University engineering and technology courses have the highest number of students dropping out, figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England have revealed.
The performance tables, published for the first time, show that 12% of first degree entrants leave engineering courses before they are completed, and 19% of mature students drop out.
Not surprisingly, the figures show students with the weakest A-level results are least likely to finish their courses.
Of engineering degree students, 18% with two E-grades left their courses early, while only 2% of students with three A-grades or the equivalent abandoned their degrees.
Dr Judith Secker, deputy director of engineers’ regulation at the Engineering Council, said universities must raise the standard of their intake. They should seek students with a good grounding in the relevant subjects and with better A-Level results, she added.
The publication of performance tables will fuel the debate over the shortage of engineering students, with the implication that otherwise unwanted places on courses are being filled with unsuitable students placed through the universities clearing system.
But Secker said the right candidates can still be found: `We just need to do rather more to sell engineering. We don’t seem to be doing enough to enthuse young people.’
David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said universities could not afford to be complacent about drop-out rates if almost one in five of their students is so unhappy that they feel compelled to leave.
`In certain subjects questions need to be asked about how well a student has been prepared for that course, particularly with engineering and other numerically-based subjects,’ he said.
Triesman blamed the quality of mathematics teaching in schools and the high proportion of students gaining course places through the clearing system as likely causes of the high drop-out rates.