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Engineering students suffer highest drop-out rates, say MPs

First year engineering, maths and computing students are more likely to drop out than their counterparts in other faculties according to a report released by the influential Public Accounts Committee of MPs.

According to 'Staying the course: the retention of students on higher education courses', in the past five years, "the percentage of students dropping-out from their original universities has not budged from 22%. This is despite some £800M being paid to universities over the same period to help retain students most likely to withdraw from courses early."

The first year continuation rate in Mathematical Science, Computing and Engineering subjects was found to be "three percentage points below the national average for all subjects".

The report underlined the strategic importance of these subjects to the nation's economic development, calling on universities to develop strong outreach programmes with schools.

The report suggested, "running summer schools for prospective students in these subjects and offering mentoring to help prepare students so that they are encouraged to apply and more likely to succeed."

Around 28,000 full-time and 87,000 part-time students who started first-degree courses in 2004-05 were no longer in higher education a year later.

Among the full-time students, 91.6% entered a second year of study, and 78.1% were expected to complete. There has been little improvement in retention since 2001-02, though participation in higher education has increased from around 40% to nearly 43% of 18-30 year olds.

To help improve retention and participation, over the last five years universities (for this report, 'universities' means all higher education institutions) have received around £800M as part of their teaching funding to help retain students who are the most likely to withdraw early.

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