Data sources for higher education – part 1

Investigating an area such as education is large enough to be half-covered even in projects such as PhDs but there are some sources which provide a helpful start.

There are four central sites for higher education data: Ucas, the higher education funding councils (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland), HESA and the department for business, innovation and skills (BIS).

Data on university applications and acceptances: Ucas

Ucas is a charity and is formed of its member institutions which comprise most but not all of the higher education institutions in the UK. Data on applications and acceptances is available from statistical services and is generally found in the following formats:

  1. downloadable datasets (2004 to 2012);
  2. Comprehensive data tables which cover many demographic categories and include the number of applications and acceptances;
  3. A statistical enquiry tool which provides on the fly custom tables for applicant data by degree level and further information (2004 to 2012).
  4. Selected qualifications held: qualifications are the gatekeeper of any examination into higher education because they determine the possibility of entry.

Data on higher and further education: The Department of BIS

BIS has information on further education and higher education and divides the two into sections. Understanding differences between HE and FE is important for accurate data research and this can be a topic for the future.

There is less quantitative data but there are many useful publications and guidance which help inform. Policy documents can be essential when you seek to define and understand measures used in research.

Data on performance and destinations: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

HESA , set up in 1993, is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education. The site offers a comprehensive set of data from the moment students enter a HEI.

HESA is a private limited company which has formal agreements with government departments to provide the data which they require. Some useful data is available to the public in the following categories:

  1. Performance indicators (PIs) for HE provision have been published for HEIs since 1999; they were added for further education from 2003. Include widening participation and non-continuation rates.
  2. Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Longitudinal Survey.
  3. Estate Management Statistics (EMS).

Information available includes number of students and number of qualifications for 1996/97 to 2010/11; student information (2007 – 2012) by level, mode and domicile for the four regions of the UK; HEIDI – the online database service has tables of student and qualifiers data by institution.

Data on participation: Higher Education Funding Councils

The main role of the funding councils is to allocate funding to HEIs but they also do a lot more. The higher education funding council for England (HEFCE), the higher education funding council for Wales (HEFCW), the Scottish funding council (SFC) and the department of education and learning (DELNI).

England – HEFCE – incredibly useful data including a measure of participation in higher education by local area (POLAR) which is free to use. Other statistics and data available include student numbers, HEI funding, widening participation indicators and what was AimHigher.

Their research and publications are extensive and vital for investigations into higher education.

Other sources

There are a myriad sources for higher education data although not all of it will be quantitative. With HEIs contributing their own research and higher education bodies such as the Russell Group and the NUS funding and providing their own evidence, not all sources could hope to be covered in one post.

The four sources mentioned above are a good and vital start for any investigation. Freedom of Information is a method of obtaining data rather than a data source so it has not been covered here and methods will be discussed at a later date (undoubtedly).

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3 Responses to Data sources for higher education – part 1

  1. Pingback: What information do universities record – and what might be requested? | Help Me Investigate… Education

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