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Similar qualification rates were first published in May 2012 [Note 2], for the cohorts of research degree students beginning their studies at English higher education institutions (HEIs) in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Data for the following year’s cohort are now available [Note 3].

The study looks at projected rates of qualification following research degree study, for students living in the UK and EU who started full-time research degrees at English HEIs in 2010-11. Qualification rates are provided for each HEI, and have been projected over periods of 7 years (at which point there is a reasonable expectation that the majority of students who will ever complete their qualification will have done so) and 25 years (taken as the point when any student who will ever complete has done so).

The latest data show that around 73 per cent of the 11,625 students who started research degrees in English HEIs in 2010-11 are projected to qualify within seven years, and around 80 per cent will qualify over a longer period. These figures have each increased by over 2 percentage points since the 2009-10 cohort (see tables below). These outcomes demonstrate an improvement on those observed for previous cohorts considered under this methodology.

Outcomes (projected over
7 years)
% of 2008-09 starters% of 2009-10 starters% of 2010-11 starters
Qualify with research degree 70.5 70.1 72.9
Qualify with another postgraduate research qualification 2.1 1.6 1.7
Transfer to another institution 1.8 2.0 1.9
Leave with no award or transfer 14.5 14.8 12.8
Outcomes (projected over
25 years)
% of 2008-09 starters% of 2009-10 starters% of 2010-11 starters
Qualify with research degree 78.4 78.2 80.5
Qualify with another postgraduate research qualification 2.3 1.8 1.9
Transfer to another institution 2.0 >2.1 2.0
Leave with no award or transfer 16.4 16.9 14.5

Steven Hill, Head of Research Policy at HEFCE, said:

‘HEFCE is committed to the development and sustainability of a dynamic, internationally competitive research sector. As such, we recognise the importance of postgraduate research degree study both for securing the pipeline of future researchers, and for the wider contribution that is made to the UK economy and society. Today’s report shows that full-time students embarking on postgraduate research degree programmes are increasingly likely to achieve the qualification that they are aiming for, and we welcome the overall improvements in these outcomes as an important step in ensuring that postgraduate education in England continues to prosper. To this end, HEFCE will seek to continue to enhance understanding of qualification rates from different forms of postgraduate study so that we can most effectively support continuous improvement as well as excellence in the national research base.‘

The report, ‘Rates of qualification from postgraduate research degrees: Projected study outcomes of full-time students starting postgraduate research degrees in 2010-11’ (HEFCE 2013/17), can be accessed on the HEFCE web-site.

Notes

  1. The term ‘postgraduate research degree’ is used to refer to all doctorate degrees obtained primarily through advanced supervised research written up as a thesis/dissertation. A student is defined as qualifying when they have been awarded a postgraduate research degree and the qualification obtained has been returned through the individualised HESA student record. This will typically be up to a year after the student submitted their thesis for assessment.
  2. The 2012 report, ‘Rates of qualification from postgraduate research degrees: Projected study outcomes of full-time students starting postgraduate research degrees in 2008-09 and 2009-10’ (HEFCE 2012/10), can be accessed on the HEFCE web-site.
  3. HEFCE consulted HEIs on the methodology used to calculate these qualification rates in late 2011. In February and May 2012, English institutions previewed their own results for the 2010-11 cohort for the purposes of quality assurance. This engagement led HEFCE to make some minor modifications to the 2012 methodology for the 2013 publication, and for this reason the tables accompanying HEFCE 2012/10 have been recreated to ensure accuracy and comparability with the most recent publication. The engagement also led to the suppression of nine institutions’ results, where problems they have identified in the underlying data they returned to HESA have led to misleading qualification rates being calculated.