Academic Year 2019/20

Participation measures in higher education

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Introducing the Higher Education Initial Participation (HEIP) measure

This statistical publication presents the latest Higher Education Initial Participation (HEIP) measure. The HEIP has been published by DfE (and former Departments) since 2004, and the measure is the sum of the age specific participation rates for the 17 to 30 year-old population in England in each academic year. It can be thought of as a projection of the likelihood of a 17-year-old today participating in higher education by age 30 if the latest year's entry rates persisted in the future.

Future development of the participation measure

In last year’s release, DfE asked users for feedback on the future of the series.

Feedback was invited on whether the HEIP measure remained relevant and was still necessary to users. This included opportunity for comment on how users would be impacted if methodological changes were made to the series. 

The decision has been taken to retain a higher education participation statistical series, but subsequent headline measures will be developed from tracking cohorts of school pupils rather than relying on population estimates. This is therefore the last release which uses methodology based on population estimates. 

The change to cohort measures will: 

  • Be more accurate. The new method will measure participation by a clearly defined school cohort, rather than current population estimates that are subject to inward and outward migration flows.
  • Be more intuitive to users. Cohort tracking is easier to explain than the existing projection methodology.

Cohort measures also benefit from having a reliable estimate of the population across a wide range of personal characteristics and geographic breakdowns such as those published in Widening participation in higher education, 2019/20. This was discussed in “Supplementary analysis: Progression to higher education by age - a cohort measure” which was published last year.

As shown in the supplementary analysis (page 6), cohort measures can be used to estimate participation by age 30 based on ‘current’ participation levels. Projection estimates can be derived by considering the sum of changes in entry rates by age between the two latest academic years. This is similar to the measures published at present. 

DfE continues to welcome feedback on this change in methodology, and any other element of this release, at

Headline facts and figures - 2019/20

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