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 2018/19. More recent data for 2019/20 are available from HESA and ESFA (in the ILR), but further data processing will be required before they can be included in the statistical release. Time series data for academic years 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 has also been included at summary level.
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.
Other data sources
Previous research published by both the Gatsby Foundation and the Department provides a full mapping of Level 4 and 5 technical education. Data refers to academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17 in each respective release.
Official statistics are published separately each year on further and higher education, including:
- Further education and apprenticeships data published by the Department for Education using Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data: Statistics: further education and skills
- Statistics on students at higher education providers published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), available through HESA’s Student Open Data pages: HE Student Data | HESA
In addition to the above, DfE also publishes overall national participation figures for education, training and employment (and NEET) for 16 to 18 year-olds. The latest publication refers to the position at the end of 2020 and is available at Participation in education and training and employment, Calendar Year 2020 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk).
- Higher-level learners are those who are studying at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 4 to 8. Full details of the mapping of qualifications to NQF level are documented in the methodology section of this release.
- Type of higher-level learning refers to higher-level provision as being either:
- OfS-recognised HE: Qualifications that are classed as Recognised HE for Office for Students (OfS) funding purposes. Such qualifications are generally eligible for student loan support, such as foundation degrees, Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and first degrees. Further information can be found in Annex B of the Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey 2021-22 (HESES21): Guidance for providers - Office for Students.
- Apprenticeships: Learning through Higher or Degree Apprenticeships. Students earn whilst learning and are funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and employers.
- Institutional credit in Higher Education Providers: Learning in HEPs identified as bite-sized, standalone modules of study. Covers a wide range of short-term learning; examples include Continuing Professional Development (CPD) learning for healthcare professionals, such as Advanced Skills in Clinical Assessment at Anglia Ruskin University, or standalone languages modules like those taken in King’s College London Modern Language Centre. These are not regarded as full qualifications.
- Other Higher level: Other learning at levels 4 to 8 outside of the above three categories. These courses are generally not eligible for student loan support, but could be eligible for Advanced Learner Loans (ALLs). In addition, some students aged 16-18 on approved courses regulated by Ofqual can be funded by the ESFA. Full details of the funding rules can be found here. In the ILR, it is not mandatory for providers to return information on their unfunded learners, which means that data reported under this category may be an underestimate.
- Entrants are defined as learners who started their spell of learning in the relevant academic year. In some cases, entrants can include learners entering directly to programme year 2 or 3 of a qualification, such as those who top-up to a level 6 qualification after having completed a level 4 and 5 previously.
- Provider type refers to the provider the learner is registered with. This is not necessarily the provider where the learning is taking place. For example, if a franchising arrangement existed between a HEP (registering provider) and a further education college (delivering the learning), the learner is reported under the HEP provider type. More details can be found in the “Provider type” section.
Full methodology notes can be found under the “Methodology” section at the end of this page.
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%.