Poor mental health leads to university dropouts

Anxious UK students most likely to consider dropping out of university, according to Sodexo report  

Student mental health


Almost half of UK students (46%) admit to loneliness during their time at university – compared to 32% globally –  with UK students most likely – 37% – to consider dropping out compared to their worldwide counterparts, according to a new global report by Sodexo. Study-related problems caused 51% of students to deliberate leaving university and 42% have considered dropping out because of physical or mental health issues.

The report provides a unique insight into the lives and lifestyles of students across the world, polling over 4,000 students in six markets (the US, China, India, Spain and Italy, as well as the UK).

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HESA report


The findings support data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) which shows that a record number of 1,180 students left courses early in the 2014–15 academic year due to poor mental health – a 210% increase on 380 students in 2009–10.

UK students are more likely than the global average to believe their university would support them with their studies (68% compared to 62% globally), employability (59% compared to 55% globally) or their physical or mental health (56% compared to 47% globally).

Student finance


The mounting cost of going to university is also a factor in the rise of student anxieties, with 60% of UK students avoiding going out with friends to save money. Debt at graduation is a major concern for around a third of students, compared with a quarter worldwide.

More than half of UK students will have debts of between £30,000 and £59,999 by the time they graduate, compared to £11,345 in 2006 and £19,562 in 2010. In China, almost 70% of students will have no debt on graduation; in the US, 35% will be debt free compared to only 15% of students in the UK.

However, debt is not the only concern for UK students – 58% of them worry about getting the degree class they want – the highest in all countries and the biggest concern for UK students. They are also more likely than average to be troubled by a heavy workload.

David Hughes of the Association of Colleges on the Augur review, which addresses tuition fees

Damon Kent, director of campus services at Northumbria University, commented: “Despite much being written about students’ living their lives online, one of the key insights for me is there is still clearly a need for buildings and services that help facilitate genuine human connections. Many of the students referenced in the report note the importance of a ‘friendly atmosphere’ and also expressed concerns about loneliness, something that we shouldn’t be taking lightly.

“The report also revealed that over a third of UK students have considered dropping out.  We’re convinced that creating the right home-from-home living environment, in conjunction with strong pastoral services, is key to helping students manage some of the stresses and strains of university life and ensuring they have the best possible experience.”

Uni life


Paul Anstey, CEO schools and universities for Sodexo UK & Ireland, added: “Against the backdrop of uncertainty in the UK higher education sector, as universities adapt to the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework scoring system, the uncertainties of Brexit, a more competitive global higher education marketplace and a fall in UCAS applications for the first time in five years, Sodexo’s first International University Lifestyle Survey provides a unique insight into the current lives and lifestyles of students across the world.

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“More worrying are the findings that point to a rise in mental health concerns for UK students and genuine concerns about loneliness, all of which are fuelling an increase in the number of students considering dropping out. In our Student Living by Sodexo accommodation business we are increasingly focusing on the ways we can support students to settle well into university and to provide the necessary support and signposting of university pastoral care if we can see that a student is finding life hard.”

The report can be read in full here uk.sodexo.com/uls

This article was updated on 11/09/2019 from an original article published on 18/09/2017

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