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Our work

From 2015 we are investing £4 million to support work in this area.

Our aims:

  • To test and evaluate different ways of measuring and assessing learning in higher education. We also want to know how suitable these methods are and how far they can increase in scale.
  • To promote partnerships between institutions, departments and disciplines. This aims to share expertise and new ways of measuring learning gain more widely across the sector.
  • To build knowledge about, and capacity for, measuring learning gain within the higher education sector in England.
  • To encourage dialogue across the sector and with experts, and so to develop a shared understanding which underpins future developments (such as the development of national measures).

We are applying these aims by working with the higher education sector. 

This work incorporates a series of related activities:

Our activities

  • Pilot projects

    Following a call for expressions of interest, we are supporting 13 collaborative institutional projects to pilot and evaluate a range of approaches for measuring learning gain. Over 70 universities and colleges, reflecting student and sector diversity, are involved.

  • National Mixed Methodology Learning Gain Project (NMMLGP)

    Making use of a range of pre-trialled tools and survey instruments, this project aims to track the learning gain of a group of over 31,000 undergraduate students in 10 English higher education institutions, at regular points throughout their degree programme. Read more about the NMMLGP.

  • Analysis of current data

    We will examine existing data on the student experience to evaluate what it tells us about learning gain. This data includes continuation rates, student attainment, the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey (DLHE), as well as evidence arising from course accreditation by professional and statutory bodies.

  • Capacity building and networking events

    We will work closely with the pilot institutions to engage more widely across the sector and share findings, promote knowledge and understanding of learning gain, and broker dialogue with the sector to foster future action.

First national conference on learning gain – February 2015

First national conference on learning gain – February 2015

We organised a sector-wide conference in February 2015. This drew together representatives from universities, sector bodies and international experts from the UK, US, Australia and Italy to explore the issues. 

The event illustrated that there is a lot that England can learn from experience internationally and emerging practice in the UK. 

The conference recognised that it is important to ‘measure what matters’ in HE learning and teaching.  It also shed light on the challenge of ensuring that such measures are carefully chosen and rigorously tested.  

Videos from conference keynote speakers

Measuring learning gain: Measuring what matters, Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive, HEFCE

Measuring learning gain: Using assessment to improve student learning, Charles Blaich and Kathleen Wise, Director and Associate Director, Wabash National Study

Progress testing in the medical sciences, Lambert Schuwirth, Professor of Medical Education, Flinders University

Measuring learning gain: Past and Future Applications of CLA+, Roger Benjamin, President, Council for Aid to Education and Director of Collegiate Learning Assessment

Conference presentations are available on the event page.

Second national conference on learning gain – November 2016

Second national conference on learning gain – November 2016

HEFCE organised a second national conference on Learning Gain in November 2016.

The conference was an opportunity for the sector to gain an update on the work on learning gain currently being undertaken by HEFCE, universities and other sector bodies. The conference drew together a wide group of representatives involved with learning gain and learning and teaching enhancement.

Presentations from conference keynote speakers

Learning gain and the national picture

Chris Millward, Director (Policy)

Download the Learning Gain conference - Chris Millward HEFCE - Presentation as PDF (1,062 KB)


Launch of the National Mixed Methodology Learning Gain Programme

Ross Hudson, Programme Manager - Learning Gain

Download the Learning Gain conference - Ross Hudson HEFCE - Presentation as PDF (738 KB)

Lessons learnt: A year in the life of a learning gain pilot project

Professor Christina Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), Legacy Project

Download the Learning Gain conference - Christina Hughes Sheffield Hallam University - (LEGACY) Presentation as PDF (784 KB)

Janthia Taylor, Deputy Director, Ravensbourne

Download the Learning Gain conference - Janthia Taylor Ravensbourne - Presentation as PDF (1,729 KB)

Sally Dixon, HE Manager Academic Standards, Manchester College

Download the Learning Gain Conference - Sally Dixon - TMC - Presentation as PDF (425 KB)


Learning gain in the wider sector

Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer, JISC

 Download the Learning Gain conference - Phil Richards JISC - Presentation as PDF (505 KB)

Geoff Stoakes, Head of Research, Higher Education Academy

Download the Learning Gain conference - Geoff Stoakes HEA - Presentation as PDF (518 KB)

Andy Moss, Senior Vice-President, Higher Education, Pearson 

Download the Learning Gain conference - Andy Moss Pearson - Presentation as PDF (474 KB)


What's next for learning gain?

Bethan Dudas, Senior Campaigns & Policy Officer, National Union of Students

Download the Bethan Dudas - NUS - What lies ahead for students and learning gain in the UK as PDF (200 KB)

Camille Kandiko Howson, Academic Head of Student Engagement, Kings College London

Download the Learning Gain conference - Camille Kandiko Howson - KCL - Presentation as PDF (284 KB)

Kate Watson, TEF Metrics Manager, Department for Education

Download the Learning Gain conference - Kate Watson DfE - Presentation as PDF (177 KB)

Steering Group

Steering Group

The learning gain programme benefits from advice and guidance from a steering group, which includes representatives from across the sector in England. 


  • Chair: Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor, Bath Spa University
  • Hannah Sketchley, Policy Engagement Manager, National Union of Students
  • James Zuccollo, Senior Economist, HEFCE
  • William Hammonds, Programme Manager, Policy Group, Universities UK
  • Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter
  • Chris Millward, Director of Policy, HEFCE
  • Henna Akram, TEF Metrics Manager, DfE
  • Geoff Stoakes, Head of Research, HEA
  • Cliff Allan, Chair of Learning Gain Expert Group


  • Camille Kandiko Howson, Senior Lecturer (Higher Education), Kings College London
Learning Gain Expert Group

Learning Gain Expert Group

The Learning Gain Expert Group has been convened to enable HEFCE to draw on independent technical expertise when developing activities in the area of learning gain. Members will discuss, advise and provide guidance on:

  • conceptualising, constructing and testing measures of learning gain
  • selecting datasets and variables for the development and construction of learning gain measures
  • statistical techniques for constructing and validating measures of learning gain
  • reporting results in a clear, understandable and unbiased manner.


  • Chair: Cliff Allan
  • Paul Ashwin, Head of Educational Research Department, University of Lancaster
  • Steven Jones, Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester
  • Dave Thomson, Chief Statistician, FFT
  • Alison Judd, DfE
  • George Leckie, Reader in Social Statistics, University of Bristol
  • Tim Birtwistle, Professor Emeritus, Leeds Beckett University
  • Claire Crawford, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Warwick

Page last updated 23 February 2018

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