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Performance indicators show small reduction in drop-out rates

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Media Release, December 11, 2003:

UK universities and colleges have seen a small reduction in non-completion rates for full-time students starting in 2000-01 compared to those starting in 1999-2000, according to the latest set of performance indicators published today by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Published annually, the indicators provide comparative data on the performance of institutions in widening participation, student retention, learning and teaching output, research and employment of graduates. They cover all 168 publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK.

This year's indicators contain the same tables as last year and use data for 2000-01 and 2001-02.

The indicators show that:

     The non-completion rate for those full-time students starting in 2000-01 is 15 per cent compared with 16 per cent for those starting in 1999-2000 (Table T5).

     There has been an increase in the proportion of graduates unemployed six months after graduation of just over half a per cent in 2001-02 (Table E1).

     86 per cent of young entrants to first-degree courses in 2001-02 had attended state schools, a small increase from the previous year (Table T1).

     Just over a quarter of young entrants to first-degree courses came from the lowest three socio-economic groups, a small increase from 25.4 per cent in 2000-01 to 25.8 per cent in 2001-02 (Table T1).

     13 per cent of young full-time entrants to first-degree courses came from low participation neighbourhoods in 2001-02, an increase of 0.6 per cent on the previous year (Table T1).

    2 per cent of full-time first-degree students were in receipt of the Disabled Students' Allowance (Table T7).

     As in previous years, a higher proportion of mature entrants (14 per cent) than young entrants (7 per cent) did not continue in HE beyond their first year. The figure for mature students dropped from 16 per cent the previous year (Table T3).

Sir Howard Newby, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: "I welcome the small reduction in drop-out rates for full-time students, which maintains the UK's position as one of the most successful countries in the world for students completing their courses. But there is no cause for complacency. Although there are signs of some progress in other areas, overall the figures show relatively little change on last year. This underlines the scale of the task facing universities and colleges as, for example, they tackle the problems of recruiting more students with potential from poorer backgrounds."

The PIs broadly cover:

     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 and efficiencies for learning and teaching in universities and colleges - the projected completion rates based on current movement of students between years of study, and an efficiency measure, based on the average time taken for students to obtain a qualification, taking account of repeat years and non-completion

     Graduates who are employed or undertaking further study six months after graduation

     Research output.

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


    1. 'Performance indicators in higher education in the UK' (HEFCE 2003/59) and 'Guide to performance indicators in higher education' will be available on the HEFCE web-site at As in previous years, the indicators are set out in separate tables. All publicly funded HEIs in the UK are included, but not all feature in every table. HEFCE will not be providing printed copies.

    3. 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, DEL); the Department for Education and Skills and other government departments, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and the universities and colleges through their representative bodies (Universities UK and SCOP).

    4. The access indicators relate to students starting in 2001-02; 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 2000-01. The employment indicator relates to students graduating in 2001-02. The disability indicator covers all students, not just entrants, on undergraduate programmes in 2001-02. 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.

    6. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research in universities and colleges in England (

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Last updated: 11 December 2003 10:26
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