Sum of age-specific participation rates
The HEIP measure is a sum of the participation rates for each age from 17 to 30 inclusive. 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. The HEIP measure is not a sum of the total number of initial entrants divided by the total academic year population. Doing this would make the false assumption of an equal likelihood of participation across all ages. Further information about the methodology can be found in the National Statistics Quality Review of Higher Education participation statistics (2003) at:
The numerator for each age-specific rate includes English domiciled entrants to higher education who participate for a minimum period of six months for the first time. Minimum participation of six months was the recommendation of Professor Brian Ramsden in the National Statistics Quality Review (2003); he stated that there ought to be an: ""actual minimum length of study” of, say, six months, since this is a better measure of “participation” in the sense of engagement with the Higher Education experience."
Available data allow participation for a minimum of six months to be measured for participants at UK higher education providers (HEPs), and at English, Welsh and Scottish Further Education Providers (FEPs). Students at FEPs are included if they were registered on courses designated as National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 4 or above, or are listed as Higher Education courses.
Data referring to Higher Education Providers (HEPs) in the United Kingdom is collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). For Further Education Providers (FEPs) in England data is collected by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), in Wales by the Welsh Government, and in Scotland by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).
Since 1994/95 HESA has collected data on HE participation from publicly funded UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the annual ‘Student' record. Since 2014/15 information has also been collected about undergraduate students at Alternative Providers (APs) of Higher Education in England, plus Ballet West in Scotland, in the Alternative Provider (AP) record. Since 2017/18 the AP record has also included postgraduate students at all APs. Now that DfE is assured of the robustness of the newer data from APs, they have been added into the HEIP measure.
There is less of a distinction between HEIs and APs under the new regulatory regime in England, so student counts for these providers have been combined into a ‘Higher Education Providers’ (HEPs) category in the publication.
In order to ensure that only initial participants are counted in the HEIP in a given year, algorithms are applied to match back over 12 years for HE data and FE data . This is in addition to filtering based on qualifications declared at entry. This matching looks back over the previous years’ HE and FE datasets and checks whether a student appears in these datasets, recorded as studying at HE level for a minimum period of six months. If so, they are eliminated from the calculations, as they are not initial participants in the current year. Matching the 2017/18 figures back over 12 years ensures that any 30-year-old in the dataset, who has at least six months’ prior HE experience, can be detected all the way back to when they were 18-years-old. The matching algorithms are provided to DfE by the Office for Students (OfS).
The Academic year 2007/08 was the first year for which this approach was possible (as 12 years’ worth of HE data is available up to that point). In order to provide some time series comparison, and to demonstrate the impact of this change, the 2006/07 figure was also calculated using this methodology – although this used one less year of matching due to data availability.
The denominator for each age-specific rate uses population estimates for England, which were acquired from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at:
Population estimates have been adjusted to an academic year basis using their data on the month of birth for each cohort.
Measurement of initial participation by over 30s
Age-specific participation rates for 17 to 60 year-olds and are not as robust as the figures for the HEIP measure for 17 to 30 year-olds itself, because it is not possible to check as thoroughly whether participants aged 31 to 60 are initial participants. The HEIP estimate for entrants up to age 60 has however been included in the publication to provide additional context on lifelong learning and enable comparability with statistics published by other countries.