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Definitions - Students 2015/16

Student record

HESA Student data is collected for all students registered at a reporting higher education (HE) provider who follow courses that lead to the award of a qualification(s) or HE provider credit. Higher education students for the purpose of HESA's data collection are those students on courses for which the level of instruction is above that of level 3 of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), or the former Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (e.g. courses at the level of Certificate of HE and above).

Each Instance where a student is enrolled on such a course is counted separately. To avoid overcounting some types of students are excluded from published figures - see Standard registration population.

Students registered as studying wholly overseas are excluded from the HESA Student record and counted separately in the Aggregate offshore record. If it is known at the beginning of the course that a student will spend a block of eight weeks or more in the UK as part of their programme then they are included on the Student record.

HESA student data is collected from HE providers in all nations of the United Kingdom. From 2019/20 published data includes HE providers registered with the Office for Students in England, publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Further Education Colleges with HE provision in Wales.

Before 2016/17 HESA publications included fewer providers, being restricted to publicly funded HEIs from all nations plus the University of Buckingham. From 2016/17 FECs  with HE provision in Wales were included. From 2014/15 to 2018/19 data was published separately for Alternative providers in England. For definitions relating to alternative providers in 2014/15 to 2018/19 please see the archived Definitions: Alternative Provider Student. Some providers continue to submit data to HESA via the Student Alternative record collection which does not include all of the same data items as the Student record collection.

The reporting period for the HESA Student record is 1 August to 31 July.

Courses involving collaborative or franchising arrangements are administration specific:

In England and Northern Ireland all students included on the Higher Education Students Early Statistics Survey (HESES) return to the Office for Students (previously HEFCE), whether fundable or not, are returned to HESA. This includes all students funded through franchised, associate and regional college arrangements. Students funded through an Office for Students (previously HEFCE) recognised funding consortium or students registered at another HE provider, although included in the HESES return of the lead HE provider, are not included within the HESA return of that HE provider. These students are included in the HESA (or the Data Service) return of the registering provider.

In Wales students included on the HESES return to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), whether fundable or not, are returned to HESA regardless of where the student is registered. This includes all students funded through franchise arrangements where the provision is franchised out from the HE provider. Students who are franchised in to the HE provider are excluded. The term franchise, also referred to as outreach, in HE in Wales refers to a HE course taught at a provider (the franchisee) which is not directly in receipt of funding from HEFCW for that course, and for which quality assurance is provided by another Welsh HE provider (the franchisor). Students taught at HE provider in Wales may be registered at the franchisee or franchisor provider. However, students registered at providers outside Wales, with a Welsh HE provider providing quality assurance, are not included within the definition of franchised students.

In Scotland students taking articulated or franchised courses at further education (FE) colleges, or other courses at other HE provider or FE colleges, for the years of such courses for which the HE provider does not provide any of the teaching input, does not receive any funding or does not receive any tuition fee payment (e.g. from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland) are excluded from the HE provider's return to HESA. In the case of those years of a course for which two or more HE providers are involved in providing the teaching input and/or receiving funding or tuition fees, only one of the HE providers includes the students in its returns to HESA. It is up to the providers concerned to agree between themselves who should be responsible for making the returns to HESA, and for which years of the course (or for which students on a particular year of the course), as seems most appropriate given their administrative arrangements.

For data protection reasons we implement a strategy in published and released tabulations designed to prevent the disclosure of personal information about any individual. This strategy involves rounding all numbers to the nearest multiple of 5 and suppressing percentages and averages based on small populations.

HESA Standard Rounding Methodology:

  1. All numbers are rounded to the nearest multiple of 5
  2. Any number lower than 2.5 is rounded to 0
  3. Halves are always rounded upwards (e.g. 2.5 is rounded to 5)
  4. Percentages based on fewer than 22.5 individuals are suppressed
  5. Averages based on 7 or fewer individuals are suppressed
  6. The above requirements apply to headcounts, FPE and FTE data
  7. Financial data is not rounded

Total figures are also subject to this rounding methodology after calculation; so the sum of numbers in each row or column may not match the total shown. Suppressed values are normally represented as '..' in published tables.

This methodology is sometimes referred to as the HESA Services Standard Rounding Methodology, HESA’s Rounding Methodology or the Heidi Plus Rounding Methodology depending on the context of the reference. These names all refer to the same methodology described here.

For more information on the rounding methodology, including worked examples and instructions on how to apply rounding, please see Rounding and suppression to anonymise statistics.

The HESA standard registration population ensures that similar activity is counted in a similar way irrespective of when it occurs. The standard registration population has been derived from the HESA Student record, from all registered higher education and further education student instances active at a reporting HE provider in the reporting period 1 August to 31 July and following courses that lead to the award of a qualification or HE provider credit.

The population splits the student experience into years of study. The first year is deemed to start on the commencement date of the student instance, with second and subsequent years starting on, or near, the anniversary of that date. Student instances are counted once for each year of study. However students who leave within two weeks of their instance start date, or the anniversary of their start date, and are on a course of more than two weeks duration, are not included in the standard registration population.

The Student Alternative record differs from the Student record in that student instances are split into instance periods which are typically analogous to the concept of a provider's academic year. Instance periods which represent inactive activity are not considered in the derivation of this population.

Also excluded from this population are:

  • dormant students (those who have suspended study but have not formally de-registered)
  • incoming visiting and exchange students
  • postdoctoral student instances
  • instances where the whole of the programme of study is outside of the UK
  • instances where the student has spent, or will spend, more than 8 weeks in the UK but the study programme is primarily outside the UK
  • DfE/Teaching Regulation Agency (formerly NCTL) Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) student instances
  • students on sabbatical, and
  • writing-up students.

Please note, the following students are included as standard in HESA populations:

  • Students registered at, but not taught by the reporting HE provider- this is usually through a collaborative/franchising agreement. It may be for the whole or a proportion of the academic year.
  • Students based in the UK on distance learning programmes.
  • Student based outside of the UK on funded distance learning programmes e.g Crown servants overseas and the Services
  • Students on industrial placement for the whole or a proportion of the academic year.
  • Students on a study year abroad for the whole or a proportion of the academic year.
  • Apprenticeship Standards students studying towards a Higher Education component.

The HESA standard registration population forms the basis for most counts of first year and continuing student instances.

If you require data based on alternative populations, this may be available as a bespoke data request by Jisc. Please be aware that any alterations to standard HESA populations will mean that data will not align with HESA data published elsewhere.

Each higher education provider is allocated two different unique identifiers:

Higher education provider identifier (INSTID) is the unique identifier allocated to a provider by HESA.

UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN) is the unique identifier allocated to a provider by the UK Register of Learning Providers (UKRLP).

For a list of the HE provider mergers and changes from the 1994/95 academic year onwards see Provider mergers and changes.

The HESA qualifications obtained population is a count of student instances associated with the award of a higher education qualification (excluding higher education provider credits) during the HESA reporting period. This includes qualifications awarded from dormant, writing-up and sabbatical status.

Incoming visiting and exchange students are excluded from this population.

Full-time equivalent (FTE) is a concept that considers the proportion of the full-time course that the student is studying. A student on a full-time, full year course would be returned as 1.0 FTE, whereas a student on a part-time course that is 60% of a full-time course would be returned as 0.6. This counting method therefore gives the number of full-time equivalent students rather than an actual count; for example, two students each studying a part-time course that is 50% of a full-time course would together count as only 1.0 FTE.

FTE data represents the HE provider's assessment of the full-time equivalence of the student instance during the reporting period 1 August to 31 July.

The HESA session population forms the basis for counts of full-time equivalent (FTE) student instances. It includes all registered higher education and further education student instances active at a reporting HE provider at any point in the reporting period 1 August to 31 July, following courses that lead to the award of a qualification or HE provider credit, except:

  • dormant student instances (those who have suspended study but have not formally de-registered)
  • incoming visiting and exchange student instances
  • postdoctoral student instances
  • instances where the whole of the programme of study is outside of the UK
  • instances where the student has spent, or will spend, more than 8 weeks in the UK but the study programme is primarily outside the UK
  • DfE/Teaching Regulation Agency (formerly NCTL) Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) student instances, and
  • students on sabbatical.

Incoming visiting and exchange students are excluded from the session population in order to avoid an element of double-counting with both outgoing and incoming students being included.    

For the difference between full-person equivalent (FPE) and full-time equivalent (FTE) please click here.

Mode of study 

Applicable to HESA populations except the qualifications obtained population

  • Full-time includes students recorded as studying full-time, normally required to attend a HE provider for periods amounting to at least 24 weeks within the year of study, plus those enrolled on a sandwich course (thick or thin), irrespective of whether or not they are in attendance at the HE provider or engaged in industrial training, and those on a study-related year out of their HE provider. During that time students are normally expected to undertake periods of study, tuition or work experience which amount to an average of at least 21 hours per week for a minimum of 24 weeks study/placement.

In certain analyses, full-time and sandwich modes of study may be shown separately, defined as follows:

  • Full-time includes students who are normally required to attend an provider for periods amounting to at least 24 weeks within the year of study.
  • Sandwich includes students enrolled on a sandwich course (thick or thin), irrespective of whether they are in attendance at the HE provider or engaged in industrial training. During that time students are normally expected to undertake periods of study, tuition or work experience which amount to an average of at least 21 hours per week for a minimum of 24 weeks study/placement.
  • Part-time includes students recorded as studying part-time, or studying full-time on courses lasting less than 24 weeks, on block release, or studying during the evenings only.

Where analysis includes FE level students, part-time includes those recorded as studying part-time, or studying full-time on courses lasting less than 24 weeks, on block release, or studying during the evenings only, plus those students on FE continuous delivery.

  • Writing-up and sabbatical includes students who are normally expected to submit a thesis to the HE provider for examination (generally research students), have completed the work of their course and are not making significant demands on HE providers resources, plus those on sabbatical.

Writing-up students and students on sabbatical are excluded from the HESA standard registration population.

Applicable to HESA qualifications obtained population

  • Full-time includes students whose study was recorded as full-time (as described as above), and also includes awards from suspended study and writing-up status where the student's mode of study was previously full-time.
  • Part-time students are those whose study was recorded as part-time (as described above), and also includes awards from suspended study and writing-up status where the student's mode of study was previously part-time, and awards given to those on sabbatical.

Level of study

Within educational frameworks, the term ‘level’ is generally used to represent each of multiple bands or tiers of study or qualification that share similar expectations of attainment. Level of study is derived from the course aim of the student.

HESA classifies courses according to a framework which aligns with the framework for HE qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) (of which the framework for qualifications of HE providers in Scotland is a constituent part) and the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and Bologna frameworks. Details of our mapping are available within the field specification for the general qualification aim of course in the Student record. It includes level M for taught masters degrees, and level H for honours degrees.

Most analyses by level utilize one of the following three standard approached to grouping levels:

  • 3-way, comprising: Postgraduate; Undergraduate; Further Education
  • 5-way, comprising: Postgraduate (research); Postgraduate (taught); First degree; Other undergraduate; Further Education
  • 9-way, comprising: Doctorate (research); Masters (research); Other postgraduate (research); Doctorate (taught); Masters (taught); Other postgraduate (taught); First degree; Other undergraduate; Further education.

Some groupings may be irrelevant in the context of a particular analysis, and will be excluded. For a standard mapping of course aim codes to our level of study fields, please download the course aim level mapping spreadsheet. Users requesting tailored datasets from Jisc can change this mapping on a bespoke basis to suit their needs.

Groupings used frequently in analysis are defined below. Technical specifications for groupings can be found in our derived field specifications.

  • Postgraduate courses are those leading to higher degrees, diplomas and certificates (including Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE at level M) (unless shown separately) and professional qualifications) which usually require a first degree as an entry qualification (i.e. already qualified at level H).
  • Postgraduate (research) includes doctorate (incorporating New Route PhD), masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas or certificates (not Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at level M) studied primarily through research.
  • Postgraduate (taught) includes doctorate, and masters degrees, postgraduate bachelors degrees at level M and postgraduate diplomas or certificates not studied primarily through research, including Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at level M (unless shown separately), Masters in Teaching and Learning, level M Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, and professional qualifications.
  • Higher degree (research) includes doctorate (incorporating the ‘New Route PhD’) and masters degrees studied primarily through research. Many students who study for a doctoral qualification will initially be enrolled on a masters course and will transfer to a doctorate course after a year or two. For this reason, numbers of doctoral students may be under-counted and numbers of masters students may be over-counted where this factor is not taken into account.
  • Higher degree (taught) includes doctorate and masters degrees not studied primarily through research, and postgraduate bachelors degrees at level M. Masters in Teaching and Learning are included in this category.
  • Other postgraduate includes postgraduate diplomas, certificates and professional qualifications, Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE at level M), level 7 Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, HE provider postgraduate credits and non-formal postgraduate qualifications.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education are those PGCE qualifications which are studied or awarded at level M. The Postgraduate Diploma in Education is a similar initial teacher training qualification to the PGCE, but with a greater proportion of study at level M.
  • Professional Graduate Certificate in Education are those PGCE qualifications which are studied or awarded at level H.
  • Undergraduate courses are programmes of study at level H, I, J and C including, but not limited to, first degrees (including eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), first degrees with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)/registration with a General Teaching Council (GTC), postgraduate bachelors degrees at level H, integrated and enhanced first degrees (including those leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), first degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma and intercalated first degrees, Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE at level H), foundation degrees, diplomas in higher education (including those leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), Higher National Diploma (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC), Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), foundation courses at higher education level, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 4 and 5, post-degree diplomas and certificates at undergraduate level (including those in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector), professional qualifications at undergraduate level and other undergraduate diplomas and certificates including pre- and post-registration health and social care and veterinary courses. Entrants to these programmes of study do not usually require a higher education qualification.
  • First degree includes all first degrees at level H (including those with eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), ordinary (non-honours) first degrees, first degrees with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)/registration with a General Teaching Council (GTC), postgraduate bachelors degree at level H, integrated and enhanced first degrees (including those leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), first degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma and intercalated first degrees.
  • Other undergraduate includes qualification aims equivalent to and below first degree level, including, but not limited to, Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at level H (unless shown separately), foundation degrees (unless shown separately), diplomas in higher education (including those with eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body), Higher National Diploma (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC), Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), foundation courses at higher education level, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at NQF levels 4 and 5, post-degree diplomas and certificates at undergraduate level (including those in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector), professional qualifications at undergraduate level, other undergraduate diplomas and certificates including pre- and post-registration health and social care and veterinary courses, other formal higher education qualifications of less than degree standard, provider undergraduate credit and non-formal undergraduate qualifications.
  • Foundation degrees (e.g. FdA, FdSc) were introduced to provide vocational higher education qualifications at level I.
  • Further Education programmes of study includes Diplomas, Certificates and National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at level 3 and below, A/AS levels, Advanced Highers/Highers (Scotland), GCSEs, Intermediates (Scotland), HE Access courses, Welsh for Adults and other qualifications below higher education level.

Qualification obtained

Qualification obtained is taken from the qualification awarded to the student during the reporting year, usually at the end of an instance. The qualification awarded may be different to the student's qualification aim, and the student may be awarded more than one qualification during the reporting period.

Qualification obtained is based on the HESA qualifications obtained population and therefore also includes qualifications awarded from dormant, writing-up and sabbatical status.

The groupings are as Level of study (above), except in certain analyses where the following groupings may be used:

  • Doctorate includes doctoral degrees obtained/not obtained primarily through research and New Route PhD.
  • Other higher degree includes masters degrees obtained/not obtained primarily through research, Masters in Teaching and Learning, pre-registration masters degrees leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body and postgraduate bachelors degrees at level M.
  • Other postgraduate qualifications includes supervised research at level D, E and L for provider credits, National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) at level M and E, other postgraduate qualifications obtained primarily through research, fellowships, diplomas and certificates at level M, Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) 5, professional taught qualifications at level M other than masters degrees, Level M Diplomas in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, and other taught qualifications at level M.
  • HND/DipHE includes Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE) (including those leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body) and Higher National Diplomas (HND).

 

The classification of a first degree indicates the qualification class obtained. Certain qualifications obtained at first degree level are not subject to classification of award, notably medical and general degrees. These, together with ordinary degrees and aegrotat qualifications have been included within Unclassified. Third class honours, fourth class honours and pass have been aggregated as Third/pass. Lower second and undivided second class honours have been aggregated as Lower second.

Information about ITT students is presented as a count of instances.

ITT students is based on the 'Standard registration population' and includes instances that are: initial or pre-service teacher training courses leading to Qualified Teacher Status or registration as a school teacher with the General Teaching Council for Scotland; other initial teacher training courses not leading to Qualified Teacher Status nor to registration as a school teacher with the General Teaching Council for Scotland; Department for Education [National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) till 2016/17] funded flexible provision (ITT) [not funded from 2016/17], the School Direct initiative [included but not identifiable in the ITT marker from 2016/17], school-led HEP provision, and those studying towards Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS).

ITT qualifiers includes qualifications obtained from the categories of ITT instances listed above, and as it is based on the 'Qualifications obtained population' includes qualifications awarded from dormant, writing-up and sabbatical status.

First years includes those students who commenced their programme instance within the reporting period and is based on the HESA standard registration population. In some cases the student's first year of study may be the second or subsequent year of a programme.

All years includes all student instances regardless of their commencement date and is based on the HESA standard registration population.

A permanent home address is the place where a student normally lived for non-educational purposes before starting their course. This is sometimes also referred to as their domicile.

Permanent home address data is supplied to HESA either in the form of postcodes (for students living permanently in the UK, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man) or as country codes.

Postcodes are mapped to counties, unitary authorities and UK nations using the Office for National Statistics Postcode Directory (ONSPD). OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Contains Royal Mail data © Royal Mail copyright and database right 2020. Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0.

Northern Ireland geographical indicators are based on Crown Copyright and are reproduced with the permission of Land & Property Services under delegated authority from the Keeper of Public Records, © Crown copyright and database right 2020 NIMA MOU577.4

Countries are mapped to geographical regions, informed by the National Statistics Country Classification grouping of countries, further details can are available on the ONS website.

When analysing permanent home address data, the following notes and definitions of groupings of locations should be borne in mind:

  • United Kingdom students are those whose normal residence prior to commencing their programme of study was in the UK, and for the purposes of analysis include Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Officially, the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK or the EU. Guernsey and Jersey in this context refer to the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, which includes their smaller islands.

    Please note that Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are excluded from the UK population used to produce the UK Performance Indicators.
     

  • Northern Ireland In 2015 the existing local government districts for Northern Ireland were replaced with a smaller number. The eleven local government districts which resulted from this reform are not directly comparable to those which previously existed.
     
  • Other European Union domiciled students are those whose normal residence prior to commencing their programme of study was in countries which were European Union (EU) members as at 1 December of the reporting period. EU countries are those which were EU members as at 1 December 2007. This includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Croatia is additionally included in this category from 2013/14 onwards, having acceded to the EU on 1 July 2013.
     
  • Where European Union countries are shown separately, individual country figures exclude those domiciled in the Åland Islands, the Canary Islands, and the French overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion. These figures are included in European Union not otherwise specified.
     
  • Other EEA countries includes the European Economic Area countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
     
  • Other Europe includes Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus (Non-European-Union), Faroe Islands, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Vatican City and Europe not otherwise specified. Croatia was included in this category prior to 2013/14, from which point it was included as ‘Other European Union’ following accession to the EU.
     
  • Non-European-Union students are those whose normal residence prior to commencing their programme of study was outside the EU and UK. Where Non-EU countries are shown separately, individual country figures exclude the country's overseas territories. These individual country figures are listed within the geographic region in which they lie.
     
  • Not known Prior to 2014/15, the country of a student’s permanent home address could be inferred using fee eligibility as a proxy where no further information was available. From 2014/15 this proxy is no longer used, as non-UK domiciled students may be eligible to pay 'home fees'. Where no permanent home address information is known, students will now derive to 'not known'.
     
  • China – Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China), Macao (Special Administrative Region of China), and Taiwan appear separately from China in HESA domicile statistics for historical and immigration reasons relating to the issuance of different passports. The United Kingdom government acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of China and recognises the Chinese Government as the sole legal government of China.

Student age is as at 31 August in the reporting period.

For the qualifications obtained population age is at 31 July in the reporting period (the end of the academic year).

Age on entry is as at the date of a student's initial commencement of studies for this student instance.

Young / mature marker

This marker distinguishes between those who are classed as young or mature students based upon their age on entry and level of study. The criteria for this marker is as follows:

  • Undergraduates are classed as young if they are under 21 years of age on entry, and mature if they are 21 or over.
  • Postgraduates are classed as young if they are under 25 years of age on entry, and mature if they are 25 or over.

Please note that the concept of young and mature is used within the UK Performance Indicators, but looks at age on a fixed date within the academic year of entry, rather than on the entry date itself. See UK Performance Indicator definitions for more details.

This field records the sex of the student, as opposed to the gender with which they identify.

Other is included for students whose sex aligns with terms such as intersex, androgyne, intergender, ambigender, gender fluid, polygender and gender queer.

Prior to 2012/13, the concept of biological sex was collected under the description of ‘gender’, which is a term more closely associated with identity. For this reason, HESA moved to using the term sex for this concept, and commenced collecting gender identity as a different field.

The concept of ‘Other’ in the predecessor field was collected as ‘Indeterminate’.

Indeterminate means unable to be classified as either male or female, and is intended to identify students who are intersex, and not trans-gender nor as a proxy for not known.

The specification of this field is based on the Recommendations on monitoring from AdvanceHE. HESA does not, however, include a 'prefer not to say' option.

This refers to the highest qualification which a student held at the beginning of their current instance. A student's highest qualification on entry is not necessarily that which was required for entry to the programme of study. Categories used are:

  • Postgraduate (excluding PGCE) includes all higher degrees (UK and non-UK doctorate and masters degrees and other qualifications at level D), postgraduate diplomas and certificates (excluding Postgraduate and Professional Graduate Certificates in Education (PGCE at levels M and H)) and postgraduate equivalent qualifications (other taught qualifications and taught work for provider credits at level M).
  • PGCE includes Postgraduate and Professional Graduate Certificates in Education (PGCE at levels M and H), with and without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)/registration with a General Teaching Council (GTC).
  • First degree includes UK and non-UK first degrees, with or without honours, first degrees with honours and undergraduate qualifications with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)/registration with a General Teaching Council (GTC) and integrated undergraduate/postgraduate taught masters degree on the enhanced/extended pattern.
  • Other undergraduate qualification includes other graduate qualifications of non-UK providers, General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ)/General Scottish Vocational Qualification (GSVQ) level 4 and 5, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) level 4 and 5, Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE), Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificates in Education (CertEd) or Diplomas in Education (DipEd) (i.e. non-graduate initial teacher training qualification), Higher National Diplomas (HND) or Higher National Certificates (HNC) (including BTEC and SQA equivalents), foundation degrees, foundation courses at level J, graduate equivalent qualifications not elsewhere specified, other qualifications at levels H and J (i.e. other HE qualification of less than degree standard), Higher Apprenticeships level 4, other qualification at level C and undergraduate credits.
  • Other qualification includes Open University credits, other credits from a UK providers, professional qualifications, Advanced Modern Apprenticeships and other UK and non-UK qualifications (level not known).
  • Level 3 qualification (including A levels and Highers) includes any combinations of GCE A/AS levels, SQA Higher/SQA Advanced Higher, General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ)/General Scottish Vocational Qualification (GSVQ) level 3, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) level 3, Ordinary National Certificate (ONC), Ordinary National Diploma (OND) (BTEC and SQA equivalents), A level equivalent qualifications not elsewhere specified, foundation courses at FE level, HE access courses (Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) recognised/not QAA recognised), Baccalaureates (AQA, Scottish, Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma level 3 and International Baccalaureates (IB) diplomas/certificates), Diplomas in Foundation Studies (Art and Design), 14-19 Advanced Diplomas level 3, Diplomas, Certificates and Awards at level 3, Cambridge Pre-U Diplomas and Certificates and other level 3 qualifications.
  • Qualifications at level 2 and below includes GCSE/O level qualifications/SQA O grades and Standard grades, other non-advanced qualifications, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)/Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) level 2, 14-19 Higher Diplomas level 2 and level 1, Welsh Baccalaureate Intermediate Diplomas level 2, other qualifications at level 2, Welsh Baccalaureate Foundation Diplomas level 1 and other qualifications at level 1.
  • No formal qualification includes Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning (APEL/APL), mature students admitted on basis of previous experience and or provider's own admissions test and cases in which it is known that the student has no formal qualification. 
  • Not known is reserved for instances where nothing is known about the student's qualifications on entry to their programme of study.

Students whose permanent address is in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are required to report their ethnic origin. However, HESA advises that the figures reported in analyses may not be representative of the total student population because ethnic origin information is only required from this subset. This subset also excludes certain FE, incoming, visiting and exchange, and dormant students.

It is HESA's practice to adopt national classifications where they exist and are appropriate. The use of Census aligned ethnicity coding in the Student record is an example of this. The coding frame is recommended by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for UK-wide data collection. However, there are variations to the Census ethnicity coding adopted in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The ethnic category groupings are:

Census 2011 (used from 2012/13)

  • White includes White, White - Scottish, Irish Traveller, Gypsy or Traveller, plus Other White background.
  • Black includes Black or Black British - Caribbean, Black or Black British - African, and other Black background.
  • Asian includes Asian or Asian British - Indian, Asian or Asian British - Pakistani, Asian or Asian British - Bangladeshi, Chinese, and other Asian background.
  • Mixed includes mixed - White and Black Caribbean, mixed - White and Black African, mixed - White and Asian, other mixed background.
  • Other includes Arab and other ethnic background.
  • Unknown/Not applicable is used to denote those who do not have a permanent address in the UK, their permanent address is unknown (2014/15 onwards), have refused to give ethnic information or whose ethnicity is unknown.

Census 2001 (used prior to 2012/13)

  • White includes White and Irish Traveller.
  • Black includes Black or Black British - Caribbean, Black or Black British - African, and other Black background.
  • Asian includes Asian or Asian British - Indian, Asian or Asian British - Pakistani, Asian or Asian British - Bangladeshi, Chinese, and other Asian background.
  • Other (including mixed) includes mixed - White and Black Caribbean, mixed - White and Black African, mixed - White and Asian, other mixed background, and other ethnic background.
  • Unknown/Not applicable is used to denote those who do not have a permanent address in the UK, their permanent address is unknown (2014/15 onwards), have refused to give ethnic information or whose ethnicity is unknown.

The ethnic groupings of Black, Asian, Mixed and Other may be further grouped as ethnic minority.

The disability categories indicate the type of disability that a student has on the basis of their own self-assessment. Students are not obliged to report a disability if they have one. HESA therefore advises that the figures reported in analyses are derived from a subset which may not be representative of the total student population.

With the introduction of the Disability Equality Duty, and on the recommendation of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), HESA adopted a version of the coding frame introduced by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). From 2010/11 new entrants may not be returned to HESA coded as information refused, information not sought or not known. These codes are only used for continuing students.

Entrants from 2010/11

The full label descriptions for each disability are available with the field specification.

Disability may be grouped as follows: 

  • Known to have a disability includes students who reported a disability that categorised as: a specific learning difficulty; blind or a serious visual impairment; deaf or a serious hearing impairment; a physical impairment or mobility issues; personal care support; mental health condition; social communication/Autistic spectrum disorder; a long-standing illness or health condition; two or more conditions listed plus another disability, impairment or medical condition.
  • No known disability includes students who reported they have no known disability plus students who refused to provide disability information, students for whom this information was not sought, those for whom information was not known and those for whom this information was not applicable.

Entrants prior to 2010/11

The full label descriptions for each disability are available within the field specification.

Disability may be grouped as follows:

  • Known to have a disability includes students who have a disability reported as blind or partially sighted, deaf or hearing impairment, wheelchair user or mobility difficulties, personal care support, mental health difficulties, an unseen disability (e.g. diabetes, epilepsy or asthma), multiple disabilities, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, a specific learning difficulty e.g. dyslexia, or another disability not listed.
  • No known disability includes students who indicated that they do not have a disability.
  • Not known includes students who refused to provide disability information, students for whom this information was not sought and those for whom information was not known.

The allocation of an HE provider to a geographical region is done by reference to the administrative centre of that HE provider. There may be students registered at HE providers who are studying in regions other than that of the administrative centre of the HE provider.

Regions in this context are the nine England Regions (formerly Government Office Regions) and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. HESA allocates HE providers to Regions as follows:

North East (NEAS),
North West (NWES),
Yorkshire and The Humber (YORH),
East Midlands (EMID),
West Midlands (WMID),
East of England (EAST),
London (LOND),
South East (SEAS),
South West (SWES),
Scotland (SCOT),
Wales (WALE) and
Northern Ireland (NIRE).

Please note that in an all published student data outputs for 2013/14 onwards, students enrolled at the Open University have been split into its four country campuses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In older years of data, students have been returned at its administrative centre which is located in the South East of England and is counted as a wholly English provider.

Subjects are persistent areas or branches of knowledge or learning that are studied in higher education. Subjects are essential attributes of all courses and modules. Most qualifications also have one or more subject attributes.

From 2019/20, HESA data about academic subjects is based upon the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS). HECoS was developed to replace the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). A Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) has been developed to provide standard groupings of subjects that provide consistent aggregations for analysis. For more information, refer to HESA's webpage on HECoS and CAH. HESA have decided not to utilise CAH v1.2 for time series analysis following investigations of the quality characteristics of CAH. More information can be found in the notes to our Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2019/20 statistical bulletin.

Please note that the CAH subject groups are used as factors within the benchmarks for the UK Performance Indicators, with CAH groups 01 medicine and dentistry and 05 veterinary sciences grouped together.

Allocation of subject codes to courses

Students may study combinations of subjects, and these are described using multiple subject codes. Up to five subjects can be associated with a course, although most have less than three.

The proportion of time allocated for each subject studied on a course is represented by a percentage. Percentages are based on a broad assessment of the relative contributions of each subject to individual students' programmes of study. The sum of the proportion allocated to each subject studied on a course must equal 100. No subject proportion less than 5% is recorded.

Most providers will apply similar percentages to the majority of their courses and only vary this where there is a substantially different expectation. The following standard percentages are recommended.

  • Balanced: 50% for each of the two subjects,
  • Major – Minor: 67% and 33%,
  • Triple: 34%, 33% and 33%.

Where broad assessment of the subject contributions markedly differs from these normative percentages alternative values can be returned.

For reasons associated with professional regulation, specific rules are in place restricting the subjects that can be allocated to various courses of initial teacher training (ITT), and courses in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary studies.

Specific allocation rules are in place for ITT. There is a group of HECoS codes that relates to teacher training, but trainee teachers may also study other subjects related to their subject specialism. In analyses, it is generally preferred to treat ITT students as being wholly based within the applied field of education, except where non-ITT subject knowledge enhancement is a central component of their studies. To reflect this general preference:

  • Where the ITT course being followed is a PGCE, the percentages of HECoS codes that relate to teacher training are scaled-up so that together, they sum to 100% of a full person equivalent (FPE). Any HECoS codes for non-teacher training subject specialisms have been returned are ignored.
  • Where an ITT course is not a PGCE, the FPE is allocated equally between two groups: first the group of HECoS codes that relates to teacher training, and second to any other non-teacher training HECoS codes for subject specialisms that have been returned. The proportions that have been returned for these two groups are scaled so that each group equals 50% FPE. Where no non-teacher training HECoS codes for subject specialisms have been returned, 100% FPE will be comprised of HECoS codes relating to teacher training.

In cases where an ITT course has not had any HECoS codes relating to teacher training returned for it, we replace the appropriate proportion of FPE with the default administrative teacher training HECoS code 200001.

Further detail about the allocation of subjects can be found in the HECoS implementation guide. The logic behind the derivation of FPE values for subjects of study can be found in the relevant derived field specification.

Specification of HECoS

The HECoS vocabulary is (at the current version 9) a single flat (non-hierarchical) list of 1,092 subject terms that ensures the categorisation of courses and modules is always performed at a consistent level.

Unlike JACS, the subject code identifiers are randomly generated and have no inherent meaning in themselves. Every HECoS code is associated with a subject term, a definition of that term, and where relevant, a scope note explaining the applicability of the code.

The HECoS vocabulary is available as downloadable Open data, along with further guidance on the management and implementation of HECoS, from our dedicated HECoS support page.

Common Aggregation Hierarchy

A Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) has been developed to provide standard groupings of related HECoS subject terms. The CAH is a comprehensive aggregation of the entirety of HECoS at each of three hierarchical levels or tiers, where a “parent” group at a higher level of CAH always comprises the full set of HECoS codes represented by related “child” groups of CAH below it. Version 1.2 of the CAH has been used to produce the 2019/20 Student outputs. In this version of the CAH, level 1 comprises 23 groups; level 2 comprises 35 groups, and; level 3 comprises 167 groups.

HECoS does not map directly to JACS. These are two distinct coding frames, with HECoS having been developed in part to allow for more robust coding to address inconsistencies in coding using the JACS framework. However, the CAH can be applied to both HECoS and JACS subjects - CAH has been designed to act as a bridge between HECoS and JACS. Given the differences between HECoS and JACS, time series analysis of data covering the change in coding frames, using the Common Aggregation Hierarchy, will provide indicative comparisons only.

The CAH is available as a downloadable file comprising the hierarchy of codes, and mappings to both HECoS and JACS, from our dedicated CAH support page.

JACS

The Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) is a hierarchical coding frame, formerly used by HESA and UCAS to classify subjects of study, prior to the development of HECoS. JACS version 1.7 was introduced in 2002/03 (replacing our former system of HESA subject codes). JACS has been revised twice, with JACS 2.0 coming into effect in 2007/08 and JACS 3.0 in 2012/13. In 2019/20 JACS was replaced by HECoS for all collected data.

Further documentation about JACS, including downloadable files containing the coding frame, an explanation of former aggregation approaches, mapping documents, and apportionment rules for specific courses, can be found in our dedicated JACS support pages.

Aggregate offshore record

For 2018/19 and earlier years the Aggregate offshore record includes all publicly funded HE providers in the UK and the University of Buckingham. From 2019/20, coverage expanded to include all English providers registered with the Office for Students’ (OfS) in the Approved (fee cap) and Approved categories and all publicly funded HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Further information relating to the OfS registration categories can be found in section III of Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England.

The Aggregate offshore record collects data about all students studying (to date) wholly outside the UK, who are either registered with a reporting UK higher education provider (HEP) or who are studying for an award of the reporting HEP. This includes all students active at any point in the reporting period, including students who became dormant part way through the year, and those withdrawing from courses.

From 2019/20, additional data was required from HEPs in England and Wales to also include students who are dormant for the entire reporting year. Students at HEPs in England and Wales who are dormant for the entire year are excluded from published HESA data (except in the circumstance that they successfully complete their course during the reporting year).

The small number of distance learning students studying outside the UK who are funded (e.g. Crown servants overseas and the Services), or considered fundable under Funding Council or Regulating Body Early Statistics rules, are not included in the Aggregate offshore record, but included in the individualised Student record.

Students who commence their studies outside the UK and subsequently come to continue their studies within the UK are included in the Aggregate offshore record up until the point at which they enter the UK, when a full individualised record is required. Students studying under articulation arrangements but who do not meet the criteria of being either registered with the reporting HE provider or studying for an award of the reporting HEI are not included in the record, nor are students who spend a sandwich, language or other year abroad as part of their overall course, which is otherwise UK based.

Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are counted as being outside the UK, but within the European Union, within the Aggregate offshore record.

Country of overseas provision data is supplied to HESA in the form of country codes. Countries are mapped to geographical regions, informed by the National Statistics Country Classification 2006 grouping of countries. Further details can be found here.

Within the European Union includes students whose location of study country was a European Union (EU) member state. This includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Figures from location of study in the Åland Islands, the Canary Islands, and the French overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion are included in this category. Croatia is additionally included in this category from 2013/14 onwards, having acceded to EU on July 1st 2013.

Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, for the purposes of these tables, are counted as within the European Union. (Officially, the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK or the EU).

Outside the European Union includes students whose location of study country was outside the EU.

Level of study is taken from the level of provision and describes the qualification that will be obtained as a result of successful completion of studies. It is based on the coding frame used for course aim in the Student record.

HESA classifies courses according to a framework which aligns with the framework for HE qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) (of which the framework for qualifications of HE providers in Scotland is a constituent part) and the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and Bologna frameworks. Details are available within the student courseaim field specification. It includes level M for taught masters degrees, and level H for honours degrees.

  • Postgraduate (research) includes doctorate and masters degrees studied primarily through research (levels D and L).
  • Postgraduate (taught) includes doctorate and masters degrees not studied primarily through research (levels E and M).
  • First degree includes bachelors degrees with honours and ordinary bachelors degrees (levels H and I).
  • Other undergraduate includes qualification aims equivalent to and below first degree level (levels J and C).
  • Further education includes qualifications at FE level (level P and below).

Type of activity defines the arrangements under which overseas programmes are provided.

Students registered at a UK higher education provider

Overseas campus of reporting provider includes those studying at a campus set up as a branch campus of the parent provider, and as such it is seen as no different from any other campus of the provider.

Distance, flexible or distributed learning denotes educational provision leading to an award of an awarding provider delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through means which generally do not require the student to attend particular classes or events at particular times and particular locations. (There are a small number of distance learning students studying outside the UK who are funded (e.g. Crown servants overseas and the Services). These students are returned in the Student record and not included in the Aggregate offshore record.

Other arrangement including collaborative provision denotes provision leading to an award of an awarding provider delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through an arrangement with a partner organisation. Collaborative provision, sometimes described as 'franchised' provision includes consortia and joint award arrangements.

Students studying for an award of a UK higher education provider

Students studying for an award of a UK HEI are not registered students of the reporting provider but are studying for an award of the reporting provider, and are registered at an Overseas partner organisation or via some Other arrangement.