, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 209-225

Undergraduate non-completion rates: Differences between UK universities

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The non-completion rate of university students differs substantially between UK universities. This paper provides estimates of non-completion rates for the 1979 and 1980 entry cohorts into each university and suggests a number of reasons which may have contributed to these inter-university differences. Statistical analysis indicates that a large proportion of the inter-university variation in the non-completion rate can be explained by three main factors: the scholastic ability of each university's new entrants (as reflected by A-level score), the subject mix of each university, and the proportion of each university's students accommodated in a hall of residence. The main conclusion is that inter-university comparisons in the non-completion rate are of little value unless account is taken of differences in the scholastic ability of each university's intake of students.

The authors are grateful to the Nuffield Foundation for supporting this research project under its Small Grants Scheme and to the Universities Statistical Record for supplying the data. We are also grateful to Richard Cormack, Gareth Williams and several university registrars for their helpful comments on the first draft of this paper. The authors alone are responsible for the contents of this paper.