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Subject areas and JACS codes - Higher Education Statistics 2004/05


The subject coding systems HESACODE and SCAS originally used respectively by HESA and by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), although broadly similar, were far from identical. Towards the end of the 1990s work was put in hand by the two agencies to produce a common scheme, the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). This came into use for the 2002 entry to HE through UCAS, and for the 2002/03 data collection by HESA. This article outlines the changes to the presentation of subject area information that have been made following its introduction. A more detailed explanation may be found in Students in Higher Education Institutions 2003/04, pp. 63-65.

Subject areas

HESA has always reported broad-brush information about subjects using nineteen subject areas. Prior to 2002/03, these were defined in terms of HESACODE. After consultation, the decision was taken to continue to use the same mechanism following the introduction of JACS, but to align the names used for the subject areas, and their content, as closely as practicable with JACS subject group names and content.

From allocation to apportionment

Under the HESACODE-based system, headcount numbers were reported, and an algorithm (see Higher Education Statistics for the United Kingdom 2001/02, p. 60) was used to allocate each student on a split programme to a single subject area, or to ‘Combined’, as a headcount. The JACS-based system instead uses apportionment between the components of the split, and as a result a substantial proportion of the students allocated to ‘HESACODE Combined’ are distributed across specific JACS-based subject areas. The apportionment algorithm is as follows: a balanced two-subject programme is treated as comprising two components of one-half weight; a major/minor two-subject programme is treated as comprising a two-thirds weight major component and a one-third weight minor component; and a three-subject programme is treated as comprising three components of one-third weight. PGCE students and primary ITT students with no subject specialism are now apportioned entirely to ‘Education’. Other ITT students are apportioned with one-half weight to ‘Education’, and the remaining one-half to the subject specialism(s) reported in the qualification aim fields, on the same basis as for non-ITT programmes.

This treatment of split programmes and ITT programmes is intended to implement the philosophy that the subject area breakdown should, to a reasonable approximation, systematically attempt to give a picture of level of activity within subject areas. The weightings used may not exactly correspond to the actual weightings (which is why apportionment is not to be seen as a precise FTE calculation) but the usefulness of the resultant broad-brush picture of activity should be improved by comparison with that produced by the allocation algorithm. It should be noted the figures given in subject area breakdowns are no longer headcounts, although they continue to be rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 in line with general HESA practice.

Supplementary subject information

The subject areas are now supplemented with a limited amount of further information. This comprises four additional sets of apportioned figures, for Psychology (Principal Subject C8), Geography & Environmental Science (Principal Subjects F8 and L7), Economics & Politics (Principal Subjects L1 and L2), and English (Principal Subject Q3). Except for Geography & Environmental Science, which contains components from ‘Physical sciences’ and ‘Social studies’, the supplementary subject areas lie wholly within standard subject areas (Psychology within ‘Biological sciences’, Economics & Politics within ‘Social studies’, and English within ‘Languages’), and are offered as a useful breakdown of those areas.

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