Universities Scotland responds to HESA’s publication of Performance Indicators on access to university and non-continuation

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has published its set of performance indicators that track UK universities’ performance on widening access to non-traditional students as well as the non-continuation rates of students at undergraduate level.

Responding to the results, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:

On non-continuation rates:


“Retention rates at university are at a seven-year high following year-on-year progress in this area; the statistics show that now only 9.3 per cent of first degree students do not progress on to the second-year of university. Whilst this progress should be recognised, universities are keen to build on it and further reduce the rate of non-continuation.

“Non-continuation is a complex issue as people leave university prematurely for a whole host of reasons. Universities Scotland has been working with the SFC on a detailed study of retention, the results of which will be out later this year and will no doubt be invaluable in helping universities and policy makers further understand the issues involved.”


On widening access:


“Scotland is a net-importer of students from the rest of the UK. If you look at the proportion of Scots from non-traditional backgrounds at university in Scotland, the proportion is much higher than yesterday’s figures would suggest at 29.1 per cent. Widening access to people from non-traditional backgrounds continues to be a priority for Scotland’s universities however it has to continue to be an issue on which schools, colleges and universities work together as the main barriers of aspiration and attitude start many years before entry to university.”



  • HESA has published data on non-continuation rates since 2001/02. This year’s non-continuation figure of 9.3 per cent for full time, first degree entrants in Scottish universities is the lowest figure since the data records began.
  • If you look at only Scottish-domiciled students in Scottish universities (disaggregating them from students that come from the rest-of-the-UK) the proportion of Scottish-domiciled students of NS-SEC 4,5,6 &7 in Scottish universities is 29.1%. This figure is much closer to the proportion of NS-SEC 4,5,6 & 7 for the UK and Eng (at 30.0% and 30.1%).
  • The Scots-domiciled only figure is taken from SFC figures using HESA data and is for the same year 2009/10 so it is comparable with the data published today. The link to the data which shows the 29.1 per cent figure for Scottish universities can be found here.