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Undergraduate students who are required to withdraw from university: the role of ethnicity

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A large body of international research focuses on identifying reasons why students do not ‘persist’ (Tinto 2007) within higher education. Little research has focused on students whose leaving is non-voluntary and where narratives of ‘persistence’ are therefore not as pertinent. This article seeks to refocus some of the attention onto the distinct group of students who do not elect to leave their studies but who are, instead, required to withdraw; in English higher education, such students leave under ‘Academic Fail’ and ‘Exclusion’ categories. More specifically, it explores the relationship between student leavers’ ethnicity and their likelihood of being required to withdraw. Utilising a large dataset comprising UK-domiciled undergraduate students enrolled to take a degree within an English HEI in 2010-11, it finds that most groups of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students are more likely to be required to withdraw than White students. Ethnicity exerts an independent impact on a student’s likelihood of being required to withdraw, when other background and on-course characteristics are controlled for, but this impact varies by disciplinary area. It is suggested that these findings implicate factors within the HE sector itself as key drivers in the process that leads to students being required to withdraw. Lessons are drawn out for those tasked with managing the student experience within higher education.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-252
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Early online date11 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017

    Research areas

  • Higher education, Non-voluntary withdrawal, Ethnicity, Discipline

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