Introducing the Cohort-based Higher Education Participation (CHEP) measure
This is a new statistic measuring higher education (HE) participation by school cohorts. It calculates the proportion of the population aiming to complete a qualification at HE level.
From this year, the percentage of individuals entering HE is measured for each cohort in state and special schools at age 15. Work-based learning, such as apprenticeships are excluded.
Cohorts of 15-year-olds can be tracked from 2001/02 in the National Pupil Database (NPD), up until their participation in HE in 2020/21, the latest year available, when that cohort will have reached age 34.
Time series in this publication will focus on participation in HE by age 25. This will be referred to as the CHEP-25 rate. Using age 25 gives a good balance between timeliness while still giving students time to enter HE. To give continuity with the previous measure, we have included participation up to age 30 in the Age and Comparison with previous measure sections of the publication.
The denominator for the CHEP measure is pupils who attended state-funded schools and special schools in England at age 15. The numerator contains those who have participated in higher education (Levels 4 and above) in UK providers in either the Higher Education Statistics Agency's (HESA) Student or Alternative Provider Student records, or the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) from English further education colleges (FECs).
Pupils are deemed to have participated in Higher Education where they are:
- Recorded in HESA's Standard Registration Population, which requires a minimum of 2 weeks participation; or
- Recorded in the ILR college data as starting a learning aim at level 4 or higher that was either:
- Completed successfully
- Continuing into the following year
- Lasting over 6 months
Participation in HE at Alternative Providers is included for students who started courses in 2014/15 or later.
The following are not currently included in the CHEP measure:
- Pupils who attended independent schools
- Work-based learning, such as apprenticeships
- HE participation in Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish colleges
- HE participation outside the UK
The measures provide a generally consistent time series, however there are some factors that will impact on this.
The publication relies on “fuzzy matching” which matches data based on the personal details collected in each dataset. Match quality and match rates will change over time as new data is added and improved methodologies applied.
These changes will impact the figures for the percentage of pupils entering HE presented in this publication. Calculations involve a very long run of data dating back to 2001/02. If the match rate increases due to methodological changes this could result in an increased CHEP rate even if there has been no behavioural change in terms of participating in HE.
The match quality and rate are likely to be more volatile for pupils where fewer personal details are known such as for pupils who attended independent schools and pupils who have lived outside England or changed address between compulsory schooling and prior to entering HE (which is more likely to be the case for older students). We therefore chose to exclude independent school pupils from the coverage of this release.
Our analysis suggests that there are specific years that are more affected by changes in the matching than others:
- The match to HESA data did not include 16 and 17-year-olds prior to 2014/15.
- The filters used to remove under 18s from the HESA data in 2008/09 were incorrectly applied, which led to a small number of 17-year-olds being matched and some 18-year-olds not being included in the match in that year. For 18-year-olds this is likely to have reduced the number being matched by up to around 10%, although the vast majority will have participated in HE at age 19 in 2009/10 and so the impact on cohort measures will be limited. For 17-year-olds the numbers are very small and so the key measures used are not affected, however it has caused a large proportional increase in the number entering HE at age 17 in 2008/09.
- Changes in the matching methodology in 2018 have led to an increase in the number of HE entrants that matched to a school census record for HE entry from 2017/18 onwards where they were categorised in their HE records as not being domiciled in England immediately prior to study. We believe the numbers involved are relatively small but will have some impact on comparisons between figures looking at HE entry in 2016/17 and later years. Overall, we are confident these changes have minimal impact on the robustness of the CHEP-25 rates.
Although the school census provides a largely stable population base, it is not an estimate of the population of 15-year-olds. Changes in the number of pupils who are home-schooled or who attended independent schools will affect the comparability of the figures over time. The impact is minimal for the cohorts in this release, but will become more apparent in future as home-schooling has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic.
These figures do not include participation in HE in colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland or any HE outside the UK and so will not provide a complete picture of participation in HE.
DfE continues to welcome feedback on how the statistics can be developed to become even more relevant to users at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While this release is no longer considered to be a National Statistic due to its experimental nature, the statistics have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.