Making the decision to drop out of university can be hard, there are various reasons as to why students leave university and some feel that they are not getting enough support during this tough time.
An impartial advice and guidance service for people who have withdrawn from higher education before completing their studies. We offer support to people who are interested in returning to education or exploring other positive options, such as employment, training or apprenticeships.
Back on Course now works alongside former students from Higher Education Institutions in hope to help increase the number of students finishing university and gaining their degree, or help them move on to other possibilities.
The project has refrained from using the words: ‘drop out’ and ‘non-completer’ to describe students who have left university early, instead they use the phrase ‘early-leaver’ to describe these students. Back to course believe that the other phrases ‘imply failure’ and conversations with former students have revealed that leaving early has been a result of difficult and complex situations.
I was able to talk to Kath Middleditch who works for the Open University and has involvement with the site. She was able to send me vital information about Back on Course including student case studies while learning more about our investigation.
She explained how the information gathered is used by UCAS to gain an insight as to why students leave higher education early, and the research is then spread to other universities to help create targeted support that can be given to students.
Megan contacted back on course because she wanted advice about returning to university, and what to do if she was unsuccessful. Her first experience of studying English Literature had been disappointing –she had not enjoyed the course, and was also homesick, so decided to withdraw. However she felt she was capable of gaining a degree and in the following months began to consider different options.
Film studies had been one of her A levels so she explored the subject further. With the help of the back on course adviser she identified 2 local degree courses. She was given advice on contacting admissions tutors and on completing her UCAS personal statement in the most positive way.
The adviser was able to confirm that as she had withdrawn during her first year she would still be entitled to financial support for the full duration of a new course. They also discussed options for further study at local FE colleges in case Megan did not get a place this year, and needed to improve her A level profile.
Megan was successful and is now thoroughly enjoying her new BA (Hons) Film and Media Studies. She finds the practical nature of many aspects of the course really suits her. She has decided to live at home, and a few hours of part time work are helping her contribute financially to the family budget without compromising her studies.
Back on course gives students the opportunity to discuss suitable post-university options. Sometimes the right choice can be going back to university under a new environment and different manner towards studying. They help students explore options for making a new start including a real, focused and practical support.
In their latest report they reveal that reasons as to why students left higher education early. Some of the reasons suggested were:
Other factors affecting the decision to leave
Of the early-leavers engaging with the IAG service, those with children or other dependents were more likely than the whole cohort to cite caring commitments. Those with dependents were far less likely to refer to course-related reasons for non-completion.
Nearly half (49%) of those living alone left for ‘other personal/financial’ reasons, compared with 34% across the cohort.
A significant minority (43%) of early-leavers who engaged with the back on course IAG service had jobs whilst they were undertaking their original HE course.
487 students who dropped out of university provided their reasons for dropping out to back on course, here at the reasons given:
In relation to universities in the West Midlands I thought it would be relevant to see whether universities in the West Midlands have joined back on course and when.
What I found interesting about this is that there are only a handful of West Midlands universities that have joined the Back on Course scheme. There are around 12 universities in the West Midland’s areas and only five of the 12 have joined the scheme.
When referring to the drop out rates for these universities I noticed all but the University of Warwick had a high percentage of students no longer in higher education. I did however notice that both Worcester University and Birmingham City University had not signed up to the scheme, which could help lower their drop out rates.
Back on Course has helped many students over the past two years but this investigation asks the question should institutions with a higher drop out rate such as Worcester and Birmingham City benefit from joining the scheme?