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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Responses to the July 2015 invitation to comment on future changes to the UK Performance Indicators


1. This circular letter and its annexes present a summary of responses to ‘Invitation to comment on future changes to the UK Performance Indicators’ (HEFCE Circular letter 17/2015), issued in July 2015. It also outlines the ways in which the UK Performance Indicators Steering Group (UKPISG) is responding to these comments. No action is required in response to this circular letter.

2. Following a fundamental review of the UK Performance Indicators (UKPIs) during 2013 (‘How should we measure higher education? A fundamental review of the Performance Indicators’), and recognising that full implementation of the review’s recommendations will take time and need to proceed in stages, UKPISG has taken the following steps:

  1. Accepted a set of recommendations arising from the fundamental review process.
  2. Committed to engage with the sector during the changes, and acted upon this by inviting the sector to comment on some first actions arising from the fundamental review during December 2013 (‘Invitation to comment on future changes to the UK Performance Indicators’ (HEFCE Circular letter 33/2013).
  3. Adopted in February 2014 a set of principles for UKPIs (available at that guide how existing indicators are reviewed and new UKPIs developed.
  4. Commenced an in-depth review of the Widening Participation and Research sets of UKPIs, and convened expert groups to participate in roundtable discussions on their future.

3. In July 2015, in a letter to the heads of higher education providers, the four funding bodies for higher education invited comment on further changes to the UKPIs. Respondents were invited to comment on the extended coverage and scope agreed for UKPIs, and on the proposed new Widening Participation indicators to be published as experimental statistics. They were also notified of a forthcoming roundtable of experts to provide advice about new research UKPIs.

4. UKPISG considered a summary analysis of responses to its July 2015 invitation to comment at its meeting in October 2015, and decided how to take account of those comments: an outline of the next steps agreed by UKPISG is provided at Annex A. Annex B sets out the areas where comment was invited and provides a summary analysis of the nature and strength of the comments we received in each area. There were 54 respondents.

Key points

5. Respondents were broadly supportive of the direction that UKPISG was proposing to take, and their responses contained invaluable advice and cautionary comments about implementing the changes. This has enabled UKPISG to provide its supporting UK Performance Indicators Technical Group (UKPITG) with a strong steer as to issues and concerns that need to be addressed in development work related to UKPIs.

6. UKPISG is keen to emphasise that the publication of possible future UKPIs as experimental statistics will provide further opportunity for feedback. It is also possible that the ongoing development work may rule out one or more possible indicators even reaching the level of an experimental statistic. UKPISG will continue to keep stakeholders updated. By mid-2016 UKPISG envisages publishing:

  1. The likely timescales for publishing experimental statistics which provide coverage of higher education students in publicly funded colleges and at alternative providers.
  2. The likely timescales for publishing new measures of widening participation and of research, in the form of a balanced range of measures in each area published as experimental statistics.
  3. UKPITG’s detailed understanding of issues identified in relation to publishing new measures of widening participation and of research, and especially to those based on school type, free school meals and household residual income. Also UKPITG’s interpretation of whether and how different issues can be overcome, and details of data sources, definitions and process (including quality assurance).

7. UKPISG has noted the potential for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ development of the Teaching Excellence Framework to have implications for or overlap with UKPISG’s work to review and refine UKPI measures. UKPISG will continue to consider the interaction between UKPISG’s review of the UKPIs and the possible use of UKPIs or similar metrics in the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework. Representation from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on UKPISG and UKPITG, at strategic and officer level respectively, will facilitate engagement and aid effective management of any overlaps.

8. UKPISG has previously noted that fully implementing the recommendations of the 2013 fundamental review would need to take time and proceed in stages. This continues to be the case, and work to review the retention and employment UKPIs is yet to begin.

Yours sincerely

Heather Fry

Director (Regulation and Assurance) and Chair of UKPISG

Date: 17 December 2015

Ref: Circular letter 31/2015

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of other providers of higher education in England, Heads of higher education providers in Scotland

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Higher education, Increasing and widening participation, Student experience and destinations, Research management

Enquiries should be directed to: