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Tariff aggregation methodology

This page provides background information on the new tariff, our implementation timetable, and the new specification available to download.

Background to a new tariff

The UCAS tariff is a means of allocating points to post-16 qualifications used for entry to higher education. It was developed to allow for broad comparisons to be made about a wide range of qualifications by universities and colleges.

UCAS has recently concluded a cycle of review and revision to the tariff and the new UCAS tariff will be used for defining the requirements for courses starting from September 2017. This means that students enrolled from September 2017 will have applied, and been accepted, under the new regime. There will be a need to express their qualification profiles within HESA data using the new tariff points.

HESA and the new tariff

We have been in extensive discussions with UCAS during the development cycle of the new tariff in order to ensure that the points allocated to existing and 'new' qualifications are both appropriate and lend themselves to aggregation. We use a total number of points, in a number of outputs, to support analysis of student cohorts. The method used to aggregate points has been revised to take account of the changes between the old and new systems.

The new tariff takes a different approach to allocating points to each qualification. The first consequence of this being that the numerical scores for a given qualification will look very different. The second consequence being that the allocation is applied to a different cohort of qualifications than in the previous system. For more information on the qualifications covered by the new tariff, and their associated points, please see the UCAS website.

In order to accomodate various outputs as detailed below, HESA will be required to calculate the new tariff prior to the full cohort of qualifications being available. These calculations will only apply to qualifications where there is sufficient information submitted to HESA for the new tariff points to be applied and may therefore not be fully representative of the full suite of qualifications included in tariff from the 2017/18 reporting year onwards.

Timeline for implementation

For these reasons, the old and new methodologies of aggregating points are not considered comparable, although the methods are broadly similar in approach. We intend to use these two methodologies alongside each other for a transitional period, as follows:

  • For HESA data relating to the 2013/14 & 2014/15 reporting year, the specification will be used for the generation of new tariff scores for use in the 2016/17 UNISTATS dataset.
  • For HESA data relating to the 2015/16 reporting year, in addition to the above, the specification will be used for generation of new tariff scores which may be supplied to league table compilers.
  • For HESA data relating to the 2016/17 reporting year, in addition to the above, the old and new methodologies will be run side-by-side in provider outputs, to aid in quality assuring submitted data and familiarising providers with the appearance of reports. 
  • For HESA data relating to the 2017/18 reporting year, HESA will switch over to using the new methodology in all outputs, both internally and externally although old tariff may be provided for comparison purposes.

The draft specification for the replacement aggregation methodology - XTPOINTS

In keeping with our intention to make our revised methodology available to the sector, we are publishing the new specification for this process, which can be found below. This specification consists of the draft aggregation methodology and a list of the qualifications to which it would apply. This list is also available in 'comma separated value' (CSV) format to assist those who would like to manipulate the qualification data.

This specification has been provisionally entitled 'XTPOINTS' so as to differentiate it from the specification which applies to the older tariff points system, 'XTARIFF'.

The qualifications covered by the specification are based upon those which UCAS have announced will be subject to the new tariff. UCAS releases new qualifications on an annual basis, so it is anticipated that this list will increase between now and the collection of data for the 2017/18 reporting year. HESA also supplement these qualifications with historical qualifications which may be returned to HESA in the Student or AP student records. These qualifications are not considered to attract tariff points, but must be dealt with by the methodology.

We would welcome comments on this specification, which can be directed to us by email.



(Draft version 0.4 released December 12th, 2016 to include UCAS qualifications released in May 2016.)
(Draft version 0.5 released January 17th, 2017 to remove duplicate data for QUALTYPEs A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, and AY, and to substitute references to QUALTYPE PO with P0 to align with a change made by UCAS.)
(Release version 1.1.1 released February 5th 2017. This version includes some additional grades that were included in UCAS transactions, and corrects a QUALTYPE error associated with Welsh Baccalaureates. This version is now considered stable, and will only be updated for the 2016/17 submission cycle if errors are found.)

Page last updated 6 February 2017 (incorporating revisions to the implementation timeline)