FEWER first-year students dropped out of courses at The University of Southampton last year than ever before, figures show – despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the latest statistics which show the proportion of students dropping out of degree courses fell to a record low last year across the UK.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that around 3,035 students aged under 21 began a full-time first degree course at The University of Southampton in 2019-20 – and 65 quit before the second year.

That means the non-continuation rate for young entrants was 2.1 per cent – down from 2.4 per cent the year before, and the lowest since comparable records began in 2014-15.

The vast majority of students (96.2 per cent) continued at the provider last year, while 1.6 per cent transferred to another university.

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The dropout rate across the UK fell to 5.3 per cent – also a record low.

The HESA said that while the increase in the proportion of students continuing with their courses after their first year cannot be directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is often a trend towards increased university enrolment in “periods of economic uncertainty”.

The HESA figures show that the proportion of mature students dropping out last year also fell to a record low nationally – 11.9 per cent.

Of the 295 mature students at The University of Southampton, 15 discontinued their studies before the second year – a non-continuation rate of 5.7 per cent.