HUDDERSFIELD University chiefs are to take determined action to hang on to their students.
There are fears that student numbers will fall well below targets set for the university by education chiefs.
And the problem has hit staff hard, as they have been told bonus payments for meeting targets will not be paid this year.
Details of the problems have been outlined in a letter to all staff by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof John Tarrant.
He admits that drop-out levels in some departments have reached 40%, although many are losing only about 5% of their students.
He has outlined new targets for all departments to try and retain students over the next 12 months.
And he promised that bonus payments to staff would be paid in November, 2004, if targets were met.
Prof Tarrant said: "There are some areas where we need to improve and other areas of excellent performance.
"But we are looking at making a general improvement right across the board.
"There is no simple solution and there are a whole host of reasons for students to drop out. Some we can deal with and others we cannot. We are putting a great deal of effort into improving the situation.
"It is a waste of everyone's time and resources, both for the students and for the university, if students do not complete their courses, even if they have to come back later to finish what they have started."
University spokesman Phil Williams said that for several years the university had bucked the trend in terms of student applications. Huddersfield had stayed buoyant at a time when applications were levelling out elsewhere.
But he added: "Within the last two years applications appear to have reached a plateau.
"This isn't a big problem in itself as we have some very strong and very popular courses here. But it becomes an issue if students do not complete their courses, for whatever reason.
"We are taking measures to improve our retention, both in the way we organise and run our courses and in the level of student support we provide.
"Hardship funds are available for students experiencing cash difficulties and we are developing systems to identify when students may feel they can no longer continue."