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University Challenged: Are you considering dropping out of uni?

25th November 2014
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If you’re thinking of dropping out of university, or if you’re not enjoying your course and are feeling like your time could be better spent elsewhere, there are probably a few questions that you could do with getting answers to. Like, is my course available anywhere else? Where else? And, how do I go about transferring?

Here Jane Phelps, the Director of Admissions at New College of the Humanities, offers her advice on what to do if you’re thinking of leaving university.

New College of the Humanities (NCH) has found that 12th November is the most common day for first year students to leave university or defect to other institutions. In the survey of more than 500 first year university students, the reasons for defection were found to include poor value for money and a lack of quality lecturer/student contact time. More than half (58%) said they didn’t believe their degree course represented good value for money, and 48% said they were disappointed by the lack of face-to-face contact time with academics. NCH also found that 40% regret their choice of university.

The HEPI 2014 Student Academic Experience Survey also revealed striking results. While we all know that statistics can be used in a variety of ways, it is easy here to see that many students are dissatisfied with their academic experience. For social science and humanities courses, only 28% of students at Russell Group universities feel that their academic experience exceeds their expectations.

Deciding what to study and where is no mean feat; it requires extensive research and knowledge of what the right questions are. If you feel you are not getting what you expected in terms of contact hours, lectures, assignments, feedback and course content, you need to consider all of your options carefully.

If you are thinking of changing your course, defecting to another university or leaving university altogether, make sure you are clear about why you are making the decision. Decide what you don’t like about your current experience in order to inform your choices going forward. Below is some advice for scenarios in which you might find yourself.

Changing your course

Should you be unhappy with the subject you are studying, first discuss the situation with your tutors. It may be that your challenges can be resolved with extra support or a change of certain modules. Also, discuss with your friends and family – they know you better than anyone else. And make sure you find students who might be further on in the course than you, as they will be able to share their experience so you can decide if in the future the course will improve.

Changing university

If you decide that you can't stay on your present course and you want to change then you need to decide whether it's a different course or a different institution that you are looking for. This decision is a brave one, and it presents itself with both a challenge and an opportunity - do your research. Decide what you don’t like and look at institutions which cater for your academic needs, talents and ambition. This is your opportunity to ask the questions you may not have asked before – what is the course content? Who will be teaching me? How many contact hours will I receive? What is the mix of lectures, seminars, one-to-one tutorials? How will I receive feedback? How will I be assessed?

You are making this decision based on your experience, but manage your own expectations, and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into if you do decide to change your institution.

Leaving university

You may decide to stop studying altogether and enter the world of work. The key here is to keep your options open. Take the necessary steps to gain credit for what you have already achieved in case you decide you’d like to go back into further education later on. You should also find out how long your current studies would remain valid, in case you decide you want to return to study.

Don’t forget though, to consider the importance of studying something you love and don't abandon your ambition lightly. Taking a subject you are in love to degree level helps you become a fulfilled adult, ready to start on a productive adult life.

The results of the research reveal that actually, most students want more from their university experience than they are receiving – more valuable and genuine contact time with academics, more feedback, more academic rigour. If you would like this, seek out institutions which provide this kind of experience.

Finally, none of the above decisions can be taken lightly; they require bravery, self-awareness and most of all, honesty. Good luck!

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