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2002/03 Performance Indicators published

Projected UK-wide 14.1% drop-out rate for HE students

The projected non-completion rate for full-time first degree students at UK universities and higher education colleges has been calculated at 14.1% this year. The data comes from the latest set of performance indicators covering the 2002/03 academic year. This is the first year HESA has published the performance indicators. In previous years, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published them on behalf of the four UK funding bodies. Design of the indicators continues to be managed through the Performance Indicators Steering Group, with broad official and sector representation.

Published annually, the indicators provide comparative data on the performance of institutions in widening participation, student retention, learning & teaching outcomes and research output. They cover publicly-funded higher education institutions in the UK.

This year’s indicators contain the same tables as last year plus one table not published before (non-continuation following year of entry to institution for full-time other undergraduates – Table T3d). The tables draw on data from 1999/2000 to 2002/03. There have been a number of changes to the data used to compile the performance indicators and so some statistics are not directly comparable to those published in previous years.

The indicators show that:

  • The projected non-completion rate for those full-time students starting first degree courses in 2001/02 is 14.1%. Due to a revision in the methodology for linking students and changes to the calculations for projected outcomes, caution should be exercised in comparing 2002/03 non-completion performance indicators with those for 2001/02. The effects at the national level are small but it should not be assumed that changes between the years are simply due to an improvement or otherwise in the performance indicator. The non-completion rate for full-time first degree students starting in 2000/01 was 15.0% (Table T5).
  • 87.2% of young entrants to full-time first degree courses in 2002/03 had attended state schools, this compares to 86.0% in 2001/02 (Table T1a).
  • 28.4% of young entrants to full-time first degree courses came from the lowest four socio-economic groups (Table T1a). This is not directly comparable to data previously published, see notes for editors 4.
  • 13.3% of young entrants to full-time first degree courses came from low participation neighbourhoods in 2002/03, an increase of 0.2% on the previous year (Table T1a).
  • An increase of 0.5% of full-time first degree students were in receipt of the Disabled Students’ Allowance, 2.6% in 2002/03 compared to 2.1% in 2001/02 (Table T7). This indicator uses the proportion of students who are in receipt of the Disabled Students’ Allowance, as this is more robust than the proportions reporting that they are disabled.
  • As in previous years, a higher proportion of mature full-time first degree entrants (14.9%) than young entrants (7.3%) did not continue in HE following their first year (Table T3a).
  • A higher proportion of young full-time other undergraduate (e.g. HND, foundation degree) entrants did not continue in HE following their first year (18.7%) than mature entrants (17.1%). This is the first year that this data has been published for other undergraduate students (Table T3d).

The performance indicators broadly cover the following areas:

  • Access to higher education – how successful institutions are in recruiting students from under-represented areas and backgrounds.
  • Non-continuation rates beyond the first year at an institution.
  • Outcomes for learning and teaching in UK universities and HE colleges – the projected completion rates based on current movement of students between years of study.
  • Research output.

The performance indicators were first published in 1999. Universities and HE colleges are given the opportunity to verify their own data.

An employment performance indicator is also published annually but the data on which it is based has only recently been made available. It will either be published separately later this year or published together with next year’s performance indicators.

The performance indicators have been published earlier this year than in previous years because institutions were able to preview some data during the submission process and the data was made available earlier than usual for compilation of the performance indicators. Publication in future years is expected to take place no later than for the 2002/03 indicators.

Notes for Editors

  1. Full text and tables of Performance Indicators in Higher Education in the UK 2002/03 can be found on the HESA website. As in previous years, the indicators are set out in separate tables. Not all higher education institutions feature in every table. Performance indicators for previous years have been published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and are available at
  2. The Performance Indicators Steering Group (PISG) has led the development of these indicators. Members are drawn from the four higher education funding bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW, DELNI); the Department for Education and Skills and other government departments, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), and the universities and HE colleges through their representative bodies (Universities UK and SCOP).
  3. The access indicators relate to students starting in 2002/03; the indicators of non-continuation (students who do not continue after their first year) and of non-completion (students who drop out and do not resume later or transfer elsewhere) relate to the cohort starting in 2001/02. The disability indicator covers all students, not just entrants, on undergraduate programmes in 2002/03. The research indicator is different in kind from all the others in that it does not principally relate to the student population, but measures research outputs against resource inputs.
  4. For the 2001 census, a new classification, National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC), was developed to replace the social class indicator. It took into account new work patterns in the UK, and the changes in education levels required for, and the status of, large numbers of occupations. This new classification was used for the socio-economic classification (SEC) PI this year. The ‘low’ SEC indicator includes the following categories:
    • 4 Small employers and own account workers
    • 5 Lower supervisory and technical occupations
    • 6 Semi-routine occupations
    • 7 Routine occupations.
  5. The benchmarks for the indicators in tables T1 and T2 are based this year on entry qualifications as measured using the new tariff scores. This has altered the relative values of entry qualifications at different institutions, and appears to have affected the benchmarks for certain institutions more than for others. In particular, institutions which are highly selective are showing increases in their benchmarks that appear to be due mainly to this change to using tariff scores. Further details are included in ‘Changes to PIs’.
  6. HESA is the central source for higher education statistics. 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.
  7. Press enquiries should be directed to Press Officer at HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ; telephone: 01242 211136; email: [email protected].


Press Release

Press Officer