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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 15:08 GMT
Student drop out rate: Your experiences
More than a fifth of students still drop out of university courses in England and Wales, MPs have said.

The public accounts committee says students drop out for a range of reasons including physical or mental health problems, dissatisfaction with their course and financial problems.

Here, BBC website readers reflect on the issue and share their experiences.

ANDREW KNIGHT, 22, FINANCIAL ANALYST, LEEDS

Andrew Knight
Many people go to university because they think there is no alternative
Three years ago I left university five weeks into my art course.

It wasn't the right course for me - I didn't find it very challenging. But I also wanted true independence and couldn't afford to live day to day.

The older I get the happier I am at that decision as I can now see that A-levels prepare you for uni and uni is meant to prepare you for life but it clearly does not.

Many people go to university because they think there is no alternative. But there are a lot of possibilities out there.

Now my friends have left university they have fallen into bad jobs and don't know what to do and have no career plan.

I started off working for a bank, then worked for the Department of Health - and I'm now a financial analyst.

I also got on the property ladder at 19 - with no help. University isn't a necessity, it seems 22% of students realise this.

JOHN BLIZZARD, 68, SCIENCE JOURNAL EDITOR, FROM SOUTHAMPTON

John Blizzard
We need is a realistic approach to the number of students we expect to go to university
I worked as a senior lecturer and admissions tutor, retiring from higher education in 2001 after 27 years.

Despite the claim that A-levels have not been dumbed down, many students that I have encountered with 'good grades' lacked some of the basic requirements to cope with a degree course.

In many cases students arrived at university expecting to be 'spoon-fed' as they had been at school or college.

Government pressure to admit more and more students also means that less qualified students are entering into higher education.

I have also come across some first year students admitting that the cheap student loan was enabling them to have a 'gap' year before doing something else.

What we need is a realistic approach to the number of students we expect to go to university, and the reintroduction of meaningful vocational qualifications.

KELLY DOONAN, 29, CIVIL SERVANT, EXETER

Kelly Doonan
Some people just aren't ready for university at 18
I dropped out after the first semester of my English degree. At least three others in my halls of residence also quit for various reasons - it either wasn't the right time, or place or course.

All four of us then took a gap year to earn some money and do more research about the kind of thing that would be right for us.

At first I felt a bit like a failure for dropping out. But it gave me the time to find the course I really wanted to do - and I went on to achieve a good degree in English in a different place.

I honestly think some people just aren't ready for university at 18, having little life experience and being used to the support of their parents.

But it would also help if there was someone to give better advice about the kind of course suitable for individual students. When I first told my university tutors that I was thinking of dropping out, they only seemed interested in keeping me there and warning me of the dangers of not having a degree.

It also makes me wonder whether the high number of drop-outs include a lot of people who just go on to do another degree at a different college.

BRETT SLEDGE-MANSER, 34, GYM MANAGER, OLDHAM

Brett Sledge-Manser
I feel bitter about the whole experience
Universities need to think more about individual students' needs.

I started an access course as a mature student five years ago.

The course was four miles away but it was closed not long after I started, forcing me to travel 27 miles to college and back every day.

After completing my college year I went to university to study physics - but I discovered that I had been paid too much in maintenance grants during that year.

I needed some cash to support my family, so I was forced to drop out and get a job.

So now I have neither a degree nor a better job and have an 11,000 student loan to pay back.

I feel bitter about the whole experience. It's as if the universities are only interested in getting more students through the doors.

JOHN WILDMAN, 26, UNEMPLOYED, CORWEN, WALES

John Wildman
I feel I was left without support throughout my undergraduate course
I completed a degree but I feel my university didn't give me the support that they should have.

I am deaf in one ear and during my degree, I suffered from a chronic ear infection caused by a tumour that left me with severe pain and tinnitus. I also made regular trips to my hospital throughout my course.

I wasn't allowed to resit my final exams, despite leaving one paper early because of a bleeding ear. I wasn't given adequate support despite having a specific medical condition so I wonder what experience other people have received?

I feel I was left without support throughout my undergraduate degree even though my condition made it very difficult to follow lectures and make notes. I also broke my wrist in my final term which required an operation. This made it very difficult to complete my coursework but the university made no consideration for this.

I ended up with just a Pass. I later had an operation that dealt with the infection but it went wrong and left me seriously ill.

I went on to do a Masters but my undergraduate qualification has been a barrier to me getting on a PhD course or pursuing a career in psychology.



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