Hefce has been working on drop-out, or non-continuation, data since 1996 when it got the second batch of university data from HESA, writes Alan Thomson.
Hefce soon realised that more sophisticated data processing was necessary to produce more accurate drop-out rates. The first of the new information is being collected this academic year but HEFCE will have to wait until 2001 to do an accurate year-on-year comparison. Therefore it decided to make the best use of existing data now.
Statistics, derived from HESA records for 1994 to 1997, were sent to universities in July with a request for confirmation.
HEFCE drop-out statistics published later this year will relate only to full-time first degree undergraduates who left before completion and did not go on to another UK institution. Therefore students who left to start work, to go into further education or perhaps to emigrate, will be lumped together as drop-outs.
Part-timers were excluded because they are assumed to not always intend completing their courses.
HEFCE will be able to say precisely what its final non-continuation statistic means. It will be a benchmark rather than a figure that enables direct comparison between universities.
HEFCE will meet other bodies next month to finalise the figures.