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Definitions, key terms and acronyms

We provide definitions to support your understanding of our data.

Definitions are divided by the types of information we collect and publish:

We also provide a list of some of the acronyms you might encounter when using our data.

Frequently asked questions

What is a 'population'?

A ‘population’ defines (for example) which students a query or report is based on.

We do not include all of the students that we hold data on in every enquiry. There are several main populations that are used for our student enquiries. The HESA standard registration population is the main population that is used in our standard reports and publications. This is generally used for non-FTE student enquiries, and existed from 2000/01 onwards.

For further information of the differences between the various HESA populations please see the links below or contact us.

What is a 'first degree' student? How does this differ from 'other undergraduate' students?

A ‘first degree’ is more commonly known as a bachelor’s degree.

Officially this includes 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 bachelor’s degree at level H, 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 all undergraduate courses excluding the bachelor’s degrees.

These are degrees with 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 post-registration health and social care courses, other formal higher education qualifications of less than degree standard, institutional undergraduate credit and non-formal undergraduate qualifications.

What is full-time equivalent (FTE)? What is full-person equivalent (FPE)?

What is FTE?

Full-time equivalent compares an individual's workload to a standard full-time, full-year workload.

A full-time student or member of staff is 1.0 FTE. A student on a part-time course that is 60% of a full-time course would be 0.6 FTE. A member of staff working 2.5 days a week would be 0.5 FTE. 

Because FTE calculations look at a typical full-year workload, a member of staff working full-time for six months of the year would be 0.5 FTE. A member of staff working 2.5 days a week for six months of the year would be 0.25 FTE.

What is FPE?

Full-person equivalent (FPE) looks at how much of the (whole) person's time is engaged in a particular activity. 

Read more details and examples

What are the differences between a count of students, full-person equivalent (FPE) and full-time equivalent (FTE)?

A student on a course is referred to as an instance. Our standard figures for student data are based on a count of student instances.

Since it is possible for a student to undertake more than one course during the reporting year, there may be more than one instance per student in a provider's data.

If a data request includes subject data, then we would provide this with a count of  full-person equivalent (FPE) instead of the count of instances. A course can cover a number of subjects, so to represent this we apportion the instance to indicate the proportion of a course that relates to each subject.

For example:

  • Student A is studying a joint course with equal amounts of Mathematics and English. They are represents as 0.5 in each.
  • Student B is studying a joint course with equal amounts of Mathematics and Physics. They are represented as 0.5 in each.
  • Student C is studying Mathematics (50%) with Physics (25%) and French (25%). They are represented as 0.5 in Mathematics, and 0.25 in Physics and French.
  • Student D is only studying French. They are represented as 1 in French.

The total FPE by subject is:

  • Mathematics 1.5
  • English 0.5
  • Physics 0.75
  • French 1.25
  • Total 4

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, 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 gives the number of full-time equivalent students rather than an actual count.

FTE and FPE data can be provided for both student and staff data enquiries.