The number of students suspending their studies every year has increased by 68.57% since 2011, Cherwell can reveal.
The number of suspended students rose from 506 in the 2011/12 academic year to 853 in 2016/17, despite the University’s claim that the number of students has remained “broadly steady” in the same period.
Analysis of student suspension data obtained via Freedom of Information (FoI) requests also revealed statistically significant disparities affecting how likely students are to rusticate based on region, nationality, and, ethnicity.
Oxford SU’s VP for Welfare & Equal Opportunities said the increase was “disappointing…especially among those from BAME backgrounds.”
White students make up 73.73% of suspended students, despite compromising 80.3% of total students, whilst all BME students comprised 23.21% of students suspending their studies compared 17.5% of the student body.
Chinese students appear to be particularly likely to suspend their studies, with 7.16% of suspended students coming from China, compared to only 1.6% of students at the University.
Clear national and regional differences also exist. Of those students who suspended their studies in 2016/17, 595 (or 69.75%) were classified as “domiciled in the UK”, compared to 77.9% of students. Meanwhile, international students, who make up 22.1% of students at Oxford, accounted for over 30% of suspended students in the same period.
Students from London and the South East were also less likely to suspend their studies, making up 47.9% of students at Oxford, but just 32.11% of those who rusticated.
Those from other regions of the UK accounted for almost 70% of all suspending students, but just 52.1% of the university’s total intake.
While most colleges showed suspension rates similar to their proportion of the total student body, several exhibited statistically significant differences.
At one end of the scale, Mansfield accounted for just 0.7% of suspensions over the time period, despite making up 2.32% of the University’s population.
Meanwhile, St Hugh’s accounted for over 5.6% of suspended students despite making up only 3.63% of students. Similarly, 4.1% of suspended students attended Christ Church, which makes up 2.2% of all students.
Despite concerns about the pressure they place on students to achieve strong academic results, there was not a clear relationship between colleges that perform strongly in the Norrington Table and their rates of suspension.
The largest change came from Christ Church, where 34 students suspended their studies in the 2016/17 academic year – over three times the eleven students in 2011/12, a rate far higher than the university-wide increase.
When contacted Christ Church told Cherwell: “Christ Church takes the welfare and academic progress of its students very seriously.
“While the College cannot comment on individual cases, it can confirm that it has robust systems in place to support students who encounter challenges, whether these involve medical or mental health issues, financial circumstances, or academic concerns.
“When it is agreed that suspension is in an individual student’s best interests, the College works actively with the student and relevant support staff to help them return to their studies as soon as it is appropriate.”
Oxford SU’s VP for Welfare & Equal Opportunities, Ellie McDonald, told Cherwell: “It is disappointing to see that our already high suspension rate has increased again, especially among those from BAME backgrounds.
“These figures reinforce the fact that the University is neglecting to investigate the causes of suspension and implement preventative measures to make sure that students feel like they can stay on course. We have worked closely with colleges this term to improve the current policies.”
Oxford University were contacted for comment.
Earlier this year, Cherwell revealed that more than twice as many state-educated undergraduates than private schooled students suspended their studies.
Students from the state sector have made up on average 56% of undergraduates since 2006, but 69% of all suspended students.
In addition, the course with the most suspensions has been Oriental Studies, with 30% of students in the department suspending.
Archaeology and Anthropology was the second highest, with a 16% suspension rate, while 14% of Physics and Philosophy took a year out.