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About the UK Performance Indicators

Production of UKPIs was discontinued after the 2020/21 statistics were published in 2022. 

UK Performance Indicators (UKPIs) were statistics which compared universities and colleges against benchmarks for Widening participationNon-continuation, and the Employment or further study of graduates.

In May 2021 we announced the discontinuation of the HESA UK Performance Indicators (UKPIs) in the form in which they had been published by HESA since 2003. We reached this decision in response to the significant changes in the policy and regulatory environments across the nations of the UK over the period since these indicators had been launched. In making this decision, we recognised the fact that development of the indicators had failed to keep pace with those changes in the wider environment. In particular, the emergence of extensive new suites of regulatory measures in recent years alongside lack of development in the UKPIs had led to a situation in which statistical coherence in key measures for users was compromised. The HESA UKPIs published in 2022 were therefore the final edition.

The discontinuation announcement stated that HESA would be undertaking a review of the existing indicators with a view to migrating some, or their underlying data, into our core official statistics and open data products. We also undertook to identify alternative ways of meeting some user requirements no longer served following the discontinuation of the UKPIs – this was primarily focused on supporting HE providers in benchmarking their activities. We initially planned to deliver the outcomes of this review through 2022 and 2023, to enable any measures selected for migration into core official statistics to be published in 2023 with no break in time-series.

This timescale proved to be unrealistic due to the continuing evolution of the wider policy and regulatory environments, and the need for us to coordinate our review of statistical measures with other related initiatives

The review is now underway, and we are engaging with HE sector bodies, associations and a range of other stakeholders to seek feedback on the UKPI measures as part of our review. This provides an opportunity not only to consider migration of existing measures but also to identify measures that require fundamental redefinition, or areas where entirely new measures may be needed. It must also be recognised that some existing UKPI measures may be discontinued entirely where the review process concludes they are no longer fit-for-purpose or where conflict with other high-profile measures cannot be adequately resolved.

Each UK nation publishes statistical measures covering some of the themes formerly addressed by the UKPIs


In England, regulatory measures related to access and participation,  Condition B3: Student Outcomes, and the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) cover similar themes to those formerly covered by the UKPIs. The Office for Students publishes interactive dashboards for access and participation, student outcomes, and TEF metrics.  Each of these dashboards contain statistics, at both institutional and sector level, covering continuation rates, completion rates, and graduate outcomes after 15 months. In addition to data on access to HE, some of which overlaps with the former UKPIs, the access and participation data dashboard also contains data on degree outcomes, which has never been included in the UKPIs; the TEF data dashboard also contains a range of measures, not overlapping with the UKPIs, relating to the student experience.  Further detail about the definitions used in the regulatory measures published by the OfS can be found in the associated technical documentation.


In Wales, HEFCW produces a suite of 29 National Measures for use in monitoring Welsh sector and institutional performance against priority areas, informing institutional fee and access planning, and developing policy. While some National Measures have associated official metrics, others are simply monitored as part of HEFCW’s normal business.

General information about the National Measures can be found on the HEFCW website.  The measures are published at both institutional and Welsh sector level, and there is also an accompanying summary analysis, which includes definitions for each measure. National measures 2. Participation and 3. Retention, which are covered on pages 2-5 of the summary document, utilize underlying data from the UKPIs low participation neighborhoods and non-continuation respectively.


In Scotland, the annual Report on Widening Access provides data relating to the access targets recommended to the Scottish Government by the Commission for Widening Access (CoWA). The CoWA Key Indicator for retention, which can be found in Table 2 of the Report on Widening Access, concerns the proportion of Scottish-domiciled full-time first degree students continuing to the second year of their studies. The Report on Widening Access contains data at the level of the Scottish sector; CoWA Key Indicators focus on Scottish-domiciled full-time first degree students, but the report also includes data on all undergraduate HE in the Scottish sector, as well as on college and other tertiary study.

In addition to providing data on continuation, the Report on Widening Access also includes data on entrants to higher education from disadvantaged areas (using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) as well as data on qualifiers and graduates in employment or further study, split by a range of different demographic characteristics.

Continuation data also plays a part in the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) Outcome Agreement process. Outcome Agreements between each Scottish university or college and the SFC are published each year, highlighting the commitment from institutions to deliver on key Scottish sector priorities, as outlined in the SFC Outcome and Impact Framework (OIF). The OIF is assessed at an institutional level on the basis of core national measures, one of which is the number and proportion of Scottish-domiciled undergraduate entrant continuing to their second year of study.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland publishes a statistical factsheet entitled ‘Widening Participation and Student Retention Performance Indicators’. This report includes data on students receiving Disabled Students’ Allowance, non-continuation rates for full- and part-time students, resumption of study after a year out, and projected outcomes after 15 years. Data is included at multiple levels; the report includes data on the entire UK sector, on the Northern Irish HE sector, and on each individual Northern Irish HE provider. The most recent edition available is for the 2020/21 academic year. Further updates to this have been paused pending the outcomes of the HESA review of content of the former UK Performance Indicators.

Key information about specific data items can be found in the Definitions.

Known issues with each year’s statistics can be found in Data Intelligence or Notes to tables.

The questions below address the design, use and interpretation of UKPIs. If you have a question which isn’t answered here, please let us know by email to [email protected].

What students are included in UKPI statistics?

All the tables are based on students who were residents of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland before starting their course. This is different from the standard HESA definition of ‘UK domicile’ which includes students from Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Most of the indicators are shown separately for young and mature students, where young students are those under 21 on 30 September of their year of entry to the HE provider. This is different from the standard HESA definition of age which uses a reference data of 31 August.

All tables are restricted to undergraduate students. Each table’s title, or its chosen filters, will indicate the level and mode of study of students included in the table.

For more detail see the Coverage and Population sections in the Definitions.

Which HE providers are included in UKPIs?

From 2018/19 the UKPIs include all higher education providers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This includes those providers previously known as ‘Alternative providers’. The 2018/19 UKPIs use the methodology previously described as ‘Experimental’ from 2015/16 to 2017/18.

From 2015/16 to 2017/18 Alternative Providers were included in separate ‘Experimental Statistics’.

Up to 2015/16 UKPIs releases included only publicly funded Higher Education Institutions and the University of Buckingham.

Provider mergers and changes details changes to the population of HE providers over time.

What do the Widening participation tables show?

Table T1 shows the percentage of young (under 21) entrants who:

  • attended a school or college in the state sector
  • come from a low participation neighbourhood (as denoted by its postcode) using the POLAR4 (OfS) method from 2018/19.

Table T2 shows the percentage of entrants who come from a low-participation neighbourhood and have no previous HE qualification.

Table T7 shows the percentage of students in higher education who are in receipt of Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA).

See the Widening participation page for the main tables, more information and further contextual data.

What do the Non-continuation tables show?

Table T3 shows the percentage of full-time entrants who were no longer active in HE in the following year.

Table T3e shows the percentage of part-time entrants who were no longer active in HE two years later.

Table T5 uses current data to project longer term outcomes. The table projects what proportion of students will eventually:

  • gain a degree,
  • leave with a different qualification,
  • leave higher education altogether without any qualification or,
  • transfer to another HE provider.

Note: Multiple years of data is needed to calculate these indicators. The latest data is used to calculate the non-continuation rate for earlier years.

See the Non-continuation page for the main tables, more information and further contextual data.

What do the Employment of leavers tables show?

Up to 2016/17 Table E1 showed the percentage of graduates who are employed or in further study (or both), among all those who are employed, unemployed, or studying.

Table E1 was based on the Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) survey which asked leavers what they were doing six months after graduation.

What are the UKPIs for?

The purpose of UK Performance Indicators is to:

  • Provide reliable information on the nature and performance of the UK higher education sector
  • Allow comparison between individual HE providers of a similar nature, where appropriate
  • Enable HE providers to benchmark their own performance
  • Inform policy developments
  • Contribute to the public accountability of higher education.
What are the benchmarks?

Because there are such differences between HE providers, the average values for the whole of the higher education sector are not necessarily helpful when comparing providers. We therefore calculate a sector average and then adjust this for each HE provider. The adjustment takes into account the following factors which contribute to the differences between HE providers:

  • subject of study,
  • qualifications on entry
  • age on entry (young or mature).

The average, adjusted for these factors, is called the ‘adjusted sector’.

For some of the participation indicators, we have also allowed for students’ region of domicile and produced ‘location-adjusted benchmarks’.

For the employment indicator, the benchmark used takes account of a wider range of factors.

For more details see the Benchmarks page and the Benchmark factors section in the Definitions.

How do you use the benchmarks?

There are two recommended ways of using the benchmarks:

1. To see how well a provider is performing compared to the HE sector as a whole.
It is usually preferable to compare a HE provider’s indicator to its adjusted sector benchmark in order to establish how well a provider is performing in the HE sector. When there is a significant difference between the HE provider's performance and the benchmark, we have marked it with a symbol. A 'plus' symbol is used for HE providers performing better than the benchmark and a 'minus' symbol for those performing worse.

2. To decide whether to compare two HE providers.
It is hard to meaningfully compare two HE providers that are very different. For example, an HE provider where most students enter with very good A-level qualifications should not usually be compared with one whose students come from a wider range of educational backgrounds. Similarly, a medical school and a college that mainly concentrates on engineering subjects are not comparable, as medical students have much lower non-continuation rates than engineering students.

If two providers are similar in terms of subject mix and entry qualification intake, the benchmarks should be similar and it is probably fair to make comparisons between them. If two HE providers have very different benchmarks, this is an indication that they are so different that comparing them would not give a helpful answer. But note that if two HE providers have very different location-adjusted benchmarks, this may just show that they recruit from different regions of the UK.

Note: Where the number of students within a specified population at an HE provider is small, the values of the indicator could be very variable and should be interpreted with care.

Are benchmarks the same as targets?

No. Each benchmark is an adjusted average and not a target. Some HE providers may use the UKPIs benchmarks as a useful guide in setting their own targets.

Why are indicators missing for some HE providers?

The indicator percentages and contextual data are subject to the HESA policy of Rounding and suppression to anonymise statistics. All counts are rounded to the nearest multiple of five, and percentages are suppressed for populations of less than 22.5.

Who designs and governs the UKPIs?

From 1998 to 2018 the UKPIs were specified by the UK Performance Indicators Steering Group (UKPISG) With support from UK Performance Indicators Technical group (UKPITG).  UKPISG last met in 2017 with governance of the UKPIs temporarily undertaken by HESA in consultation with the funding and regulatory bodies for higher education.

A new advisory group is currently being recruited to take forward governance of the UKPIs.

See Governance of the UK Performance Indicators and Archive of governance information.

How many years do the UKPI statistics go back?

The first Performance Indicators were published by the Higher Education funding Council for England for the 1996/97 academic year. The UKPIs have been produced and published by HESA since 2002/03. The 2020/21 release of the UKPIs is the last release of this form.  A review of existing indicators will determine which measures will be migrated into core official statistics and open data published in 2023. 

All historic UKPIs since 2002/03 are available from the Publications archive.

See Changes for a full list of changes to the UKPIs over time.

An archive of governance information for the UK Performance Indicators Steering Group is also available for reference.

How have the UKPI statistics changed over time?

There have been changes to the methodology of the UKPIs over time. There have been several fundamental changes to populations, detailed below.

From 2017, the UK Performance Indicators population was extended to include Alternative Providers and the methodology was enhanced to cater for students who have less traditional commencement dates. HESA initially published indicators based on the enhanced methodology and with extended coverage as Experimental UK Performance Indicators. Users of the data were invited to provide feedback on the revised methodology. Following the feedback received and in consultation with key stakeholders, this methodology was adopted as the standard from 2020 and the experimental label was removed. Please note that the only indicators which have not been adapted to an extended population or with enhanced methodology are the projected outcomes (table T5) as further consultation is required. 

In 2010/11, the standard UK Performance Indicators population was extended to include students on low credit bearing courses (instances with 10 percent FTE or less), regardless of whether or not a reduced return was submitted. Historically, the standard UK Performance Indicator population did not include students on low credit bearing courses as some of the key fields used to define the population were not required for these students and information submitted in these fields was not retained. From 2007/08, a reduced return was still acceptable for students on low credit bearing courses, but where data was returned, the information was retained.

Analysis of the 2009/10 data showed that over 90 percent of UK domiciled low credit bearing undergraduate students were already included within the UK Performance Indicators population. It was agreed by the UK Performance Indicators Technical Group (UKPITG, formally PITG) that the remaining low credit bearing UK domiciled undergraduate students would be included within the population from 2010/11. This change to the population brings the UK Performance Indicators population more in line with the HESA Session population. Since a large majority of low credit bearing students are mature, part-time other undergraduates, the main impact is on table T2b.

See Changes for a full list of changes to the UKPIs over time.