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Non-continuation rates - technical details (table series T3)

The continuation rates have been produced using a census cohort approach. The method involves identifying a group of entrants known as a cohort, consisting of all students of interest who started at the HE provider (HEP) on a course of study in a particular year. Their continuation outcomes – whether they continue, transfer to another HE provider, or are absent from Higher Education (HE) registered at a HE provider – are then determined.

This page provides details of the method used, including variations to the method for different groups of students.

General information

A student who begins an engagement with a HEP in a particular year may achieve one of a number of possible outcomes after a given period of time. These can be summarised as:

  • Qualify, whether or not that qualification exactly matched their original study intention
  • Continue at the same HEP, either on the same course or elsewhere in the HE provider
  • Transfer to another HEP, either to a similar course or to an entirely different study experience
  • Absent from HE registered at a HEP.

In our analysis of continuation, students who qualify either with a first degree (for example if they have transferred from a diploma course) or with an other undergraduate qualification are included with those who continue.

Note that the continuation rates do not take progression into account, that is of moving from year 1 to year 2. They also ignore course changes within the HE provider and changes to mode of study. They simply look at whether or not a student is still in HE (registered at a HEP) after a year (T3a-T3d) or two years (T3e).

Students may leave higher education at various times during their first year, or simply not return after the end of the year. When a student leaves very early in the academic year, there may be reasons for this, which are unconnected with the course or the HE provider. To allow for this, full-time students who are recorded as leaving before 1 December in their first academic year have been removed from the figures (T3a-T3d), as have part-time students who leave their programme of study within 50 days of commencement (T3e).

The period of time after which continuation outcomes are determined varies between full- and part-time entrants, and the two methods used are described below. The full- and part-time entrant populations are defined in the definitions document.

Full-time entrants (Tables T3a to T3d)

For full-time entrants, students are tracked from the year they enter the HEP to the following year. Continuation outcomes are then based on a student's activity the year after they entered.

A full-time student is assumed to have qualified with a first degree from the year of entry if they satisfy any one of the following:

  • QUAL on the HESA record for the year of entry is a first degree, see definitions for details
  • They are on a postgraduate course at the same HEP the year after they entered
  • QUAL on the HESA record the year after entry is a first degree and they are recorded as leaving the same HEP before 1 December.

A student is assumed to have qualified with an other undergraduate qualification from the year of entry if:

  • QUAL on the HESA record for the year of entry is an other undergraduate qualification, see definitions for details; or
  • QUAL on the HESA record for year after entry is an other undergraduate qualification and they are recorded as leaving the same HEP before 1 December.

Students who are active on an undergraduate course at the same HEP the year after they entered and have not left by 1 December are considered to have continued. Tables T3a to T3d groups up those students marked as continuing or qualifying, according to the above criteria, into the category 'continue or qualify at same HEP'.

Those counted as having transferred to another UK HEP are full-time entrants who started an undergraduate course at one HE provider, and are active on an HE course of study at a different HEP the following year (and not active at the original HE provider). If a student is not active on an HE course at a HEP the following year, they are counted as absent.

Part-time entrants (Table T3e)

For the purpose of the non-continuation indicators, part-time entrants only includes those students whose intensity of study in their first year is at least 30 per cent of a full-time student. Part-time entrants are not included in the calculations if they leave the programme of study within 50 days of commencement. See the definitions document for full details.

Entrants are defined as students who started a programme of study at that HE provider during the academic year of interest. This is based on the commencement date of the student's study (in technical terms, HESA field COMDATE). Entrants who are recorded as leaving within 50 days of their commencement date (in technical terms, HESA field DATELEFT prior to 2007/08 and ENDDATE from 2007/08 onwards) have not been included.

In addition, for table T3e, also exclude entrants:

  • Undertaking and active on more than one course of HE at any HE provider, at any level (postgraduate or undergraduate) or mode of study (full-time or part-time), and a duration of at least 50 days; or
  • Who were active on a full-time or part-time first degree course in the year prior to entry.

These criteria have been introduced for table T3e to help ensure that rates of continuation reflect on the true study intentions of the part-time student and that we are capturing students for whom the part-time first degree is their primary intention, rather than a supplement to another HE engagement.

The continuation outcomes of part-time entrants are captured once they have had the opportunity to undertake a material part of their provision, or a similar amount to that of full-time students. As such, part-time entrants are tracked from the year they enter a HEP through the following two years. Continuation outcomes are then based on a student’s activity two years after they enter. Some part-time students may qualify before the end of their second year and these have been included with those who continue. Some students may transfer to a different HE provider the year after they enter, provided that they do not return to their original HE provider the following year, they are included with those who transfer. Table T3e shows continuation in the second academic year after entry.

A part-time student is assumed to have qualified with a first degree if they satisfy any one of the following:

  • QUAL on the HESA record for the year of entry is a first degree, see definitions for details
  • QUAL on the HESA record for the year following entry is a first degree, and the student is recorded at the same HEP as in their year of entry
  • They are found on a postgraduate course at the same HE provider as they commenced their part-time first degree in either of the following two years
  • QUAL on the HESA record two years after entry is a first degree and they have left the same HEP before 1 December.

A student is assumed to have qualified with an other undergraduate qualification if:

  • QUAL on the HESA record for the year of entry is an other undergraduate qualification, see definitions for details;
  • QUAL on the HESA record the year after entry is an other undergraduate qualification, and the student is recorded at the same HE provider in both years; or
  • QUAL on the HESA record for two years after entry is an other undergraduate qualification and they are recorded as leaving the same HEP before 1 December.

Students who are found to be active on an undergraduate course at the same HEP two years after entry are considered to have continued. Table T3e groups up those students marked as continuing or qualifying, according to the above criteria, into the category 'continue or qualify at same HEP'.

Those counted as having transferred to another UK HEP are part-time entrants who started an undergraduate course at one HE provider and are active on a HE course of study at a different HEP in either of the following two years (and not active at the original HE provider). If a student is not active at any HEP two years after entry, they are counted as absent.

Technical details (Tables T3, T4)

The progression types are defined as follows (applicable to tables T3 and T4):

Link type Description Final Classification
0 Qualify First Degree Continue or qualify
1
  • Qualify Other
  • Undergraduate
Continue or qualify
2 Full-time First Degree Continue or qualify
3
  • Full-time Other Undergraduate
  • Part-time First Degree
  • Part-time Other
  • Undergraduate
Continue or qualify
4 Transfer Transfer
6 Inactive No longer in HE

Progression from year x to year y (applicable to tables T3 and T4), with corresponding HESA fields.

Order Instid Level of study year x Level of study year y Mode of study year y Level of qual year x Level of qual year y Active year y Left year y Progress year y
  INSTID COURSEAIM COURSEAIM MODE QUAL QUAL STULOAD <>0 or TYPEYR<>1 ENDDATE  
Undergraduate qualifiers in year x (regardless of if they link or not):
1 N/A N/A N/A N/A First degree or intercalated or higher N/A N/A N/A 0
2 N/A N/A N/A N/A Other undergraduate N/A N/A N/A 1
Those who don't link to year y:
3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 6
Active students who haven't left before 1 December in year y:
4 Different N/A First degree or other undergraduate Full-time or part-time N/A N/A yes no 4
5 Different Other undergraduate Postgraduate Dormant N/A N/A yes no 6
6 Different N/A Postgraduate Full-time or part-time or writing-up N/A N/A yes no 4
7 Same N/A First degree Full-time N/A N/A yes no 2
8 Same N/A Other undergraduate Full-time or part-time N/A N/A yes no 3
9 Same N/A First degree Part-time N/A N/A yes no 3
10 Same Other undergraduate Postgraduate Dormant N/A N/A yes no 6
11 Same N/A Postgraduate Full-time or part-time or writing-up N/A N/A yes no 0
12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A yes no 6
Students who left before 1 December in year y:
13 Same N/A N/A N/A N/A First degree or intercalated or higher N/A yes 0
14 Same N/A N/A N/A N/A Other undergraduate N/A yes 1
15 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A yes 6
All other students:
16 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 6

When defining the progression types for table T4, update the progression type to qualify if the student has gained an undergraduate qualification in the middle year (the year they were inactive from HE).

When defining the progression type for T3e, use the above progression matrix between the base year (year x) and the following year (year y) and between year y to two years following (year z). Take the progression type to year z unless:

  • Progression type in year y is qualify (link type 0 or 1) and progression type in year z is inactive (link type 6). Update to progression type in year y.
  • Progression type in year y is transfer (link type 4) and the HE provider in year z is different to that in year x. Update to progression type in year y. First degree (including intercalated) qualification was obtained in year y at the same HE provider as year x. Update progression type to qualify (link type 0)
  • Progression type in year z is inactive and other undergraduate qualification was obtained in year y at the same HE provider as year x. Update to progression type to qualify (link type 1).
  • Progression type in year z is transfer and first degree (including intercalated) qualification was obtained in year y at the same HE provider as year x. Update progression type to qualify (link type 0).
  • Progression type in year z is transfer and other undergraduate qualification was obtained in year y at the same HE provider as year x. Update progression type to qualify (link type 1).