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2006/07 Performance Indicators released

About the Performance Indicators

Following the recommendations of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, the Government asked the four UK higher education funding bodies (HEFCE, HEFCW, SFC and DELNI) to develop suitable indicators and benchmarks of performance in the higher education sector. The Performance Indicators Steering Group (PISG) was established, with membership drawn from government departments, the funding councils and representative bodies. PISG defines the specification and develops the Performance Indicators. They are calculated and published on their behalf by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The indicators are designed to provide reliable information on the nature and performance of the higher education sector in the UK and constitute a consistent set of measures of this performance. This will contribute to a greater public accountability by the sector, as well as ensuring that policy decisions can be made on the basis of consistent and reliable information.

This year, for the first time, the Performance Indicators are published in two tranches. The first tranche of indicators, published on 5 June 2008, cover the following areas:

  • Widening participation indicators, that is, the proportion of entrants from various under-represented groups such as state schools or colleges, specified socio-economic classes and the new POLAR2 low-participation neighbourhoods (see Notes for Editors for changes to this indicator)
  • Students who are in receipt of Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)
  • Non-continuation rates of students at institutions
  • Module completion rates for part-time students at Welsh institutions
  • Research output, looking at quantitative outcomes of research that will change from year to year. These are different from the ratings of quality produced by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and are designed to complement, rather than replace, them.

A further Performance Indicator covering the employment of graduates will be published on 17 July 2008.

What are the benchmarks?

Most of the areas above show an indicator for each institution and a benchmark. The indicator shows how well the institution performed. The benchmark is more complicated however.

Because there are differences in the characteristics of institutions, average values for the whole of the higher education sector are not necessarily helpful when comparing HEIs. Therefore a set of benchmark values are calculated. These are adjusted for each institution to consider some of the factors which contribute to the differences between them. The adjustments take into account subject mix offered, age profile of students and qualifications of students on entry.

The benchmark can be used in two ways:

  • To see how well an HEI is performing compared to the HE sector as a whole
  • To decide whether it is meaningful to compare two institutions - for example it probably isn't worth comparing a specialist art college with a large university offering a wide range of subjects.

The benchmarks are not government targets or quotas. However, some institutions do choose to refer to them as measures of their performance within their agreements with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

For more information on benchmarks please see the Guide to PIs accompanying the Performance Indicators.

Obtaining the data

The full PIs data are available from the the HESA website.

For an overview of what the 2006/07 PIs reveal, please see the summary tables and charts.

About the Higher Education Statistics Agency

HESA was set-up in 1993 following a Government White Paper ‘Higher Education: A New Framework', which called for more coherence in higher education statistics. HESA is not a government body, it is however a sector agency, working on behalf of the higher education institutions and sector bodies in the whole of the UK to meet the needs of the sector itself and to enhance and support the work of the government departments and funding bodies in each administration.

HESA is a Company Limited by Guarantee, whose Members, the owners of the company, are the representative bodies Universities UK and GuildHE. HESA is now the central source for higher education statistics and has standardised and streamlined the data collection and publication process to become a respected point of reference.

A further press release will be issued by HEFCE in due course.

Notes for editors

Press enquiries should be directed to:

  • Simon Kemp
  • HESA Press Officer
  • 01242 211120
  • [email protected]
  • 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ.

Technical enquiries regarding the calculation of the Performance Indicators can be directed through the HESA Press Office or via the HESA PI Team at [email protected] or call 01242 211115.

Enquiries regarding how the Performance Indicators are defined and specified and widening participation policy should be addressed to PISG via the HEFCE Press Office telephone 0117 931 7363/7431.

Full text and tables of Performance Indicators in Higher Education in the UK 2006/07 can be found on the HESA website from Thursday 5 June 2008 from 00:01. As in previous years, the indicators are set out in separate tables. Not all higher education institutions feature in every table. Performance Indicators prior to 2002/03 have been published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and are available at

Changes to low-participation neighbourhoods definition

New definitions are used for the 2006/07 PIs to determine low participation neighbourhoods. The POLAR2 definition is based on 2001 Census Area Statistics wards, and defines a low participation ward as one ranked in the bottom 20 percent for HE participation.

This change particularly affects institutions in Scotland. When analysing this indicator for institutions in Scotland the location adjusted benchmark for the POLAR2 low participation indicator is to be preferred to the raw benchmark, as location adjustment takes account of variation in participation rates between the different Home Nations, and in particular the higher participation rate in Scotland.

Please see Changes since last year in the Performance Indicators documentation for more details.


Press Release

Press Officer