University of Suffolk dropout rates vastly improve in three years

The University of Suffolk Waterfront Building in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The University of Suffolk has turned around its withdrawal rates from 23% to 5% - Credit: Gregg Brown

Dropout rates at the University of Suffolk have radically improved over the last three years, after latest data showed half the number of students left this year compared to 12 months ago.

Figures for 2018/19, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency this week, indicated that the county's university had a dropout rate of 23.8% for under-21 first-year students that year.

But in latest data presented to Suffolk council, police and health chiefs on Friday, that rate plummeted to 11% last year and just 5% for the current 2020/21 academic year.

It marks a vast turnaround by the university, which said it had put in place additional measures to help students.

Mohammed Dastbaz, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Suffolk Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOG

Mohammad Dastbaz, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Suffolk - Credit: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

Deputy vice chancellor Professor Mohammad Dastbaz told Friday's Suffolk Public Sector Leaders meeting: "It’s a combination of working closely with the course teams and academic staff, and especially students in their first year. 

"A lot of research shows that in the first year students are quite vulnerable, so you need to pay more attention to first years to get them used to their higher education environment and develop them. 

"We changed our whole academic philosophy and went for a transitional approach where students joining us on their first year are transitioning to becoming independent learners. They are not independent learners at the beginning. 

"We had a lot of initiatives, a lot was based on personal tutoring, as well as looking after the ones we realise are not being very engaged with their course. 

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"There is still quite a lot to do, and the other issue is we are very mindful we have got quite a large population of students are not young, first time, full-time university goers.

"They are mature, they are part-time, they have other challenges in their lives, and we have to be very mindful of that."

Latest data showed around 15,000 students are now taught at the university, with three-quarters of those being from East Anglia.

However, plans are underway to attract around 1,000 overseas students per year by 2030, as well as develop health and wellbeing courses which account for around a third of all the university's students in Ipswich.