Professor Clive Booth, chairman of ECCTIS, said there was a significant level of university drop-out in Britain and the problem had to be tackled by looking at the way people made decisions about higher education. This had to be done well before they completed an application form.
He told the ECCTIS annual conference in London: "It is a waste not only of the university and college resources spent on someone who fails to complete the course, but also of the individual's own time. The solution does not lie in making entry to higher education more selective. Britain is, if anything, still too selective.
"Some recent reports have exaggerated the proportion of drop-outs by counting those who interrupt their studies briefly or change subject. It is important to allow people to change their minds or to take a break when family, work or financial considerations require it. But there remains a core of genuine drop-outs for whom we must accept responsibility."
* 22 per cent would have made a different choice of institution or course;
* 39 per cent find the workload heavier than expected;
* 42 per cent find the living costs higher than expected;
* 28 per cent felt information about careers prospects from courses beforehand was lacking;
* 37 per cent do not feel confident that they have the skills to sell themselves to an employer: 60 per cent of these want to develop interview skills, while 55 per cent need more work experience;
* 53 per cent expect to take up further study after they begin work.