The price of a University drop-out 1: higher education funding in context.

One of the first big data-driven investigations we wanted to put on this site was focused on HEFCE and the way in which higher education is funded.

HEFCE fund 130 higher education institutions in England and 122 further education colleges in England, and we wanted to look at the ways in which funding is derived for each institution.

To put it simply, HEFCE funds each institution for every student that successfully completes a year of study.

This, however, brought a question to mind;

How much do different higher education institutions lose every year as a result of student ‘non-completions’?

Each student technically has a price over their head that isn’t their tuition fee and, as a result, we are interested in finding out exactly what the cost is to English universities for the failure of some of their students.

Before we start digging into any data, it’s clear that we have to straighten out some details; firstly, what is a ‘non-completion’?

I use that term because it’s become pretty official since we’ve started looking into higher education funding, and seems to be definitive when deciding whether or not an insitution recieves funding for a student; it also has it’s own specific terms and conditions.

In that vein, student completion can be defined as (courtesy of Aston University):

  • Taking the final assessment of all modules taken (or intended to be completed) at the first opportunity in the year of instance (within 13 months), or
  • Passing the module without needing to take the final assessment, due to being awarded enough marks previously to gain credit the module.

We discovered (courtesy of BCU), that this non-completion exception ignores any measure of success or academic quality, and focuses only on these points.

The ways in which this data is collated for one year and predicted for the next is a different story however.

But that’s for another day and another blog-post…

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4 Responses to The price of a University drop-out 1: higher education funding in context.

  1. As I understand it, HEFCE defines “completion” essentially as a student completing all their intended year of study. There is a page of FAQs on HEFCE funding policy and what constitutes “completion”.

    • You’re right, I think we just went into the finer points of exactly how you have to pass, i.e. within 13 months of the year beginning and a module can be passed without completing the final exam if marks allow. Thanks for the link though!

  2. paulbradshaw says:

    Thanks Jonathan – and thanks Ben for kicking things off with this post. The broader question which this data should help reveal is whether universities that take on students more likely to ‘non-complete’ (those with other responsibilities such as jobs and children) are penalised.

  3. Pingback: The price of a University drop-out 2: how do you work out the numbers? | Help Me Investigate… Education

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