Home > Glossary
A process through which practices are analysed to provide a standard measurement ('benchmark') of effective performance within an organisation (such as a university). Benchmarks are also used to compare performance with other organisations and other sectors.
A method of educating that uses e-learning techniques, such as online delivery through the web, discussion boards and e-mail, combined with traditional face to face lectures, seminars, and tutorials.
The total amount of funding provided by the Council to an institution for teaching and research.
Bologna Declaration, Bologna Process
In 1999 Education ministers from around 30 countries undertook in a joint declaration (the Bologna Declaration) to establish a European area of higher education by 2010. This includes, for example, enabling students to study in other European countries, and ensuring that their qualifications and skills are transferable. The ongoing work to achieve this is the Bologna process.
Vocational courses validated by Edexcel.
Bursaries (and scholarships) are financial help for students primarily from poorer backgrounds that are aimed at easing the transition into higher education and help them successfully complete their studies. Most are means-tested, but some are based on other criteria such as academic merit.
Special funding to promote and enhance innovative activities that address the Government’s key policy priorities, and to manage the transition to and through the new ﬁnance arrangements in higher education.
A general term for arrangements between two or more institutions (universities, higher education colleges or further education colleges) for joint activity.
Relationships between HEIs and schools to encourage pupils to study at the HEI.
Continuing education (CE)
Continuing education students are on courses normally lasting less than one year; they are usually part-time. Continuing education can be award-bearing or non-award bearing and vocational or non-vocational.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
A range of short and long training programmes, some of which have an option of accreditation, which foster the development of employment- related knowledge, skills and understanding.
HEFCE funds provided to an institution for teaching, research and related activities. Core funding is allocated by formula. Institutions can spend it according to their own priorities, within HEFCE's broad guidelines.
Credit accumulation and transfer schemes (CATS)
Arrangements within institutions which determine student progression towards defined learning outcomes, including formal qualifications, and recognition of these arrangements between institutions to facilitate the transfer of students.
Depending on the context this means either Corporate social responsibility or Comprehensive Spending Review
A course of higher education leading to the award of a foundation, bachelor's or master's degree.
Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland; the department of government responsible for higher education in Northern Ireland.
Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)
Formerly the department of UK government with ultimate responsibility for education and children's services. It was renamed the Department for Education in May 2010.
Department for Education (DfE)
The department of UK government with ultimate responsibility for education and children's services. Formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Department for Education and Skills, DfES (now BIS and DfE)
Formerly the department of UK government with ultimate responsibility for all sectors of education. It was split into the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in July 2007.
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (now BIS)
Between July 2007 and June 2009 the department of UK government with ultimate responsibility for higher education in England. Before 2007 it was part of the Department for Education and Skills and in June 2009 it merged with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to form BIS.
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
The department of UK government with ultimate responsibility for higher education in England. It was formed in June 2009 from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
A qualification awarded for a course of higher education.
Instruction provided at a distance to students who do not normally attend lectures and tutorials at the institution. It can involve learning through TV, radio, correspondence, computer network, CD-ROM and video.
A broad term to describe the range of visible and invisible differences between people and institutions. It can mean the varieties of learners with different backgrounds, requiring varied methods of entry to courses and of instruction. It is also used to describe the variety of provision available in the higher education sector and the different types of institution which deliver it.
The system of funding research, partly by HEFCE and partly by the Research Councils.
Edexcel is a UK examining and awarding body. It provides a wide range of qualifications including at higher education level.
The delivery of content via electronic media, such as the internet, video, interactive TV and CD-ROM. E-learning encompasses all learning undertaken, whether formal or informal, through electronic delivery.
The transferable core skills that represent functional and enabling knowledge, skills, and attitudes required in today's workplace. They are necessary for career success at all levels of employment and for all levels of education.
The process of ensuring that everyone is entitled to freedom from discrimination. Areas specifically covered by the law currently are gender, race, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Age discrimination will be unlawful from 2006.
A scheme in which students can spend time abroad as part of their study at a UK higher education institution.
Estate Management Statistics
The Estate Management Statistics Record (EMS) collection is administered via the Higher Education Statistics Agency. AUDE publishes the information in an annual report.
Exempt charities are those charities exempt from registration with the Charity Commission. Most HEIs that HEFCE funds are exempt charities; HEFCE became their principal regulator on 1 June 2010.
The list, developed by HEFCE in consultation with the sector, of qualifications and grades which are exempt from student number controls.
See Tuition fees
The financial memorandum is an agreement between HEFCE and the institutions it funds that sets out the terms and conditions for payment of HEFCE grants.
A recognised HE course designed to prepare students who have qualifications which are acceptable for entry in general, but are not appropriate to a specific course of study. Foundation courses are also used as Year 0 of a degree course to enable students with non-traditional qualifications to participate in HE by using Year 0 as a preparatory year for a full degree programme.
Foundation degrees are two-year higher education qualifications that were first offered in 2001-02. They are designed to meet skills shortages at the higher technician and associate professional levels. Foundation degrees are one level below the honours degree.
Full-person equivalent. In order to accurately measure HE provision where students are taught at more than one institution or are studying more than one subject, we split head-counts across the institutions/subjects involved in proportion to the activity in each – this results in counts of full-person equivalents. This gives a more accurate measure than direct head-counts, where the student would have to be arbitrarily assigned to one of the teaching institutions and/or one of the subjects.
The agreement by one institution (usually an HEI) that another institution may deliver all or part of a programme approved and owned by the first institution. The franchising institution normally retains overall control of the programme's content, delivery, assessment and quality assurance arrangements.
Full-time equivalent. For comparison and funding purposes, numbers of part-time students and staff are converted to full-time equivalents. This is because a direct head-count is often a poor indication of the actual volume of activity.
Full economic cost
The full economic cost of an activity incorporates all direct and indirect costs, including all cost adjustments required under the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology.
See Financial memorandum.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) comprise the funding councils for higher education in the UK. There is no funding council for Northern Ireland, where HEIs are funded directly by the Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DELNI).
Further education is for people over compulsory school age (currently 16 in England) which does not take place in a secondary school. It may be in a sixth-form college, a further education college or a higher education institution. Further education courses are generally up to the standard of GCE A-level or NVQ Level 3.
The university court (in Scotland), council, board of governors or other body ultimately responsible for the affairs of a higher education institution. This will contain a large number of 'lay members' who are not from within the higher education sector and give their time voluntarily.
Government Office for Science
The Government Office for Science (GO-Science) supports the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA). The key role of the GCSA and GO-Science is to ensure that all levels of government, including the Prime Minister and Cabinet, receive the best scientific advice possible, and to enable the many science-using departments across government to create policies that are supported by strong evidence and robust arguments.
Someone who has attained a bachelor's or higher degree.
The Secretary of State sends an annual grant letter to HEFCE that sets out the Government's resources and priorities for higher education.
A representative body for higher education in the UK.
The Higher Education Alternative Providers Early Students survey is an annual survey of student numbers at alternative providers of higher education.
Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Students who may be counted within HEFCE funding calculations. For teaching funding, this broadly means all higher education students domiciled in the UK or another EU country (‘home and EU’ students) other than:
The term encompasses some students who may not in fact attract HEFCE funding to their providers, for example where we expect tuition fees to cover the full cost of provision, or where students do not complete their year of study and are therefore not counted in our funding calculations. Further information about this deﬁnition is available from our annual HESES and HEIFES publications.
Higher education institution (university or college of higher education).
The Higher Education Statistics Agency collects, analyses and reports on HE statistics for universities and colleges in the UK.
The Higher Education Students Early Statistics Survey is HEFCE's main annual survey of students on recognised higher education courses at HEIs. It informs HEFCE's funding for teaching.
The Higher Education in Further Education: Students Survey is HEFCE's main annual survey of students on recognised higher education courses at further education colleges. It informs HEFCE's funding for teaching.
HEFCE’s term for the Government policy that exempts from the student number control students who achieve particular grades (currently ABB and above) at A-level (or certain equivalent qualifications).
Degree above bachelor's level such as master's degree or doctorate.
Higher education courses are programmes leading to qualifications, or credits which can be counted towards qualifications, which are above the standard of GCE A-levels or other Level 3 qualifications. They include degree courses, postgraduate courses and Higher National Diplomas. Higher education takes place in universities and higher education colleges, and in some further education colleges.
The Higher Education Academy works to help universities, colleges and others to deliver the best possible learning experience for all students. The academy was formed in 2004 from a merger of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN), and the TQEF National Co-ordination Team.
Higher education colleges
HE colleges are divided into specialist colleges dealing mainly with one subject area, such as music, art and design or teacher training; and more general colleges offering a range of courses, particularly in business, humanities and education.Higher education institutionA higher education institution is a university or higher education college.
Higher education institution
A higher education institution is a university or higher education college.
Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma.
These are students normally resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They do not include students living in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
A bachelor's degree with honours covering greater depth than a general or ordinary BA or BSc degree.
Information and communication technologies. The broad subject concerned with all aspects of managing and processing information electronically, on databases or in libraries.
Some people need more support than others to complete their studies because of their background or circumstances. An element of our student opportunity funding is provided to assist with improving retention.
Initial teacher training (ITT)
A course that leads to a qualification as a teacher. ITT is funded by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, an executive agency of the Department for Education.
A general term for education institutions, which may include universities, higher education colleges and further education colleges.
Students from the Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
Intellectual property rights (IPR)
Intellectual property rights protect the creator's right to be appropriately acknowledged for their work, such as an invention or a manuscript.IPR gives the creator a means of controlling how their protected work is exploited, thereby ensuring that they are properly rewarded for their creative endeavours. Includes patents, registered trademarks and copyright.
Janet – the joint academic network – is the high-speed computer network for the academic community in the UK. All further and higher education organisations in the UK are connected to the Janet network, as are all the Research Councils.
An e-mail list service to facilitate discussion, collaboration and communication within the UK academic community.
This refers to HEIs’ engagement with businesses, public and third sector services, the community and wider public. It includes the transferring or exchanging of knowledge with the aim of delivering external impact, such as improving products, services and proﬁtability. This is linked with research and teaching, and includes consultancy and advisory work, the creation of intellectual property, the development of academic and student entrepreneurship, and a variety of other activities.
Local area network - a computer network linking parts of an institution.
The Leadership Foundation provides a dedicated service of support and advice on leadership, governance and management for all the UK's higher education institutions.
Level of study refers to undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG).
Defined by the Government as all post-16 learning, but applying specifically to learning by adults who are already in the workplace and need special part-time provision, or to learning that adults may wish to undertake to enrich their lives.
Lifelong Learning Networks
A HEFCE initiative funded between 2004 and 2012 to improve progression into and through higher education.
Until 2010, the Learning and Skills Council was responsible for funding and planning education and training for over 16-year-olds in England. It was succeeded by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA). In 2012 the responsibilities of the YPLA were transferred to the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
Masters degree (MA/MSc/MPhil/MEd)
MA/MSc degrees are awarded to graduates who have undertaken a further course of study, after an honours degree, either full-time or part-time. Masters degrees may be taken following a period of work experience and some courses take the form of company training programmes. MPhil degrees may be awarded following a period of research rather than a course of study.
Mature students are students who are 21 or over when they start their course.
Mode of study refers to full-time, part-time or sandwich.
A programme of study in which a student chooses a number of short courses or modules, the satisfactory completion of which leads to a degree.
Students who are treated as having started their courses on or after 1 September 2012 and who are subject to the new fee and funding regime. They include those whose fees are limited by law and those, such as most postgraduates, whose fees are not limited in this way.
Non-continuation or 'drop-out' rates
The proportion of students who do not complete their course, for a variety of reasons, including financial difficulties.
OFFA is a non departmental public body set up in 2004 to promote and safeguard fair access to higher education for under-represented groups, in light of the introduction of variable tuition fees in 2006-07.
Office of Science and Technology (OST)
The Office of Science and Technology was from 1992 until 2007 the department of UK government with responsibility for science, engineering and technology and their uses to benefit society and the economy.
The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) aims to improve standards of achievement and quality of education through regular independent inspection, public reporting and informed advice. Ofsted is responsible for assessing the quality of initial teacher training.
Students who are treated as having started their courses before 1 September 2012 and are subject to the previous fee and funding regime. They include both those whose fees are limited by law (mostly full-time undergraduates in 2011-12) and those whose fees are not limited in this way (such as most postgraduates and, in 2011-12, part-time undergraduates).
Operating Framework [http://www.hefce.ac.uk/about/intro/wip/rpg/of/]
The Operating Framework explains how higher education providers in England are held to account and regulated.
A bachelor's degree awarded without honours (see honours degree above).
Overseas students are defined as students from outside the European Union.
A set of indicators produced by HESA which measure the performance of higher education institutions in the UK in a number of areas.
A student on a course which normally requires a first degree as a condition of entry.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
A course, normally of one year duration, for people with a degree (or equivalent qualifications) to train to be teachers.
Higher education institutions which acquired university status as a result of the provisions of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.
Higher education institutions which had university status before the provisions of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 came into force; and the two Northern Ireland universities.
Some subjects cost more to teach than others: some need laboratories and workshops while others are taught wholly in lecture theatres and seminar rooms. This is reflected in HEFCE's funding method for teaching, in which subjects are classified in in five groups, A, B, C1, C2 and D, according to how much they cost to teach.
Principal regulators have the duty, as far as they reasonably can, to promote compliance with charity law by the exempt charities for which they are responsible. On 1 June 2010 HEFCE became principal regulator of most English HEIs.
Groups identified in the Equality Act as sharing a particular characteristic against which it is illegal to discriminate. These groups are as follows:
• Gender reassignment
• Marriage and civil partnership
• Pregnancy and maternity
• Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
• Religion and belief
• Sexual orientation.
All charities must deliver their charitable purposes 'for the public benefit'. The Charity Commission promotes understanding of public benefit generally, and HEFCE has published supplementary guidance for HEIs.
The QAA provides a quality assurance service for higher education institutions throughout the UK.
Quality-related research funding. It is allocated according to research quality (as judged by expert review in the periodic Research Assessment Exercise, now superseded by the Research Excellence Framework), and the amount of research carried out.
A quintile is any one of ﬁve equal groups into which a population has been divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable.
The Resource Accounting Budget (RAB) charge is an estimate of the percentage of the face value of loans issued in a given year which reflects the resource cost over the expected life of the loan to the Government of making the loans. The charge is made up of:
• the face value of loans issued that are not expected to be repaid due to low income, death of the borrower, etc; and
• the net present value of the interest subsidy on loans. Interest on student loans is subsidised by Government so that the value of loan debt only increases by the rate of inflation.>
All charities with income above £5,000 must register with and are subject to the powers of the Charity Commission unless they have been classed as exempt charities. A small number of HEFCE-funded HEIs are registered charities.
A non-HEI/FEC body through which significant levels of HEFCE funding are distributed or activities promoted.
An assessment that was carried out periodically to determine the quality of research in UK HEIs. The results are used by the higher education funding bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to allocate QR funding. The last one was in 2008. The RAE has been superseded by the Research Excellence Framework.
There are seven subject-specific Research Councils. They are funded by the Government to support research in their own establishments and to fund research projects in universities.
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It replaces the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and the outcomes of the first REF will be completed in 2014.
A course of study which includes periods of practical work in organisations outside the university or college.
Sector Skills Councils are independent organisations developed by employers in industry. They are employer-led and involve trade unions and professional bodies. SSCs were set up by Government to tackle the skills and productivity needs of their sector throughout the UK.
A study period of up to 16 weeks, often with the last two weeks used as an assessment period.
A streamlined accountability process between HEFCE and institutions, linked to an assessment of institutional risk, which comprises an exchange of documents and dialogue during a specific period each year. This began in 2007, and in 2009 was renamed to 'the annual accountability returns exercise'.
Skills Funding Agency
The government agency responsible for funding and regulating adult further education and skills training in England.
Special funding, Special initiative
HEFCE funds that are provided for a fixed period and a specified purpose, unlike the block grant. They may be distributed by formula or in response to competitive bids.
A higher education institution that has 60 per cent or more of its courses in one or two subjects only, such as music or art colleges.
Student number control allocation
The total number of students an institution can recruit to certain full-time courses (mainly at undergraduate level). Institutions may also recruit further students who are exempt from the student number control – for example international students (from outside the EU), or students who are exempt because of the grades and qualifications they hold.
This refers to activities such as widening access and improving participation, designed to ensure that all those with the potential to beneﬁt from higher education have the opportunity to do so.
Financial help available from the Government to students in higher education.
HEFCE’s iterative method of calculating and reviewing institutions’ main teaching funding allocations for old-regime and new-regime students as part of the transition to the new ﬁnance arrangements for higher education. The stages are:
This process allows us to start paying grant before precise student numbers for the year are known.
TRAC for teaching (a national framework for costing teaching, based on TRAC principles)
Making an institution's processes visible and comprehensible to interested parties outside that institution, such as external examiners, quality control committees and the general public.
Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC)
A uniform approach to the costing of activities undertaken by all UK HEIs since 2002.
Students have to pay tuition fees to a university or college to attend a course there. Universities and colleges are responsible for setting tuition fees, although they are subject to certain limits set by the Government. Most EU students (including UK students) are eligible for tuition fee loans which will cover the cost of these fees, and which do not need to be repaid until after the student has graduated.
Student working towards a first degree, foundation degree, higher education certificate or diploma or equivalent.
Groups that have participation rates significantly below the national average for the cohort under consideration. Examples of such groups may be:
Unit of assessment (UOA)
Units used as subject categories for both the Research Assessment Exercise and its successor the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Universities are diverse, ranging in size, mission and history. The Secretary of State has the power to grant university status to an institution. Former polytechnics were given the status of universities under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. These are sometimes called 'new' universities or post-1992 universities. The pre-1992 or 'old' universities include many founded in the 1950s and 1960s, the civic universities established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
An umbrella group representing the views and interests of the vice-chancellors and principals of universities and other higher education bodies in the UK.
The process by which a course is judged to have met the requirements for an award by the relevant degree-awarding body, or the relevant examining body, or by an accredited institution on behalf of that degree-awarding body.
From September 2006 universities and colleges have been able to charge students fees above the standard level up to £3,000 a year, provided they entered into an access agreement with the Office for Fair Access setting out how they will safeguard and promote fair access. Full-time students are able to take out loans for fees which are only repaid when they have finished studying and are earning more than £15,000 a year. Institutions that do not enter into such an agreement will continue to charge the standard fee (see Tuition fees).
Widening access, widening participation
This is when a funding council, institution or other organisation implements policies and engages in activities designed to ensure that all those with the potential to benefit from higher education have the opportunity to do so whatever their background and whenever they need it.
Widening Participation Strategic Assessment (WPSA)
Assessments that institutions submit to HEFCE to demonstrate the work they are doing in respect of widening participation, showing how it is embedded in institutional missions and policies. The submission of a WPSA is a condition for the continued receipt of funds for widening participation and institutions are expected to report annually on the progress made against milestones and targets set out in their WPSA.
Learning delivered by a university, college or other training provider in the workplace, normally under the supervision of a person from the same company as well as a professional teacher from outside the company.
Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA)
A government agency set up in 2010 with responsibility for supporting the delivery of training and education to all 16–19 year olds in England. In 2012 the responsibilities of the YPLA were transferred to the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
Young students are students who are under 21 years old when they start their course.