Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence



  The Agency has considered whether any valid correlation could be made between non-continuation data contained in the performance indicators published by HEFCE, and the graded profiles published in the Agency's subject reviews.

  Non-continuation data is published for whole institutions, and by subject group for all institutions. Details of the style of reporting used at the time the non-continuation data were collected can be found in paragraph 72 of, and the appendix to the Agency's main evidence.

  The Agency reports on 61 subject groups (due to reduce to 42). The performance indicators use 13 subject groups. The larger number of groups can be aggregated to match to the smaller number.

  Each subject is reviewed once in an eight year cycle (due to reduce to six years). Whole institution data is accumulated over a cycle, whereas non-continuation data relates to single years. Both types of data would have to be considered over a whole cycle to enable any comparison to be made.

  The main difficulty in making a correlation is that the reporting categories used by the Agency did not identify progression and an retention issues separately. Student Progression and Achievement is reported on, and a grade given. However, it would be necessary to go to the narrative of the report to assess the extent to which the grading resulted from achievement, as opposed to progression issues.

  Similarly, Student Support and Guidance has a single grading that covers academic progression, pastoral support, and careers guidance. Again, the narrative would have to be consulted to assess the relative contribution of each factor to the overall grading.

  Finally, assessment is reported on within the Teaching, Learning and Assessment category. It is not uncommon for a mark to be dropped on one element alone, so the composite grade could not be taken as a proxy for performance in a single element, the narrative would need to be consulted.

  Those of the Agency's reports that are contemporary with the HEFCE data on non-continuation cannot readily be correlated to that data. A measure of subjective re-interpretation of the reports would be required, so the validity of the comparison would be questionable.

  The Agency's new style of reporting places all progression/retention issues in a single category of judgement. Whilst care would have to be taken in matching data by subject area and time of collection, some correlation should become possible.

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Prepared 19 February 2001