HESA Performance Indicators 2011-12

21 March 2013

Commenting on the latest Performance Indicators in Higher Education for 2011-12 Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

"We are proud to have some of the best university completion rates in the world and today's figures show once again the low student drop-out rates across all our universities.

"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.

"These statistics are a reminder of the particular challenges faced by Russell Group universities. We work hard to increase fair access and encourage poorer students to apply by pumping millions of pounds into our outreach work, including summer schools, direct work with schools and access schemes.

"But these benchmarks are fundamentally flawed and do not give a full picture - we can only admit students who actually apply and who have the right grades in the right subjects.

"The benchmarks take no account of the fact 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 actually apply in the first place – if they don’t we can’t offer them places.

"These benchmarks are also a “moving target” because if institutions with very different challenges improve their performance, then this means the benchmarks for all universities become more challenging - universities could exceed the benchmark one year but be below it the next year with exactly the same intake."

Notes to editors

  1. The HESA statistics show for young full-time first degree entrants an average continuation rate at Russell Group universities of 97.0% compared to 93.7% for the UK as a whole.  For all full time first degree entrants the average continuation rate at Russell Group universities is  96.4% compared to 92.6% for the UK as a whole.
  2. In the US the comparable continuation rate is 72.2% (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.  
  3. The 2012 National Student Survey shows 87% of students are satisfied with the quality of their university course across Russell Group universities, compared with 85% across universities in the UK.
  4. In 2010-11, the English Russell Group universities combined spent £9.5 million on OFFA-countable outreach activities, which is an average of £475,000 per institution. This is in addition to other investment by institutions.
  5. With one in seven universities in England, we provide nearly a quarter of all spending on bursaries and scholarships. More than 50,000 students from the very poorest backgrounds attending Russell Group universities received bursaries or scholarships. Across the English Russell Group universities last year a third of all fee-paying undergraduate students were receiving an ‘OFFA-countable’ bursary or scholarship worth an average of £1,395.
  6. Talking about the benchmarks Lord Browne said in his report (p49) : “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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