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Methodological Note For Analyses Relating To The Age Participation Index For Scotland

Data Sources

These tables contain information on students from both Colleges and HEIs who are attending Higher Education courses in the UK. These statistics are collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA [1]) from HEIs and by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC [2]) from Scotland's Colleges (Colleges). The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS [3]) produces mid year population estimates that are used as the denominator in the calculation of the API.

API data sources

Where analysis refers to institutions (rather than HEIs or colleges) student data from both Scottish HEIs and Scottish colleges has been combined to report on all Scottish institutions.


Following consultation in 2007 the method of identifying students was changed in 2009 to provide a greater level of consistency with HESA. The figures in this publication that relate to higher education institutions are defined by HESA's standard registration population 2008-09. To allow comparisons across years all time-series have been revised according to this definition.

The standard registration population includes all higher education student instances active at a reporting institution at any point in the reporting period 1st August to 31st July except; dormant students, incoming visiting exchange students, students who study wholly outside the UK, students on sabbatical and writing up students.

Data from Scottish colleges continues to be reported in the same way as in previous years and excludes those students who do not complete the first 25 per cent of their course (the point at which they become eligible for funding).

Student/Entrant Instances

HESA's Student Records use the term 'instance' to describe a student's engagement within an institution. A student may enrol on more than one course and therefore have more than one instance. It is instances that are reported in this publication. This approach is consistent with that of HESA. The same approach is taken when reporting on student activity at Scottish colleges. 'Entrants' are those students in their first year of their course of study; students who retake their first year are not counted as entrants. Where references are made in these tables to 'entrants' this should be interpreted as 'instances'.

Open University

As the API only includes those Scottish domiciled entrants aged under 21 in full-time courses of higher education, entrants to Open University are excluded as the vast majority study part-time.

Analysis by Local Authority

In order to determine the local authority an entrant resided in prior to commencement of their course, postcodes of the home location of students (taken from student records) are matched to the most recent postcode file at the beginning of each academic year. Not all postcodes from student records can be matched to records in the postcode files; some postcodes may be incomplete, missing or reference postcodes not found on the Scottish postcode files. Postcodes that came into effect after the compilation of the postcode file may also not provide a match. For analysis by local authority, entrants are only included if their postcode provided a match to the relevant postcode file. In 2008-09, 99.7 per cent of postcodes for the API entrant population were successfully matched to the postcode file.

Entrants from Deprived Areas of Scotland

Analysis of entrants from deprived areas of Scotland is based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (2009) combines 38 indicators across 7 domains, namely: income, employment, health, education, skills and training, housing, geographic access and crime. The overall index is a weighted sum of the seven domain scores. The weighting for each domain is based on the relative importance of the domain in measuring multiple deprivation, the robustness of the data and the time lag between data collection and the production of the SIMD.

Entrants from deprived areas are Scottish domiciled entrants to HE whose pre-study location was within one of the 20 per cent lowest ranked areas in Scotland. The SIMD is split into 6,505 small areas called datazones, with the 20 per cent lowest ranked areas comprising of datazones 1 to 1,301. A process of postcode matching was undertaken to identify which datazones students belonged to prior to study. In 2008-09, 99.6 per cent of the API entrant population were successfully matched through this process. Entrants whose postcodes belonged to one of the 20 per cent lowest ranked datazones in the SIMD are classified as entrants from deprived areas.

To date there have been three SIMDs (SIMD 2004, SIMD 2006 and SIMD 2009). For each academic year contained within the deprived analysis, the closest SIMD to when entrants would have applied to study HE in the UK was chosen. The table below displays the factors considered when pairing student records to versions of SIMD.

In these tables, academic years 2001-02 to 2004-05 relate to SIMD 2004, 2005-06 and 2006-07 relate to SIMD 2006 and academic years 2007-08 and 2008-09 relate to SIMD 2009.

SIMD method_2008/09

More information on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation can be found at the following web address: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/SIMD.

Level of Study

First Degree students include; first degrees, first degrees with qualified teacher status, enhanced first degrees, first degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma and intercalated first degrees.

Sub Degree students include; Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), professional qualification at undergraduate level, foundation courses at HE level, HND, HNC, NVQ/SVQ levels 5 and 4, diplomas and certificates at undergraduate level and other formal HE qualifications of less than degree standard. Other HE includes all sub-degree level study excluding HNCs/HNDs.

Data Presentation

In all tables figures have been rounded to the nearest 5. 0, 1, 2 are rounded to 0. Unknown values are not displayed individually in tables but are included in totals. Figures may not sum to totals due to rounding and the inclusion of unknown values. Unless stated otherwise, percentages in tables are calculated from unrounded values. Percentages in the text and charts are calculated from rounded values.Changes to the calculation of the API

For the 2008-09 update, the method of deriving the numerator of the API was changed. The numerator of the API calculation is the combination of the number of entrants meeting the criteria for inclusion in the API from UK HEIs (taken from HESA records) and Scottish colleges (taken from SFC records).

In previous versions of the API, a field (called NEWENT) identified whether or not an entrant had prior experience of higher education. This was used to select only those who were genuinely first time participants to HE. This field was only available from HEI records and not available from college records. In 2008-09 an investigation of the quality of this field compared the proportions of entrants with prior experience of HE found using the NEWENT field against the results of a process of matching records between years to identify entrants who had previously studied HE over a given time period. The results of this investigation showed that the NEWENT field was unreliable.

As a result, it has been necessary to use an alternative method for identifying those entrants with prior experience of higher education. A fuzzy matching process has been used in 2008-09 and has been applied retrospectively to produce a consistent time-series covering academic years 1999-00 to 2008-09. More detail on this method was provided on page 3. A similar methodology has been applied to entrants from colleges.

The API calculated on the former method has been updated with data from 2008-09 to allow comparisons between the results using the former API method and the revised method.

[1] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) website: http://www.hesa.ac.uk

[2] Scottish Funding Council (SFC) website: http://www.sfc.ac.uk

[3] General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) website: http://gro-scotland.gov.uk