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.
The HEIP was formerly known as the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR). The measure was renamed last year following feedback from users about the validity of it being described as a rate. Further information is available in this communication from the Office for Statistics Regulation:
Ed Humpherson to Neil McIvor, DfE regarding the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) – Office for Statistics Regulation (statisticsauthority.gov.uk)
The HEIP measure includes 17 to 30 year-old English domiciled first-time participants in higher education (Levels 4 and above) at UK higher education providers (HEPs), and at English, Welsh and Scottish Further Education Providers (FEPs).
The coverage of the HEIP measure was boosted in last year's publication by the inclusion of initial participants registered at additional providers of higher education who have been returning data to the Higher Education Statistics Agency's (HESA) Student Alternative record. This impacts the HEIP measure from 2014/15 onwards, and the Postgraduate Initial Participation (PGIP) measure from 2017/18 onwards.
The impact of the change in coverage is shown in the headline chart and table of the publication. In the remainder of the publication, figures are presented with a break in the series to make clear that figures prior to 2014/15 are on a different basis.
Limitations with the HEIP methodology
The HEIP National Statistic has been published by DfE (and former Departments) since 2004, and the measure is an estimate of the actual entry rate in the current year of people who had not previously entered higher education between the ages 17 and 30. For each age from 17 to 30, the initial participation rate is calculated as the fraction of the academic year population that are initial entrants. These rates are added to create the total HEIP measure. It is not a measure of participation by particular entry cohorts.
When there is steady growth in entry rates for younger age groups (as has been observed over many years for English 18 year-olds), the HEIP method of summing current participation rates will show a higher participation rate than the participation rate for a particular entry cohort. For example, today’s 30 year-olds, will have had a lower initial participation rate when they were aged 18 compared to today’s 18 year-olds.
A rough estimate of rates for particular entry cohorts can be constructed by summing the initial entry rates across academic years. For example, the 17 year-old entry rate in 2006/07, would be added to the 18 year old rate in 2007/08, and to the 19 year-old rate in 2008/09, and so on.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
2006/07 was the first year for which data are available using the HEIP methodology throughout this release. Historic figures from 1999/00 have been included for reference in a supplementary downloadable file named "Historic Initial Participation data 1999 to 2006 (old methodology)”. These figures are not comparable to those throughout this publication. Details of the methodological changes were reported in
[ARCHIVED CONTENT] DIUS: Participation Rates in Higher Education: Academic Years 1999/2000-2007/08 (Provisional) (nationalarchives.gov.uk)
Initial participant counts have been rounded to the nearest five in line with the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) rounding policy . Calculated percentages have been rounded to one decimal place to inform comparisons over time. Rounding may result in slight inconsistencies between totals and sums of their constituent parts.