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Non-continuation summary: UK Performance Indicators 2016/17

UK Performance Indicators: Non-Continuation Rates

This summary contains overview information on: Non-continuation rates of full-time entrants and part-time entrants | Return after a year out | Projected outcomes 

View the detailed non-continuation tables

The purpose of the indicators is to provide an objective measure of how the UK higher education (HE) sector is performing.

This is the second of our releases this year and focuses on student retention.

For any individual who enrols at an HE provider, there are a range of outcomes that the student may achieve after a particular time.

In constructing the non-continuation tables supplied here, we define a student to have continued if they obtain a qualification (although this does not necessarily have to be the one they were originally aiming for) or remain active at the same HE provider (but they may be studying a different course to the one they were initially registered on).

Read more information on the non-continuation definition.

Non-continuation rates of full-time entrants after first year at HE provider

In table series T3, we highlight the proportion of full-time entrants who do not continue in higher education beyond their first year, with T3a showing the figures for first degree entrants, while T3d focuses on other undergraduate entrants.

Table D provides non-continuation rates over time by country of HE provider. For full-time first degree entrants, we see higher rates among mature students than young students.

Table D - Percentage of UK domiciled full-time entrants not continuing in HE after their first year by location of HE provider and academic year

1997/98 to 2015/16



Focusing on the time trend (Chart 6), non-continuation rates among young, full-time first degree students have started to rise in recent years, which is in contrast to the more downward trajectory observed for mature entrants.

With regards to other undergraduate entrants, the non-continuation rate for young, full-time students in the UK is generally slightly higher than for mature entrants. Although there have been fluctuations in the rate in both instances, the overarching pattern for both mature and young entrants has been one of decline since the start of the millennium.

Chart 6 - Percentage of UK domiciled full-time entrants not continuing in HE after their first year by academic year

1997/98 to 2015/16



Chart 7 considers non-continuation rates across HE providers. There is clearly greater spread in the reported figures for other undergraduate entrants when compared to those on a first degree. 

Chart 7 - Frequency percentage of UK domiciled full-time entrants not continuing in HE after their first year




Non-continuation rates of part-time entrants after second year at HE provider

Table T3e concentrates on non-continuation two years after entry for part-time first degree entrants. In Table E, we illustrate non-continuation rates for this group. Rates are slightly higher among those aged 30 and under than for those aged over 30. Chart 8 illustrates how the proportion varies within the sector.

Please note that from the 2014/15 publication, there was a change in the allocation of The Open University (OU) students by location of HE provider. Previously, all OU enrolments were counted within England, where the OU has its administrative centre. From the 2014/15 publication onwards, enrolments at one of the OU’s national centres in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will contribute to the totals of those countries. This impacts on the non-continuation statistics shown in table E below from 2012/13.

Table E - Percentage of UK domiciled part-time first degree entrants not continuing in HE after their second year by location of HE provider and academic year

2006/07 to 2014/15




Chart 8 - Frequency percentage of UK domiciled part-time first degree entrants not continuing two years following year of entry




Return after a year out

Table T4 discloses the percentage of students who return to HE after a year out. The data provides a split to show the proportions who return to their initial provider, transfer to another provider and those who do not return to study.

Projected outcomes

The projected learning outcomes for full-time students starting their programme of study is supplied in Table T5. They give the outcomes that would be expected from starters at HE providers should these progression patterns continue in subsequent years.

The sector averages for the UK and its constituent countries are obtained by taking a weighted average of all the relevant HE provider values. We see from Table F that the proportion of full-time first degree students expected to qualify with a degree from the HE provider at which they started in the UK continues to decline. As Chart 9 demonstrates, the percentage of starters not anticipated to obtain an award or transfer continues to experience a gentle increase. Chart 10 illustrates the spread of values for this indicator across the sector.

Table F - Projected outcomes of UK domiciled full-time first degree starters by location of HE provider and academic year

1997/98 to 2015/16




Chart 9 - Projected learning outcomes of UK domiciled full-time first degree starters by academic year

2001/02 to 2015/16




Chart 10 - Frequency percentage of UK domiciled full-time first degree starters projected to neither obtain an award nor transfer




Who classifies as a young entrant?

Young entrants are those aged under 21, while mature students are those aged 21 or over.

How are the continuation categories defined?

Full details on how the non-continuation data has been produced can be found in the non-continuation technical document and projected outcomes technical document.

Where can I find information on any merger or changes to HE providers?

We publish information on HE provider mergers and changes. Note that any new providers will have their non-continuation data suppressed until they have been in the sector for at least two years allowing for their students to be tracked across academic years.

Are there any additional notes on the Performance Indicators to accompany this publication?

For more information relating to the UK Performance Indicators, please view the data intelligence notes.