at 17 per cent and France at 19 per cent. The highest dropout figures are in Italy at 33 per cent and the Netherlands at 31 per cent.

In most of the EU countries, men were more likely to dropout than women, but for the UK, there was no significant difference between the sexes.

Dr Sylke Schnepf, Lecturer in Social Statistics at the University of Southampton, examined a very large survey data set called the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competency (PIAAC) which is conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The survey was conducted by academics at the University of Southampton

The survey was conducted by academics at the University of Southampton

The data set covered adults aged from 20 to 65 and also showed if students returned to tertiary education at a later stage. Denmark was highest, with 59 per cent of those who dropped out returning to finish their studies later. Italy had the lowest at 8 per cent. The UK showed an average EU figure at 38 per cent.

The survey also examined the relationship between student dropouts and career pathways, showing that people within the EU with upper secondary education – who were also tertiary dropouts – outperformed other adults with equal education qualifications.

However in the UK, those who didn’t finish tertiary education did not seem to have any advantage over similarly qualified peers when pursuing a job.

Dr Schnepf said:

“People tend to think that it is negative for both individuals and society when students do not finish their education, but it could be argued that a decision to curtail studying can be rational, positive and individual– perhaps someone wants to pursue a secure job because this may be valued more in certain societies. In fact, my findings show that it can be more of an advantage to have taken part in tertiary education and dropped out, than not to have taken it up at all.”

Read the full paper here.

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