Definitions: Alternative Provider Student
The following definitions relate to the Alternative Provider Student record for 2014/15 to 2018/19.
Alternative providers are Higher Education providers who do not receive recurrent funding from Office for Students (previously HEFCE) or other public body and who are not further education colleges.
The Alternative provider (AP) student record is collected by HESA on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE). Alternative providers with courses designated by DfE are required to submit the AP student record to HESA.
The AP student record is collected for all students registered at the reporting provider who are studying on full-time and part-time undergraduate courses, and from 2017/18, those studying on postgraduate taught and research courses. Also new for 2017/18, was the inclusion of those studying undergraduate non-designated courses lasting less than one year. There are a number of exclusions and these are listed below. All students who are included on the Higher Education in Alternative Providers Early Statistics (HEAPES) survey returned to Office for Students (previously HEFCE) are returned to HESA, even if the teaching is undertaken by a franchise partner in whole or in part. During data collection the AP student record is reconciled against the HEAPES data reported to Office for Students (previously HEFCE), and also against records held by the SLC.
In 2014/15, only the larger APs who offered HE courses in England, and were subject to student number controls, were required to report on students who followed full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate ITT courses that were designated for student support purposes. This was irrespective of whether the student was in receipt of SLC funding. From 2015/16, the coverage extended to all APs who offered postgraduate initial teacher training (ITT) or undergraduate designated courses in England. These APs were required to return information about students enrolled on all designated and most non-designated undergraduate courses and postgraduate ITT courses. From 2016/17, APs in England with degree awarding powers were additionally required to return data about students on taught Masters designated courses. In 2017/18 all APs who offered HE courses in England were required for the first time to return postgraduates on both taught and research courses. They were also required to return students studying undergraduate non-designated courses lasting less than one year. The coverage does not include APs who offer exclusively non-designated courses.
Exclusions to the coverage above for 2017/18:
Students studying wholly outside of the UK for the duration of their programme.
Students visiting from overseas but who remain registered with their overseas provider.
Students expected to spend less than eight consecutive course weeks in the UK during their entire programme. Note that students on non-designated courses are only required to be returned where the majority of time (50% or more) of their study will be in the UK.
Students who are not studying for credits or a qualification (e.g. students 'auditing' a course).
Non-designated courses that are not open to any suitably qualified candidate and will typically be courses offered only to employees of particular organisations (closed courses).
Students on employment-based routes (e.g. GTP, OTT and RTP) with the exception of student on the School Direct Training Programme.
Students who are not registered with the provider. This exclusion includes students who are taught by the returning provider through a franchise/subcontractual arrangements, but who are registered with another provider.
Students on non-designated courses that are run in the UK but only for international and/or EU students.
Students who study for less than two weeks and do not have attendance confirmed to the SLC/ SAAS.
Students who aren't active during the reporting period. These students are only required when it is necessary to report a change in their status - for instance, because they become active, or end their instance.
Students who are studying below higher education level.
The data specification of the record uses the term 'instance' to describe a student's engagement with the AP, which, because a student can have more than one instance of engagement, will exceed the number of students. Unless stated otherwise, student data is based on an instance of engagement.
Higher education (HE) 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).
N.B. The University of Buckingham is an AP but submits data through the HESA Student record instead.
The key requirements for a designated course can be found in the Alternative Provider Specific Course Designation: Guidance for Providers document published by DfE.
The designation status of a course can change throughout the reporting period. In analysis, a course is considered to be designated if it holds designation at the end of the reporting period.
The HESA standard registration population closely follows that which has been derived for the HESA Student record; from all active HE student instances at a reporting AP in the reporting period 1 August to 31 July, following courses that lead to the award of a qualification in the coverage, and ensures that similar activity is counted in a similar way irrespective of when it occurs. Where courses span different HESA reporting periods, HE student instances following these courses will only be counted once for each year of their course. The student definition can be found here.
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.
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:
- All numbers are rounded to the nearest multiple of 5
- Any number lower than 2.5 is rounded to 0
- Halves are always rounded upwards (e.g. 2.5 is rounded to 5)
- Percentages based on fewer than 22.5 individuals are suppressed
- Averages based on 7 or fewer individuals are suppressed
- The above requirements apply to headcounts, FPE and FTE data
- 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.
HESA provides higher education providers (HEPs) with the opportunity to make post-collection amendments to a dataset through the fixed database facility. The fixed database collection opens following the closure of the corresponding live data collection, and remains open for between 6 and 15 months, depending on the data stream; typically longer for the Student record and shorter for other collections. Onward use of information whilst it remains open (for example in HESA open data) will normally be based on the original data collected and not on any amended data submitted through the fixed database facility. Onward use of information after closure of a fixed database will usually be based on the fixed data. For further information about the changes please contact us via [email protected].
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.
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.
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. 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).
The full label descriptions for each disability are available with the field specification.
In certain analyses of students, 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.
Domicile data is supplied to HESA in the form of postcodes (UK, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man domiciled students) or 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.
NI 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 2006 grouping of countries, further details can be found here.
- United Kingdom domiciled 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.
- 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 July 2013. This includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, 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.
- Non-European-Union students are those whose normal residence prior to commencing their programme of study was outside the EU.
- Not known Where no domicile information is known, students derive to 'not known'.
Students domiciled 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.
It is HESA's practice to adopt national classifications where they exist and are appropriate. The use of Census aligned ethnicity coding in the Alternative provider student record is an example of this. The coding frame is recommended by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for UK-wide data collection. The ethnic category groupings are:
- 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 are Non-UK domiciled, have an unknown domicile, 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.
Higher education provider identifier (INSTID) is the unique identifier allocated to providers by HESA.
UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN) is the unique identifier allocated to providers 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, please click here.
Level of study
Level of study is taken 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 are available within the field specification. It includes level M for taught masters degrees, and level H for honours degrees.
For a full mapping of course aim codes to our level of study fields, please download the following spreadsheet: Courseaim_level_mapping.xlsx This can be changed on a bespoke basis to best suit your needs.
- 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.
- 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, 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 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 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 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 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.
- Professional Graduate Certificate in Education are those PGCE qualifications which are pitched at level H.
- Foundation degrees (e.g. FdA, FdSc) were introduced to provide vocational higher education qualifications at level I.
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 suspended study.
The groupings are as Level 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.
Part-time includes students recorded as studying part-time, or studying full-time on courses lasting less than 24 weeks.
Writing-up is only applicable to taught masters students, it includes students who are normally expected to submit a thesis to the HE provider for examination, have completed the work of their course and are not making significant demands on HE providers resources. Writing-up students 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 where the student's mode of study was previously full-time 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 where the student's mode of study was previously part-time and writing-up status where the student's mode of study was previously part-time.
Please note students who are full-time distance learners will be classified as full-time students in analysis.
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. The specification of this field is based on the Recommendations on monitoring from ECU (Equality Challenge Unit). HESA does not, however, include a 'prefer not to say' option.
Specification of JACS
All JACS subject codes consist of a letter followed by three digits, the first of them non-zero (except the generic codes described below). The initial letter identifies the subject group, for example F for physical sciences. The initial letter and immediately following digit identify the principal subject, for example F5 Astronomy. F500 is a valid JACS code used where there is no need for a higher level of precision, but subjects can be identified more precisely using a second non-zero digit, for example F520 Space & planetary sciences, and with even more precision, F521 Space science and F522 Planetary science. It is often necessary to consider together all the codes, or all the student numbers, falling within a principal subject. This is done through reference to the first two characters, so F5 refers to all of astronomy and to total numbers in it, by no means all of which will have code F500. Similarly, F52 refers to the whole of space and planetary sciences.
The full listing of JACS coding frames can be found here:
- JACS3.0 (2012/13 onwards)
Student courses often involve combinations of subjects, and so cannot be described by a single JACS code. Within the HESA student data collection, there are two mechanisms for dealing with this. First, JACS has been slightly extended to allow codes to be assigned to highly integrated courses which cut across principal subjects. Where such a broadly-based course falls within a single subject group, it can be coded as the group letter followed by three zeroes, for example F000 would code such a course in physical sciences. This is known as a generic code, and is an extension of JACS for the purpose of coding complete student courses; generic codes may not be used in any other way, for example for coding modules. Courses which cut across subject groups are given the generic code Y000, which is equivalent to continuing to recognise the need for a combined subject group. The second mechanism is designed to describe less integrated courses of the kind often known as Joint honours. The HESA Student record allows the reporting of up to three subject descriptors for each course and a proportion of time allocated for each subject studied on a course.
Under apportionment, each student instance is, where necessary, divided in a way that reflects the pattern of a split course. This is analogous to the use of FTE calculations (with a variation for initial teacher training (ITT) students).
For split courses not involving an ITT component, HE providers assign their own percentages based on a broad assessment of the relative contribution of subjects to a course, rather than detailed analysis of the contributions of subjects to individual students' courses of study. It is therefore expected that most HE providers will apply the same percentages to all courses and only vary this where there is a substantially different subject split. For HE providers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales the listed standard percentages are recommended, and in Scotland obligatory:
- Balanced 50% for each of the two subjects,
- Major - Minor 67% and 33%,
- Triple 34%, 33% and 33%.
The sum of the proportion allocated to each subject studied on a course must equal 100.
ITT students at undergraduate level who also have specialism subjects recorded (typically, secondary ITT students) are apportioned 50% to the 'Education' subject area and the remaining 50% is further assigned according to the percentages recommended above. Where no subject other than education is recorded, or where the student is on a PGCE course, apportionment is 100% to the 'Education' subject area.
HESA has defined nineteen subject areas in terms of JACS codes for reporting information broken down by subject to present a set of distinct categories that can be compared over time. The subject areas do not overlap, and cover the entire range of JACS principal subjects.
Since initial teacher training data is presented on a count of instance basis rather than an apportioned basis, the figures are not directly comparable with the apportioned figures in the 'Education' subject area, and are tabulated separately to reduce the risk of misinterpretation.
|Subject areas||JACS3 code|
|Medicine & dentistry||A|
|Subjects allied to medicine||B|
|Veterinary science||D1, D2|
|Agriculture & related subjects||D0, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D9|
|Engineering & technology||H, J|
|Architecture, building & planning||K|
|Business & administrative studies||N|
|Mass communications & documentation||P|
|Languages||Q, R, T|
|Historical & philosophical studies||V|
|Creative arts & design||W|
Total - Science subject areas has been added to certain analyses. This is the sum of the following subject areas: medicine & dentistry; subjects allied to medicine; biological sciences; veterinary science; agriculture & related subjects; physical sciences; mathematical sciences; computer science; engineering & technology plus architecture, building & planning (i.e. sum of JACS codes A to K inclusive).
Apportionment at principal subject level
Although subject areas provide a framework for presenting information, a more detailed breakdown to JACS principal subjects is used in some analyses. Again, a process of apportionment is necessary, and the procedure is consistent with that used for subject areas, as follows:
For split courses not involving an initial teacher training (ITT) component, the apportionment algorithm is as reported by the HE provider.
ITT students at undergraduate level who also have a specialism subject recorded (typically, secondary ITT students) are apportioned 50% to the 'X1 Training teachers' principal subject and the remaining 50% is further apportioned according to the algorithm for non-ITT students. Where no subject other than education is recorded, or where the student is on a PGCE course, apportionment is 100% to the 'X1 Training teachers' principal subject.
JACS SET marker
The JACS SET (Science, engineering and technology) marker classifies the following subject groups as SET;
- (1) Medicine and dentistry
- (2) Subjects allied to medicine
- (3) Biological sciences
- (4) Veterinary science
- (5) Agriculture and related subjects
- (6) Physical sciences
- (7) Mathematical sciences
- (8) Computer science
- (9) Engineering and technology
- (A) Architecture, building and planning
Please note that there is no consistent definition for SET subjects, the above grouping is used within the Heidi Plus system however other specified groupings can also be requested.
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.