Learning gain

Learning gain pilot projects

A collection of 13 collaborative projects, involving 70 universities and colleges, were funded to test and evaluate different ways of measuring learning gain.

The projects combined two different approaches: cross-sectional (comparing students in different cohorts at the same time) and longitudinal (analysing progress over time).

Each project had an evaluation strand built within it. We also appointed an external researcher, Dr Camille Kandiko-Howson from Imperial College London, to evaluate outputs and outcomes, and draw out collective findings. 

This evaluated data on careers registration. In particular, it considered whether data can assess how far students are ready for work, predict their future area of employment, and other relevant outcomes. 

Project partners: University College London, School of Oriental and African Studies, Goldsmiths, King’s College London, Queen Mary, University of London, St George’s, Royal Veterinary College, St Mary’s University, Liverpool John Moores University, Lancaster University, University of Exeter, University of Bristol
Project site

This project worked with three other universities to run a project that used the CLA+ standardised assessment tool and the UK Engagement Survey (UKES). The CLA+ tool assesses students’ critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and written communication skills. UKES evaluates how students are engaging with their learning.

Project partners: Liverpool John Moores University; Coventry University; Staffordshire University

The project experimented with, and evaluated, three approaches to measuring learning gain among cohorts of students across five disciplines in two institutions. It assessed the institutional factors that may help and hinder the adoption of each approach.

Project partner: City College Norwich

By using a number of methodological approaches, this project analysed students’ skills development. It included academic skills tests, and self-assessment of confidence measures with reference to academic study and career development.

Project partners: Brunel University London; University of Roehampton

This longitudinal study followed students from different subjects throughout their undergraduate studies. It included a self-assessment skills audit, and a situational judgement test.

Project partners: University of Huddersfield


This project worked with 15 other further education colleges to develop measures that show the value of higher education in further education. It looked at ways to understand how students perceive the impact of their experience in higher education. It assessed how programme leaders perceive their cohort’s journey through the year, and analysed student grade information and attendance data.

Project partners: The Blackpool and Fylde College; Bradford College; City College Norwich; Doncaster College; Gloucester College; Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education; Hull College; Leeds City College; New College Durham; Rotherham College; Tameside College; South Devon College; Wakefield College; West Herts College; York College

This project investigated ways of:

  • standardising entry and exit qualifications in (and out of) higher education
  • designing and validating new measures of dispositions and critical skills
  • modelling change in learning outcomes, for robust measurement of the ‘distance travelled’.

This project carried out secondary data analysis of existing Affective-Behaviour-Cognition (ABC) model data for previous academic years. It then carried out a mixed-method study of new ABC data for the academic years 2015 to 2017, including interviews with participants as well as work on learner analytics.

Project partners: Oxford Brookes University; University of Surrey
Project site


This project analysed the measurement of student research skills as an aspect of higher education skills development in six academic disciplines, and student achievement data.

Project partners: City College Plymouth; Bridgwater and Taunton College; Cornwall College, Petroc; Strode College; South Devon College

This project developed psychometric tests of learning gain. It focused on non-cognitive elements, such as resilience and employability identity. The project also explored ways to develop learning gain and the relationship with early preferences for learning, demographics, faculty input, student engagement, UCAS points and degree outcomes.

Project partners: University of Southampton; Royal Holloway; Roehampton University

This project measured the learning gain from work placements and work-based learning, as part of a course of study.

Project partners: Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Southampton Solent University; Rose Bruford College; Falmouth University; Norwich University of the Arts; Arts University Bournemouth

By testing and evaluating a range of available methodologies, this project drew conclusions on what might be the right combination of instruments for the measurement of learning gain. These measures include degree classification outcomes, UKES, NSS, Student Wellbeing Survey and CLA+. 

This project comprised of four work packages, one in curriculum areas and three related to employability. They used a range of methods, including longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches, to test and develop tools to effectively measure student learning gain.

Project partners: University College London; University of Birmingham; University of Bristol; University of Cambridge; University of Durham; University of Exeter; University of Leeds; University of Liverpool; University of Manchester; University of Nottingham; University of Southampton; University of Sheffield; University of York; Imperial College London; King’s College London; Newcastle University; Queen Mary University of London

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