• +40 213 124 069


31 March 2014


UK has least number of further and higher education ‘dropouts’ among EU countries


UK students are less likely to give up their studies than European peers

An analysis of survey data by the University of Southampton has shown that of 14 European countries, the UK has the least number of students dropping out of tertiary education – for example, from universities, colleges and technical training institutions.

May 19, 2014 K2_HIT: 344210 Written by 


Social statistician Dr Sylke Schnepf examined a very large survey data set called the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competency (PIAAC) which is conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

She found that of the 14 EU countries for which data are available in the survey, tertiary education dropout rates are lowest in the UK at just 16 per cent, followed by Norway at 17 per cent and France at 19 per cent. The highest dropout figures are found in Italy at 33 per cent and the Netherlands at 31 per cent. In addition, in most of the countries men are much more likely to dropout than women, with the UK being a notable exception, with no significant difference between sexes.

Dr Schnepf comments: “I was interested in using a different measure of who was leaving college and university early. Normally student cohort figures are used to give us a good idea of this, but they can lead to an over-estimation of the numbers leaving. They count as dropouts, part-time students, students who didn’t aim to complete their studies and those who need extra time to complete. The PIAAC data we have used for our analysis addresses this, because here adults report for themselves whether they have dropped out altogether.”

Another advantage of the data, which covers adults aged 20 to 65, is that it shows if students return to tertiary education at a later point. Denmark was highest in this category, with as many as 59 per cent of those who dropped out returning to finish their studies later in life. Italy had the lowest at 8 per cent and the UK showed an average EU figure at 38 per cent. These results show dropping out isn’t a permanent decision for a substantial number of people.

In relation to career pathways, the results show that people with upper secondary education, who are also tertiary dropouts, outperform other adults with equal education qualifications. For example, in France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark, twice as many dropouts than non-dropouts are working in managerial professions – even though on paper the highest formal education both groups have is upper secondary.

The UK is again the exception where careers are concerned. People who embark on tertiary education here, but don’t finish, don’t seem to have any advantage over similarly qualified peers when pursuing a job. This is different to many other EU countries. In the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland adults reporting tertiary dropout are still more likely to hold better positions in the labour market than equally educated counterparts even if their socio-economic and demographic background and skills are the same between both groups.

The study therefore questions whether ‘tertiary dropout’ has negative connotations in the labour market. Dr Schnepf says: “People tend to think that it is negative for both individuals and society when students do not finish their education, but it could be argued that a decision to curtail studying can be rational, positive and individual– perhaps someone wants to pursue a secure job because this may be valued more in certain societies. In fact, my findings show that it can be more of an advantage to have taken part in tertiary education and dropped out, than not to have taken it up at all.”

To read the full paper, ‘Do tertiary dropout students really not succeed in European labour markets,’ visit:  http://ftp.iza.org/dp8015.pdf



Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute    UK has least number of further and higher education ‘dropouts’ among EU countries


Last modified on Monday, 02 June 2014 12:33
Rate this item
(0 votes)

LifeLong Learning Programme

  This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication refects the views only of the author, and the
  Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. 

  Project number: 2013-1-RO1-LEO05-28787

Our Partners

Project SaVED addressed to one of the most actual problem EDUCATION AND TRAINING DROP OUT. The necessity of the project is proved by the fact that one in seven young people from EU is affected by early school leaving (ESL).

About Us


The SaVED project addressed to one of the most actual problem EDUCATION AND TRAINING DROP OUT. The necessity of the project is proved by the fact that one in seven young people from EU is affected by early school leaving (ESL).

Contact Info


Address: 6 – 8 Povernei Street, sector 1, 010643, Bucharest, Romania

Tel: +40 213 124 069

Email: grecu_liliana@yahoo.com


Twitter Feeds

Twitter You can have an edit button when everyone wears a mask
Jul 02replyretweet
Twitter @NASASocial this was the good news
Jul 01replyretweet
Stay up-to-date with our projects!

Template Settings


For each color, the params below will give default values
Blue Red Oranges Green Purple Pink


Background Color
Text Color


Background Color


Google Font
Body Font-size
Body Font-family