Higher student numbers could increase overall dropouts

Government plans to lift the cap on student numbers could lead to an overall increase in university dropouts, a senior vice-chancellor has warned.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of Birmingham University, told The Independent that this would open university education to students “that are not well suited to higher education”, and that university would not add ‘’materially to their career prospects’’.

Greg Clark, the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, countered Eastwood, welcoming the news as an “historic moment’’ for university education.

The government announced that the cap on student numbers would be completely lifted in 2015, having engineered an increase of 30,000 jobs for this academic year.

Statistics gathered by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in 2012 reported a higher dropout rate in Scottish than English universities.

An average of 9.4 per cent of students at Scottish universities dropped out in the year 2010/11, compared with an UK average of 8.6 per cent.

In an interview with The Student, Solène Cargill, a second year undergraduate student studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, suggested this may be due to the lack of fees for Scottish students.

She said: ‘’Obviously in Scotland, Scottish students have their tuition fees paid for them through SAAS, and aren’t losing as much money as, say, an English student.

“If I knew I was paying, I reckon I’d stick it out a lot more.”

Edinburgh Napier University had the highest dropout recorded in the capital, with 10.8 per cent of students dropping out before the end of the first year.

The University of Edinburgh recorded a dropout rate of 4.5 per cent.

The number of university places dropped for the first time in five years in 2013, after the increasing of university fees to £9000 for non-Scottish UK students.

The Guardian reported last month on the connection between the cutting of student grants and the rise in student borrowing.

The Scottish Government cut the student grants by 40 per cent last year, and the Student Loans Company reported that this cut was followed by an increase in borrowing of 69 per cent.

The study showed a drop in the average grants offered to students, with the current rate at £1210, a drop of £650 from last year.

However, criticism over the availability of accommodation to students was made heard by Living Scotland, a group formed against the recent rise in student flats.

The group, formed by Edinburgh residents in Marchmont, Tollcross and Southside, said that in some areas, 60 per cent of flats were inhabited by students.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Hilary McDowell, a member of Living Scotland, said: “This is not about ‘We hate students’, it’s about how you create a stable community.”

“You cannot get to know your neighbours if they only live here for ten months.”

 

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