These statistics provide a holistic view of higher-level learning across the further and higher education sectors. All types of learning are covered, including OfS-recognised higher education (recognised by the Office for Students for funding purposes and generally eligible for student loan support), Apprenticeships (funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and employers, where students earn whilst learning) and institutional credit (bite-sized, standalone modules of learning which are not regarded as full qualifications).
The statistics show how higher-level skills provision was organised in 2020/21 and aid our understanding of the potential impacts of the government’s skills reforms. In particular, it will assist future policy understanding for Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ) reform and the flexible Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE).
The publication presents analysis of the further and higher education sectors after combining two separate data sources:
- The Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data for FEPs, and
- The Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) Student and Alternative Student records for HEPs.
Statistics on learning in further and higher education have typically been published as separate publications. This makes it complicated to quantify the totality of learning that happens at education levels 4 to 8. Combined FE and HE statistics are particularly important for understanding learning at education levels 4 and 5, as this is delivered roughly equally across both sectors.
This release refers only to learners in England doing study aims at education levels 4 to 8.
Analysis is presented for English-domiciled learners to reflect funding eligibility more closely and allow for consistent comparisons across both HESA and ILR sources.
Most of the data included in this release refers to academic year 2020/21. Time series data for academic years 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 has also been included at summary level.
HESA published a COVID-19 insight brief that analyses the impact of the pandemic on student data and trends across the years of enrolments and qualifications across various characteristics.
The varying COVID-19 restrictions will also have impacted on apprenticeships and traineeship learning as well as provider reporting behaviour via the Individualised Learner Record. Therefore, extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting data for academic years 2019/20 and 2020/21 in this release.
To produce these statistics, information has been standardised across both the ILR and HESA datasets. Extensive data processing is required to harmonise the information across the HESA and ILR data and remove duplicate records.
Learners can be recorded twice through both collections and duplicates have been removed. Where there was duplication of learners across the ILR and HESA records, the HESA record was retained. The only exception to this was in the case of Apprenticeships, where the ILR record is considered the authoritative record of the learning.
Apprenticeships are a count of programmes recorded in the ILR and undertaken in an academic year. An Apprenticeship programme can contain multiple component qualifications, which make up part of the overarching Apprenticeship framework or standard. In line with other official statistics publications on Apprenticeships, the overarching programme is counted rather than the component qualifications. Component qualifications like degrees would normally be classed under OfS-recognised HE learning, but the overarching Apprenticeship programmes are prioritised as the type of higher-level learning in this release.
Apprenticeships are included in this release if they were at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 4 and above. Counts differ slightly to other official statistics publications on Apprenticeships due to the restriction of English-domiciled learners only in this release.
This publication can only report the higher-level learning that is recorded in administrative data held by government. There is likely to be some unfunded-learning in FE providers that is not recorded as it is only mandatory for providers to record information in the ILR for their ESFA-funded learners. There may also be higher-level learning in the private sector that is not recorded in administrative data held by government. This means that the “Other Higher level” category is a lower bound estimate.
Rounding and suppression
The Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires DfE to take reasonable steps to ensure that its published or disseminated statistics protect confidentiality.
Throughout the publication, all numbers are rounded to the nearest 5 to preserve confidentiality. Percentages are calculated on pre-rounded data but are not published if they are fractions of a small group of people (fewer than 22.5).
Due to rounding, it is possible that the sum of the category percentages may not always total to 100%.