Definitions - Higher Education Statistics 2013/14
You can find definitions for data collected by us on our Definitions pages.
Readers will note that the format and content of tables 14 to 16b concerning applications and acceptances statistics from UCAS have changed significantly this year. UCAS now publish a wider range of statistics on applications and acceptances than when the content of HE Statistics for the UK was originally specified. The UCAS content for this year's edition of this product has been derived from the existing published content in order to reduce duplication of effort. In addition changes in the definitions and reporting framework mean that the tables previously published can no longer be replicated in precisely the same form. HESA was only made aware of these changes during production of this year's edition of HE Statistics for the UK and it was therefore not possible to provide advance notice of the changes to our users. We would apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
The published UCAS end of cycle reports can be found at www.ucas.com/corporate/data-and-analysis/end-cycle-data-resources.
Please note that future editions of HE Statistics for the UK will refer to these published resources but will no longer include alternative tables to those published by UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) system processes applications for UK higher education courses. The UCAS higher education providers include UK universities, colleges and institutes of higher education (HE) and some colleges of further education (FE).
The number of member HE providers in the UCAS scheme can vary from year to year due to HE providers joining (or leaving) the UCAS scheme, and HE provider mergers. In the 2010 application cycle there were 305 member HE providers. In the 2011 entry cycle there were 304, in 2012 there were 324 and in 2013 there were 365.
Applicants are those who submitted an application to UCAS. Each applicant is permitted to make up to five applications (choices) on the application (six applications in 2007 and before). Applicants are classed as home (UK) or overseas based on the area of permanent residence given by them on the application. (The Channel Islands and Isle of Man are, for the purposes of these tables, accounted for within the UK). There is no direct correlation between the classification used in these UCAS tables and that used as a basis for fees assessment.
Applications data is the sum of applications from applicants who submitted their Main Scheme application at any time before 30 June; UCAS 'Extra' applications are excluded, as are applications made in Clearing, and those choices attaching to Direct entrants. Direct entrants are those applicants who have a record within the UCAS database due to a Record of Prior Acceptance (RPA) or an Overseas Partnership Form (OPF) being submitted by a provider to UCAS.
Accepted applicants are those who were offered and subsequently accepted a place at a UCAS higher education provider regardless of the route taken. Acceptances through the routes of UCAS "Extra", Clearing and Adjustment are included, as are acceptances from Direct entrants. Accepted applicant data includes applicants who were accepted for deferred entry.
Extra, first introduced in the 2003 cycle, gives applicants holding no offers the chance to make additional applications (in excess of five) prior to Clearing, providing them with the opportunity to be accepted at an earlier stage in the application cycle.
Adjustment is an acceptance route first introduced in 2009 through which applicants who have met and exceeded the conditions of their firm choice choose to take up an alternative offer.
Classification of academic subjects
UCAS subject classification employs the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). The subjects use version 3.0 for the 2012 and 2013 cycles.
Where data on subject group is tabulated for UCAS applicants, the preferred subject line is used since an applicant may submit applications to different subject lines. An applicant's predominant subject line is classified as the subject line for which the applicant makes the majority of his or her applications within a subject group. If no such majority exists, the applicant is classified as having no predominant subject line. In Table 15a the totals for Applicants are based upon calculated predominant subject lines present in each applicant's application, the results have then been aggregated into the broad reporting categories displayed; note that this methodology does not necessarily equate to a calculation of the predominant subject group present in an application.
Ethnic origin/ethnic group
Low level grouping of ethnic origin as declared by the applicant:
- Black – Caribbean
- Black – African
- Black - Other Black background
- Asian – Indian
- Asian – Pakistani
- Asian – Bangladeshi
- Asian – Chinese
- Asian - Other Asian background
- Mixed - White and Black Caribbean
- Mixed - White and Black African
- Mixed - White and Asian
- Mixed - Other mixed background
Please note: Ethnic origin is captured for UK domiciled applicants only, therefore all non UK domiciled applicants are assigned as ‘Not Applicable’, and is not available within the current live cycle.
The disability grouping is based upon any declared disability, special need or medical condition by the applicant when making their application. Labels displayed are representative of the questions asked in the 2013 cycle. The full text displayed for applicants to select from is:
- No disability
- You have a social or communication impairment such as Asperger’s syndrome or other autistic spectrum disorder
- You are blind or have a serious visual impairment uncorrected by glasses
- You are deaf or have a serious hearing impairment
- You have a long-standing illness or health condition such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, chronic heart disease, or epilepsy
- You have a mental health condition, such as depression schizophrenia or anxiety disorder
- You have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or AD(H)D
- You have physical impairment or mobility issues, such as difficulty using your arms or using a wheelchair or crutches
- You have a disability, impairment or medical condition that is not listed above
- You have two or more impairments and/or disabling medical conditions.
Disability data is only reported for UK domiciled applicants.
Region of domicile and region of HE provider
The region of domicile for UK applicants and the region of HE providers are categorised using the nine England Regions (formerly Government Office Regions) and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Channel Islands and Isle of Man are, for the purposes of these tables, accounted for within the UK.
Student loans data
Data in tables 21a-21i are compiled from the Student Loans Company (SLC) 'Student support awards (loans and grants)' statistics data tables:
- Student Support for Higher Education in England: Academic Year 2014/15 (Provisional), published 27 November 2014,
- Student Support for Higher Education in Wales: Academic year 2014/15 (Provisional), published 27 November 2014, and
- Student Support for Higher Education in Northern Ireland: Academic year 2013/14 (Final), published 27 November 2014.
These are available from www.slc.co.uk/statistics/national-statistics/newnationalstatistics1.aspx, or SLC, 100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7JD.
Table 21a is compiled from 'Student Support for Higher Education in England: Academic Year 2014/15 (Provisional)' SLC Table 2, 21b from SLC Table 4a(i) and 21c from SLC Table 4a(ii).
All applications for Higher Education (HE) student finance under full time regulations from Applicants domiciled in England are assessed by Student Finance England (i.e. the Student Loans Company or English Local Authorities). If the applicant is found to be eligible they will be awarded student finance, which will start to be paid once attendance has been confirmed by the HE provider and the term start date has been reached. Many awards do not lead to payment because the applicant does not secure a place or chooses not to attend. The products awarded to each applicant will depend on several factors: the year that they entered HE; the loans (Maintenance loan and/or Tuition Fee Loan) they choose to take, if any; whether they submit financial details to be assessed for a means tested grant; whether they are entitled to a Special Grant or allowance such as the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA).
All applicants eligible to a Maintenance Loan can receive the non-means tested portion of the loan. Some choose not to take one even though they might have received other support, such as a Maintenance Grant. Some do not apply for any support at all. Table 21c 'Maintenance Loan Take Up by the estimated eligible population domiciled in England' shows the relationship between those who took out a Maintenance Loan and those who could have taken one, using estimates of the eligible student population from BIS. The applicant can choose to take all or part of the basic non means tested element of the Maintenance Loan. They can receive a higher amount if they submit financial evidence that shows their household residual income is within the range for additional Maintenance Loan entitlement.
Table 21d is compiled from 'Student Support for Higher Education in Wales: Academic Year 2014/15 (Provisional)' SLC Table 2, 21e from SLC Table 4a(ii) and 21f from SLC Table 4a(iii).
All applications for Higher Education (HE) student finance under full time regulations from Welsh domiciled applicants are assessed by Local Authorities in Wales. EU domiciled applicants studying in Wales are assessed by the Student Loans Company. If the applicant is found to be eligible they will be awarded student finance, which will start to be paid once attendance has been confirmed by the HE provider and the term start date has been reached. Many awards do not lead to payment because the applicant does not secure a place or chooses not to attend. The products awarded to each applicant will depend on several factors: the year that they entered HE; the loans (Maintenance Loan and/or Tuition Fee Loan) they choose to take, if any; whether they submit financial details to be assessed for a means tested grant; whether they are entitled to a Special Grant or allowance such as the Disabled Students' Allowance.
DSA figures shown are still provisional although shown alongside Final figures: Invoices continue to be received well after the end of the academic year which is why the figures are kept as provisional for one year longer than for the other products.
All applicants who are eligible for student finance can receive a Maintenance loan. Some choose not to take one even though they might have received other support, such as an Assembly Learning Grant. Some do not apply for any support at all. Table 21f 'Maintenance Loan take up by the estimated eligible population domiciled in Wales' shows the relationship between those who took out a Maintenance loan and those who could have taken one, using estimates of the eligible student population from the Welsh Government. The applicant can choose to take all or part of the basic non means tested element of the Maintenance loan. They can receive a higher amount if they submit financial evidence that shows their household residual income is within the range for additional Maintenance Loan entitlement. From 2006/07 onwards the average Maintenance Loan decreased because of the introduction of the Assembly Learning Grant. The amount of Maintenance loan awarded is partly reduced in proportion to the amount of Assembly Learning Grant awarded.
Students who took out a Maintenance Loan in academic year 2010/11, 2011/12 or 2012/13 may be entitled to a partial cancellation of Maintenance Loan of up to £1,500. The reduction is applied to the balance of student loan by the SLC after the first repayment has been made. Students are only entitled to receive the partial cancellation once.
Table 21g is compiled from 'Student Support for Higher Education in Northern Ireland: Academic Year 2013/14 (Final)' SLC Table 2, 21h from SLC Table 4a(i) and 21i from SLC Table 4a(ii).
All applications for Higher Education (HE) student finance under full time regulations from Northern Ireland domiciled applicants are assessed by Education Library Boards in Northern Ireland. If the applicant is found to be eligible they will be awarded student finance, which will start to be paid once attendance has been confirmed by the HE provider and the term start date has been reached. Many awards do not lead to payment because the applicant does not secure a place or chooses not to attend. The products awarded to each applicant will depend on several factors: the year that they entered HE; the loans (Maintenance Loan and/or Tuition Fee Loan) they choose to take, if any; whether they submit financial details to be assessed for a means tested grant; whether they are entitled to a Special Grant or allowance such as the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA).
All Northern Ireland domiciled applicants who are eligible for student finance can receive a Maintenance Loan. Some choose not to take one even though they might have received other support, such as a Maintenance Grant. Some do not apply for any support at all. Table 21i 'Maintenance Loan take up by the estimated eligible population domiciled in Northern Ireland' shows the relationship between those who took out a Maintenance loan and those who could have taken one, using estimates of the eligible student population from DEL. The applicant can choose to take all or part of the basic non means tested element of the Maintenance Loan. They can receive a higher amount if they submit financial evidence that shows their household residual income is within the range for additional Maintenance Loan entitlement.
An alternative provider is any provider of higher education courses which is not in direct receipt of recurrent funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) or from equivalent bodies in the Devolved Administrations; or does not receive direct recurrent public funding (for example, from a local authority, or from the Secretary of State for Education); and is not a further education college. Only providers with courses designated for student support are included in the statistics.
This is a person applying for financial support. Not all applicants take up a place at a Higher Education Provider (HEP). Applicants become students once they take up place and the SLC receives a confirmation of their attendance.
The number of and amount of money awarded to applicants for student finance who have passed the eligibility criteria as stipulated within the student finance regulations, and have been assessed for the respective support package accordingly. Awards will be paid on condition that the applicant subsequently attends the higher education provider (HEP) at which point they will be considered a student, and payments will be released according to the payment schedule for the support types awarded.
Country of study
The country in which the higher education institute is located to which the applicant intends to study, or is studying, at.
The country in which the applicant normally lives. Student Finance England covers those students domiciled in England and European Union Students studying in England. Student Finance Wales covers those students domiciled in Wales and European Union Students studying in Wales. Student Finance Northern Ireland covers those students domiciled in Northern Ireland and European Union Students studying in Northern Ireland.
Estimated eligible population
The numbers of students that are eligible to apply for student finance including those who do not apply.
For England, figures for the estimated eligible population are supplied by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). BIS use data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and other sources with the closest approximation of eligibility criteria available from those sources. Estimates are produced with a consistent method each year.
For Wales figures for the estimated eligible population are supplied by the Welsh Government (WG). WG use data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and other sources with the closest approximation of eligibility criteria available from those sources. Estimates are produced with a consistent method each year.
For Northern Ireland figures for the estimated eligible population are supplied by the Department for Employment and Learning (Northern Ireland) (DEL(NI)).
Grouping of applicants according to the student finance regulations against which the applicant was assessed for support. Student finance applicants are covered by transitional protection, which means they continue to be assessed against the regulations in place for their first year of study. Students changing courses, or starting a new period of study no longer receive transitional protection and will be assessed under the arrangements in place for their latest year of study.
The final position refers to statistics being in a steady state. Final figures are not expected to change significantly and should represent the final outcome.
Full year maintenance loan
The amount of maintenance loan available to students varies between those studying in their final year and those studying in an earlier year of their course. Students in their final year will be entitled to a reduced amount to reflect the reduced length of time in attendance at their university over which maintenance support is required.
Level of support
Identifies if the applicant was awarded the full level of means tested grant, partial level or no grant.
Maintenance loan rate
Applicants are entitled to a different amount of maintenance loans depending on their term-time residence. Rates differ for applicants living at home, in London or elsewhere (excluding London).
A public provider is any provider of higher education courses which is in direct receipt of recurrent funding from HEFCE or from equivalent bodies in the Devolved Administrations; or in receipt of direct recurrent public funding (for example, from a local authority, or from the Secretary of State for Education); or is a further education college. Only providers with courses designated for student support are included in the statistics.
For England and Wales this is the income associated with the household where the applicant normally resides. It comprises of the taxable earned and unearned incomes of the applicant or those of the applicants minus any allowable deductions. For Northern Ireland this defined as the income from the household from which the applicant normally resides. This income determines how much means tested support the applicant is entitled to. Residual income comprises of the taxable earned and unearned income of the applicant and/or the taxable earned and unearned income of the applicants sponsors minus any allowable deductions.
For England an applicant for financial support becomes a student once the Student Loans Company has received confirmation that the person is attending a course in a Higher Education Provider (HEP). Not all applicants take up a place at a HEP. For Wales and Northern Ireland this is defined as those student finance applicants for whom an attendance confirmation has been received from the university which indicates that the applicant is or has taken a place at university. This is an important distinction as not all those making student finance applicants go on to take a place at university.
Student support arrangement
This is the arrangement available at the time of the application for support. It includes the range of support available, the eligibility rules and the income thresholds (which are in place for a given academic year).
Take up rate
The rate of which the eligible population chooses to apply for a maintenance loan.
These are grants and allowances, aimed to provide additional financial support, to students meeting specific circumstances. Target support includes Travel Grant, Parental Learning Allowance, Childcare Grant and Adult Dependants Grant.
International comparisons data
The Department for Education (DfE)1 supplies summary statistics, on behalf of the UK, to a joint questionnaire compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Statistical Office of the European Communities (EUROSTAT) and the Statistical Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO-UIS). Table 22 in this product has been compiled using data supplied by various countries to the international bodies and in particular, data derived from the OECD's own annual publication, 'Education at a Glance'. There are inevitably a number of problems of comparability and interpretation in using this table, and readers are advised to read the footnotes carefully.
The main aspects to be borne in mind are:
- The underlying educational systems need to be understood, as far as possible, in interpreting these comparisons. As an aid to understanding the differences between the various countries, up to date information about the different educational systems in the European Union is available from, EURYDICE at NFER, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 2DQ (website: www.nfer.ac.uk/eurydice. Or see the European EURYDICE Unit website: www.eurydice.org).
- Within HE three sub-divisions of tertiary education are recognised internationally. These are known as ISCED levels 5A, 5B and 6 (the International Standard Classification of Education). Level 5A courses are largely theoretically based and designed to provide entry to advanced research programmes and professions with high skill requirements. They have a minimum of three years full-time equivalent duration. These programmes are not exclusively offered at universities; conversely, not all university programmes fulfil the criteria to be classified as tertiary-type 5A. In the UK, first and higher degree qualifications (excluding PhDs) are included at this level. Level 5B qualifications are more practically-oriented and occupationally specific than programmes at ISCED 5A. These have a minimum of two years' full-time equivalent duration and are focused on equipping students for direct entry into the labour market, although some theoretical foundations may be covered in these programmes. In the UK these comprise 'sub degree' qualifications such as the Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), BTEC Higher National Diploma/Certificate (HND/HNC), nursing, and other professional qualifications. Level 6 is reserved for advanced research qualifications - in the UK, the PhD is included at this level.
Although renewed efforts have been made to standardise education classifications, through a revised ISCED (1997), the definition of HE may be interpreted slightly differently by different countries. In some countries the masters degree is the first degree in higher education, and in others the higher education system is oriented towards vocationally-based level 5B courses that are considered to be of an equal standing to level 5A courses.
(ISCED97 has been under review and a revised version, known as ISCED11, was formally adopted by the UNESCO General Council meeting in November 2011 for implementation in 2013/14, making its first appearance in published international data from 2015 onwards. This timescale allows countries sufficient time to adapt existing administrative and survey data collections, and recognises the time-lag between the collection, processing, checking, reporting and publication of this data).
- The range of public and private provision and the definition of the public/private sectors will vary from country to country.
- Participation rates can be influenced by a number of factors including varying course lengths and drop-out rates.
- Graduation rates from Tertiary-type A and Tertiary-type B programmes are calculated on a 'gross' basis, i.e. by dividing an unduplicated count of graduates (taken from the UOE GRAD questionnaire) by the population at the 'typical' age of graduation.
- In the case of Tertiary-type A (i.e. degree) courses, OECD took the average of the UK 21, 22, 23 and 24 year old population to be the population at the 'typical age of graduation'.
- Graduation rates from advanced research (i.e. PhD) programmes continued to be calculated on a 'net' basis, i.e. the sum over all 'x' of PhD graduates aged 'x' divided by population aged 'x'. Both these methods give a measure of the 'lifetime chance' of graduating from tertiary education, based on current patterns.
- Regarding entry rate figures, although OECD's method is based on the same principle as the Department's Initial Entry Rate (IER) (e.g. it uses HESA's 'entry code' field to distinguish between first year students entering HE for the first time and students re-entering HE), OECD's figures should not be compared to the IER, and this indicator should not be used to measure how other countries fare against the UK's '50%' HE participation target. One difference is that all HE students are included in the OECD count, whereas the IER excludes students on very short courses and overseas students. The main difference, though, is that the IER calculations use sophisticated methods to exclude double-counting of entrants, and the IER only refers to England, rather than the UK.
The Labour Force Survey and Annual Population Survey
This section is included to give a broad indication of the output of the United Kingdom (UK) higher education (HE) system - that which can be gained by looking at the proportion of the adult population of the UK who hold HE qualifications. Time series comparisons show the impact that the HE experience is having on the general population over time.
The two statistics show the percentage of the UK population with HE qualifications, by age and gender, over time, and the percentage of the UK population with postgraduate qualifications, by age and gender, also over time.
These statistics are based on external data sources - the Labour Force Survey, the Local Area Database, the Annual Local Area Labour Force Survey and, from 2004, the Annual Population Survey. These are run by The Office for National Statistics and cover the whole of the UK.
The sample is equivalent to approximately a half percent of the adult population of the UK. The sampling strategy is such that the surveys have a rotating panel of respondents. Households are asked to remain in the survey for 4 or 5 interviews or 'waves'. Thus each dataset contains respondents being interviewed for the first time along with others being interviewed for the second, third, and fourth or final time. A respondent can provide information for other household members who may not be present to be interviewed; these are called 'proxy interviews'. Around one third of data is collected through proxy interviews. It is possible that data are less accurate than they would be if each adult answered the survey individually.
For most of the UK, households are chosen from a postcode address file. The majority of first interviews are carried out face to face and 70% of recall interviews are by telephone. However, due to the sparse population north of the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, households are chosen from the published telephone directory and interviews are conducted by telephone primarily to reduce costs. The questions asked by telephone interviewers are the same as those which are asked face to face, and interviewers are extensively trained and monitored in order to ensure the data they record is accurate.
The survey covers people of all ages, including the employed, inactive and unemployed. Qualification information is asked of those of working age and those above working age who are in employment. Students living in halls of residence are included in the household survey of the parental address.
Notes on coverage
It should be noted that there is a certain discontinuity in following through those who have had the HE experience because the classification of HE qualifications and postgraduate qualifications used for the Labour Force Survey is different from that used by HESA.
It should also be noted that in looking at the impact of HE on the general population, some of the UK population will have gained their qualifications outside the UK, or at private higher education providers (HEPs), or further education colleges in the UK, and/or on a part-time basis. Others will have gained HE qualifications at publicly-funded HEIs in the UK, but then left the UK.
There have also been significant changes in how HE data has been collected by ONS over the time period displayed. Households within the Main Labour Force Survey (LFS) are asked to take part for five interviews or 'waves', each being three months apart. Main LFS datasets are published quarterly and cover a period of three months. Thus each quarter some households leave and others join the survey. Between 1996 and 1999 the Main LFS data was used to construct an annual dataset; this data source is known as the Local Area Database (LADB). To construct this dataset wave 1 and wave 5 cases were combined for a 12 month period; this ensures that respondents only appear once in the dataset. This was developed into the Annual Local Area Labour Force Survey (ALALFS), which runs from 2000 to 2003. This again takes wave 1 and wave 5 cases of the Main LFS but now adds a 'boost' sample. Initially the 'boost' was just for England but later a 'boost' was also introduced for Wales and Scotland. An additional boost was added to England in 2004 when the dataset became known as the Annual Population Survey (APS), the additional boost was however dropped in 2006, so the APS, from 2006 to the present, has the same structure as the ALALFS. The 'boost' households are asked to take part for four interviews or 'waves', each being 12 months apart; these respondents are asked a subset of the LFS questions. Currently a quarterly Main LFS dataset contains around 120,000 individuals and an APS dataset contains around 340,000 individuals. This analysis uses the annual datasets described above; the Labour Force Survey for 2000, and the Annual Population Survey for 2005 and 2010.
- The International Evidence team within the DfE Strategy Performance Analysis Group supplies annual returns to the named international organisations on behalf of both DfE and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in England and the relevant bodies within the other UK member countries.
© Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2015.