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HEFCE Higher Education Funding Council for Wales Department for Education and Learning (Northern Ireland) Scottish Funding Council

Performance indicators in higher education

In 1998, the Government asked the four UK funding bodies to develop suitable indicators and benchmarks of performance in the higher education (HE) sector, bearing in mind their diversity and the needs of different stakeholders. This work is overseen by the Performance Indicators Steering Group (PISG).

The resulting performance indicators (PIs) for higher education are currently published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). They are designed to provide reliable information on the nature and performance of the HE sector in the UK, and a consistent set of measures of this performance. They contribute to a greater public accountability by the sector, and ensure that policy decisions can be made on the basis of consistent and reliable information.

The tables are based on students who are residents of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Most of the indicators are given separately for young and mature students (where 'young' students are those under 21 on 30 September of their year of entry to the institution). Most of them refer solely to students on undergraduate courses. The non-continuation indicators are further restricted to full-time students only.


The PIs were instituted following the recommendations of the National Committee of Inquiry into HE. The first set of PIs in their current form was published in December 1999 by HEFCE, on behalf of all four funding councils in the UK. HEFCE continued to publish the indicators annually until 2003, with additions and amendments as the coverage was extended.

Since 2004 performance indicators in higher education have been published by HESA, in the same format as indicators previously produced by HEFCE.

The PIs were reviewed in 2006-07 in Review of performance indicators: Outcomes and decisions - HEFCE 2007/14. Part of this process involved a consultation, available as Review of performance indicators: Consultation to inform the review - HEFCE 2006/34.

Use of entry qualifications in PI benchmarks

Benchmarks are given for performance indicators to allow comparisons with the sector as a whole and between similar institutions. Benchmarks are calculated using three factors: qualifications on entry, subject of study, and age on entry (young or mature).

A new entry qualification scoring system was introduced for applicants from 2002. The way this system and other entry qualifications are used to calculate benchmarks is described in the document below. Following a review of the HESA data on which performance indicators are based the benchmarks will be reviewed for the publications in 2010 and 2011.

Using entry qualifications in the benchmarks

[ Download 'Using entry qualifications in the benchmarks' as Adobe PDF 129K | Download 'Using entry qualifications in the benchmarks' as MS Word 98K ]


HESA Performance Indicators Team (e-mail
England Richard Puttock at HEFCE (e-mail
Scotland John Duffy at SFC (e-mail
Wales Hannah Falvey at HEFCW (e-mail
Northern Ireland Allan Nesbitt at DELNI (e-mail

Last updated 25 April 2008