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Academic Work
by Dr Elizabeth Nichols
Having taught  rst year students at a top ten university for four years I have formed the opinion that the dropout rate in the UK higher education system is linked to students not being prepared for academic study at university.
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The dropout rate from UK institutions has increased for the  rst time in four years, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. An average
of six per cent of  rst degree entrants under twenty-one did not continue their studies beyond the  rst year, and at some universities the dropout rate goes up to eighteen percent. The report goes on to say that though retention rates have not gone down since 2010 they remain stubborn, and very few institutions have made signi cant improvements.
Contributing to a Times Higher Education article John Howson,
a visiting professor of education
at Oxford Brookes University,
said that there is a danger of universities enticing students through lower grade offers. The danger being that the universities are not going to provide ongoing support for the students once they begin their courses: ‘if you are going to lower the grades then you need to monitor whether those
are the people who will drop out
quickly [...] You need to make sure if you are offering lower grades, you need to [support students] to make that transition’.
Here lies the issue, that although universities do offer study skills services and courses they are often not built into the curriculum.
As such it is the responsibility of the student to be actively aware that the help is there and to then take steps to attend the classes. Therefore, those students that do not do this, or are never made aware of the support network in the  rst place, are left to muddle through independent learning
as best they can. Many of the students I have taught were conscientious in asking for a feedback meeting to help them to improve their marks. Those that did not do this often saw their marks fall throughout the year
as they hoped that trial and error would see them through to the second year.
University life is less focused on socialising and students have
to learn to juggle their lectures, seminars, weekly readings, assignments, taking part in
and running societies, as well
as potential part time work, internships and work placements. Getting a degree is no longer the sole criteria as employers look for evidence that students pushed themselves further than their peers whilst attending university.
Given the pressure that students already encounter it
is unreasonable to expect them to pursue independent learning
without having been given
a foundation of study skills on which they can build. One solution is to teach the skills they will need before going to university. Skills such as analysis and essay writing are transferrable and will improve students’ current school work as well as giving them a  rm grounding for their future independent learning. @universitythink
  Think University
 • ThinkUniversitybelievesinproviding pupils with the skills they need to improve their academic work
• Weunderstandtheimportanceofpupils being given the necessary building blocks required for Higher Education
• Ourcoursesfocusonskillssuchasanalysis and essay writing
• Theaimofourcoursesistoenhance discussion, debating and social skills as well as study skills
• Ourcourseshavealreadyreceivedpositive feedback from KS4 pupils: ‘I think the course was very helpful, I have already used these skills in my history essays and my mark went up!’; ‘Now when I am writing
as part of my school work I apply what I’ve learnt from the course’
• ThinkUniversityishappytodiscussthe bene ts and support their courses o er. Please do not hesitate to get in touch for further information.
Independent Schools Magazine 17

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