HESA Performance Indicators 2010/11

29 March 2012

Commenting on the latest Performance Indicators in Higher Education for 2010-11 (1) Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

"We are pleased that today's figures show once again the low student drop-out rates across all our universities - we have some of the best university completion rates in the world. (2 and 3). 

“Student satisfaction and retention are very important to our universities and we are constantly assessing how best to ensure all students are given all the support they need - financial or otherwise - to complete their course and fulfil their potential at a Russell Group university. (4) 

"These statistics are a reminder of the particular challenges faced by Russell Group universities as we work hard to increase fair access. Every year we pump millions of pounds into our outreach work such as summer schools and access schemes to encourage poorer students to apply and attend our universities. (5)

"But we can only admit students who apply and who have the right grades in the right subjects. These benchmarks are fundamentally flawed because they fail to provide a full picture of the student body actually qualified to enter many courses. 

“They take no account of the fact, for example, that someone with four A*s at A-level might not have a strong chance of acceptance on a very competitive Medicine course, unless the A-levels are in the required subjects. Nor do they consider whether able students apply in the first place. And despite all our efforts to encourage applications from disadvantaged students, we can’t offer places to those who don’t apply. (6) 

"While A-levels are the main source of information about academic ability, Russell Group universities do consider a candidate's academic success in a broader context, and admissions tutors are skilled at assessing applicants individually and holistically to identify real talent and potential. But admission to university is - and should be - based on merit."

Notes to editors

  1. These statistics relate to 2010-11 before the most recent increase in fees.
  2. The HESA statistics show for young full-time first degree entrants an average continuation rate at Russell Group universities of 96.5 per cent compared to 92.8 per cent for the UK as a whole.  For all full time first degree entrants the average continuation rate at Russell Group universities is 95.9 per cent compared to 91.4 per cent for the UK as a whole. 
  3. In the US the comparable continuation rate is 72.2 per cent (Enrolment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002–07”, National centre for Education Statistics, US Department of Education, March 2012.)  The most recent OECD data published in 2009 showed that the UK’s degree completion rates were amongst the highest of any OECD country.  
  4. The 2011 National Student Survey shows 87 per cent of students are satisfied with the quality of their university course across Russell Group universities, compared with 83 per cent across universities in the UK.
  5. With one in eight universities in England, we provide nearly a quarter of all spending on bursaries and scholarships. About one in three Russell Group students receive a bursary or scholarship. In 2009-10 alone English Russell Group universities spent £82.2 million of their extra fee income on bursaries. This represents an average of £5.1 million per university, with some spending as much as £11 million. Overall, this amounts to over £2.2 million more per institution than the sector average. More than 37,000 students from the very poorest backgrounds attending Russell Group universities received bursaries averaging £1,641. This is more than five times the minimum bursary of £319 required by OFFA.
  6. In his report (p49) Lord Browne said: “The indicators do not take sufficient account of institutions’ admissions requirements, e.g. an institution could perform worse against the indicators if it does not admit students with no mathematics ‘A’ Level, even though mathematics may be considered by the institution to be a legitimate requirement for entry.”

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