To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps his Department has taken to reduce the number of mature higher education students who do not complete their studies; and what support his Department (a) provides and (b) plans to provide to help mature students to complete their studies where they experience difficulties.
Higher education institutions (HEIs), as independent and autonomous organisations, are responsible for ensuring that each student receives the academic and pastoral support which they need. In general, retention and completion rates for higher education students in this country compare well internationally.
The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) provides specific funding to HEIs, to help them put in place systems and support to improve retention. In 2011-12, HEFCE allocated £173 million for full-time students, and £53 million for part-time students.
HEFCE funding is allocated according to the profile of each HEI's student population. Statistics show that that older students, and students with non-traditional qualifications are more likely to drop out. The mix of students with these characteristics is reflected in HEFCE funding allocations.
To help institutions spend their money effectively, HEFCE commissioned detailed research from 2008-2011 to identify what works well. Together with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation(1), they jointly provided £1 million for projects in 21 different HEIs—to identify, evaluate and disseminate institutional analysis and good practice on student retention.
We have also asked the director of Fair Access to take account of good retention performance as an indicator of successful access activity, which the director has reflected in his own guidance to the HE sector.
Additionally, we are making significant improvements to the information available to university applicants, so they make well informed choices about their course and university. This will help reduce the number of students of all ages who drop out of their course because they have made a wrong initial choice.
(1) Paul Hamlyn Foundation is an independent grant-making organisation focusing on the arts, education and social justice: