The drop out rates for America and Germany in University are similar at about 30%. I believe a common explanation for both is that there is not enough screening for the people who go into college.

However, googling tells me that in the UK it is about 5% ish. Why is their dropout rate so low?

  • 8
    Also, drop out from what? Undergraduate university programs? High schools? Commented May 11, 2023 at 17:55
  • 13
    Giving a single number is unlikely to provide meaningful information. The "drop out rate" for an undergraduate math program at UCLA is probably much lower than for a math program at some community colleges in the US. The drop out rate for a Bachelor math program at an arbitrary German university is probably higher than for many (though certainly not all) other subjects at the same university. The drop out rate for a Master's program in math at a German university will typically be much lower than for a Bachelor's program. Commented May 11, 2023 at 18:21
  • 1
    I am wondering how changes of program a counted in those statistics. I know a considerable number of people who realized within the first year or so that they can probably slog through their degree in A, but that they would be happier with a related degree in B instead (e.g. physics to engineering). In Germany that would mean simply dropping A and enrolling in B (often no more work than filling out some paperwork), usually transferring some or even most credits. Technically those people dropped out of the program, but not really of the system.
    – mlk
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 7:58
  • I see Google hits showing rates from <1% at Oxford/Cambridge to >30% at some other places. Does it average to 5%-ish? Maybe. Does that count any institutions comparable to US community colleges? No clue...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 15:06
  • I searched in general, rather than for top schools. I think top schools for all places would agree, except on those which there is no thing as top schools (Eg: Germany) Commented May 12, 2023 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


The comparison between the dropout rates for British and German universities is a topic I have talked about with many collegagues familiar with both systems. The core reason seems to be that what is deemed an acceptable dropout rate in the UK is much, much lower than in Germany.

This then leads to all kinds of different actions and policies that lead to the actual dropout rates being so much lower.

British universites that can afford to be picky are usually very selective, and will only admit students they are confident will do well. On the other hand, for many subjects (eg math, CS), German universities will admit almost anyone with Abitur, and then just sort them out in the first year.

British universities tend to offer quite a bit of support for (weaker) students. How much and the nature varies - most universities couldn't afford the immense attention paid to individual students at Oxbridge, but there is bound to be some effort. I've never heard of comparable attempts at German universities.

Lest I give the impression that I consider the British approach superior, UK universities that cannot afford to be that picky in admissions will just lower the standards to the point where almost everyone they do admit will pass (with whatever support they can offer). German professors tend to have much more latitude to only let those pass they deem worthy.

  • 2
    A friend of mine who attended a Swiss university said something about how they are legally required to accept everyone who meets the entry requirements. To not have crazy class sizes, the first year exams are very hard, and a lot of students are weeded out ("drop out"). Maybe that applies to Germany too?
    – Allure
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 3:27
  • 2
    @Allure here ist the question that yields the answers concerning the "weeding out" system in Germany. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/183700/…
    – Sursula
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 6:56
  • 10
    Regarding the last paragraph: I am not particular familiar with the British system, but after all I have heard the main reason for this is that students are treated as paying customers in Britain (as well as in the US) that you want to retain for money, while in Germany, the benefits of retaining bad students are much smaller.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 7:09
  • 1
    +1 Maybe, though, could you add a few examples which kind of support British universities (other than Cambridge and Oxbridge) offer for weaker students? Commented May 12, 2023 at 8:53
  • 4
    Having worked at German universities I can attest to most of this: In Germany funding programs are often attached to enrollment numbers, not necessarily graduation numbers. There are no enrollment-tests for many degrees and enrollment is usually free, so many people enroll first and then realize it's not what they want or not what they're good at.
    – Falco
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 12:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .