Academic Year 2018/19

Progression to higher education or training

Published

Introduction

These statistics show the percentage of level 3 pupils (e.g. those that studied A levels, tech levels and applied general qualifications) continuing to a sustained education or training destination at level 4 or higher (such as degrees, higher apprenticeships and higher national diplomas) in the year after completing 16 to 18 study.

The release also provides information on destination outcomes for different groups of pupils and education providers.


Headline facts and figures - 2018/19

The proportion of level 3 (e.g. A levels, Tech levels, AGQs) students progressing to a sustained level 4 or higher destination was 64%

This was 2 percentage points higher than the previous year's cohort (2015/16). 

Of the 64%, their destinations were as follows:

  • 59% were studying for a degree (a level 6 qualification)
  • 3% were studying a course at level 4 or 5 (e.g. Higher National Certificates and Diplomas)
  • 1% were participating in an apprenticeship at level 4 or higher

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What is progression to higher education or training?

Progression to higher education or training shows the percentage of students that sustain an education course or apprenticeship at level 4 or higher in the two years following their 16 to 18 study. The most recent data reports on students who completed 16 to 18 study in the 2016/17 academic year and identifies their education and/or apprenticeship destinations in the two years following their last attendance at a 16 to 18 institution.

The measure is designed to complement the existing destination measures (Destinations after KS4 and 16-18 study) which provide more information on the destinations that are not featured here such as employment and further study at level 3 or below. It differs from the original measures in that it uses a two-year destination window (rather than one) in order to better report students that take gap years and similar breaks. It also calculates value-added scores for state-funded mainstream institutions which take prior attainment at GCSE and main qualification type into account. 

Timeliness of data 

There is a time lag between students completing their 16 to 18 study and this measure being published. Two years have to elapse during which young people are participating in their chosen destination, and datasets have to be combined before measuring sustained participation in education or apprenticeships. 

What is a ‘sustained’ destination? 

To be counted in a level 4 or higher destination, students have to be recorded as having sustained participation for a 6 month period in the two-year destination window. This participation can include activity in a single destination or a combination, as long as there are six consecutive months at level 4 or higher. 

Who is included in the cohort? 

This measure is restricted to students that studied level 3 qualifications as there is less expectation for students studying qualifications at lower levels to progress to level 4 or higher. It thus includes students that studied academic qualifications such as A levels, applied general qualifications, technical levels, or other qualifications that have not been included in performance tables but are notionally level 3. State-funded mainstream schools and colleges are included. The cohort includes students who completed their 16 to 18 study in 2016/17, and focuses on activity during the two years after they last attended a 16 to 18 provider. 

How does the value-added score (or “Progression score”) work? 

The probability of a student progressing to a level 4 or higher destination is strongly correlated with their prior attainment at key stage 4 (GCSE) and the qualification type they study at 16 to 18. An institution that starts with an intake of high-prior-attainment pupils will naturally have a higher rate of progression to level 4 or higher than an institution with an intake of low-prior-attainment pupils. For this reason we calculate a “value-added” score which is presented alongside the progression rate, and is an indication as to how the institution has performed once prior attainment and qualification types are taken into account. The score is calculated by comparing each individual student’s outcome (a 1 if they progress to level 4 or higher, a 0 if they do not) against the national average for the group of students nationally with similar prior attainment and qualification type. If, for example, 85% of the highest-prior-attainment academic students progressed to higher education or training nationwide, then an individual student in that group will score 1 – 0.85 = +0.15 if they progress, but 0 – 0.85 = -0.85 if they do not.

These individual student scores are then averaged for the institution and multiplied by 100 to obtain the VA score. A VA score of +10 thus represents a ten percentage point increase on progression into level 4 or higher destinations for that institution than similar students nationally. Bands have been determined for each institution to help put the score in context. These take into account confidence intervals, as the score is likely to be a more accurate representation of the value added by the institution for larger cohorts than small ones. 

Individual student scores have also been averaged at local authority level, parliamentary constituency level, national level, and for various characteristics. For these purposes they are referred to as “Progression scores” rather than "Value-added scores".

Comparison to previous year

The national-level results were broadly similar to last year's

The headline figure of progression to a sustained level 4 or higher destination within two years for the students who completed 16 to 18 study in 2016/17 was 64%; this was two percentage points higher than the previous year's cohort (those that completed 16 to 18 study in 2015/16).

While the proportion progressing to a degree destination increased by one percentage point, the proportion that went on to study at a top third Higher Education Institution (HEI) appeared to drop by two percentage points, from 19% for the 2015/16 cohort to 17%. This is due to a new methodology being applied when determining which HEIs are included in the top third list.

The proportion progressing to a level 4 or higher apprenticeship remained at 1%, while the proportion progressing to a level 4 or 5 course remained at 3%.

New top third methodology

The methodology for the “top third” indicator of  HEI selectivity has been updated to reduce inter-annual  volatility and to ensure consistency in analysis across the sector. The key changes are:

  1. The original top third method calculated each HEI's mean entrance tariff from the top three A level scores of each student. The new method now includes equivalent alternative qualifications, such that more of each HEI's intake is represented, and is no longer limited to entrants from English schools.
  2. The original top third methodology would rank HEIs by their mean entrance tariff and then select the top third of institutions from this list; this would typically represent around 40% of students as the higher-ranked HEIs were often larger than average. The new system instead selects just enough HEIs to represent 33% of students.

The result is that fewer institutions are included in the top third list, but it will now consistently represent a third of the total intake.

Provider type

For information about different provider types visit Get information about schools glossary.

Progression improved at a slightly faster rate for colleges than schools

As last year, schools produced a higher progression rate (72%) than colleges (55%). However, the gap closed slightly, with colleges improving by three percentage points since last year, compared to one percentage point for schools. 

Similarly, schools had a better progression score than colleges (+1.5 points vs -1.7) showing that once prior attainment and qualification type are taken into account students studying level 3 at schools are still 3.2 percentage points more likely to progress to a level 4 or higher destination than college students. However, this was again a smaller gap (3.2) than last year's (4.2).

The difference in progression to higher education and training between schools and colleges may reflect the dissimilar intentions of the cohorts, with college students seen in the standard destination measures to be more likely than school students to progress to employment destinations.

Students at non-selective schools in highly-selective areas were slightly more likely to progress than previously

Even after prior attainment and qualification type are taken into account, students at selective schools remain more likely to progress to a level 4 or higher destination than students at non-selective schools in highly-selective areas. However, the progression score gap between the two decreased from 6.8 points in last year's results to 5.6 points. 

The difference might possibly be due to students at non-selective schools seeing fewer of their peers apply to higher education than students in selective schools, making it less of an assumed destination; or alternatively the intent to progress to university might be a factor in selection.

Regional results

Progression at regional level still reveals a skew towards London

Inner London's progression rate remains the highest with 77% of students sustaining a level 4 or higher destination within two years of completing 16 to 18 study. The South West remains the lowest progressing region at 57%. The progression scores are nearly as far apart, with Inner London on +13 and the South West on -6.

This can be interpreted as saying that for a student of given GCSE results and qualification type, they are 19 percentage points less likely to progress to higher education or training if they live in the South West than in Inner London.

This might possibly be due to proximity of Higher Education Institutions - London contains a large number of HEIs that local students can attend while living at home, while students in the South West may find the additional costs of travel and rent prohibitively expensive.

Alternatively, London's high progression rate might be because it contains a higher than average school/college ratio, and a larger proportion of students with characteristics that have high progression, as will be seen in the Student Characteristics section.

Local authority results

The local authority results broadly reflect the picture seen at regional level

Students in London boroughs are much more likely to progress to higher education or training than those in other local authorities. However, the heat map of progression at LA level reveals that in other regions progression is more likely in those LAs that cover dense urban areas, such as Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester.

Student characteristics

Gender

The gender gap in progression to a level 4 or higher destination closed from 6 percentage points last year to 5, with 66% of female students progressing compared to 61% of male students. However, the gap in the progression score, which takes into account prior attainment and qualification type, increased slightly from 0.6 points last year to 1.0 points.

This progression score gap increases when only students of academic and applied general qualifications are considered, with female students on +1.1 and male students on -1.3. However, this trend reverses for students of tech levels, with female students on -4.7 and males on +3.6. A possible explanation for this might be that there are gender biases in the tech level subjects being chosen by the students, with some subjects more inclined to lead to higher education or training than others.

Ethnicity

Students in the white major ethnic group progress to higher education or training at a lower rate (60%) than all other ethnic groups besides unclassified. This progression rate is 27 percentage points behind the highest-progressing group (Chinese students, although this is a relatively small major ethnic group at 16 to 18 study with fewer than 2,000 students). The highest progression score of +19.4 was for students in the black or black British major ethnicity group.

Part of the explanation for these differences might be regional demographics. Students in the white major ethnic group, the lowest scoring, were more likely than other major ethnic groups to be completing their 16 to 18 study in regions that had negative progression scores (East of England, South East and South West). However, while a comparatively large proportion of the highest-scoring major ethnic group (black students) completed their 16 to 18 study at an institution in high-scoring London, region is unlikely to be the only explanation as students in the black, Asian and Chinese major ethnic groups progressed at a very high rate in regions outside of London too. It might be that part of the reason London performs so well in this measure is because it has high proportions of these high-progressing groups studying there.

Disadvantage

Students of disadvantaged status are defined as being those eligible for pupil premium in year 11, including those receiving free school meals (FSM) and looked-after students. Students with no KS4 record are placed in “all other students”. 

Students of disadvantaged status were less likely than other students to progress to higher education or training (59% for disadvantaged vs 65% for non-disadvantaged). However the progression score shows that after taking prior attainment and qualification type into account, students with disadvantaged status are actually 2.9 percentage points more likely to progress than their peers. 

As was postulated in the ethnicity discussion, part of the explanation for these differences in progression score might be geographical. Students in London are more likely to have had disadvantaged status than those elsewhere in the country. It is therefore possible that the increase in progression score is actually just a manifestation of the London effect, although there may be other factors. For example, it might be that fewer disadvantaged students go in to 16 to 18 study to start with, and so those that do are more likely to be focused on a particular destination. 

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

School students with SEN were 4 ppts less likely to sustain a higher education or training destination than those without an identified need. However, the progression scores reveal that students with SEN were actually 3.1 ppts more likely to progress than those without an identified need, once prior attainment has been taken into consideration. Destinations for students with SEN were more likely to be to level 4 or 5 study and less likely to be to degrees or apprenticeships than students without SEN.

Learners with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LLDD)

LLDD showed a similar pattern to SEN. College students identified as LLDD were slightly less likely to sustain a level 4 or higher destination than students not identified as LLDD (54% vs 55%). However, LLDD students had a more positive progression score (-0.5 compared to -2.0) showing that for a given prior attainment and qualification type, students identified as LLDD were actually more likely to progress than those who were not identified as LLDD. 

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Methodology

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Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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