Our current approach
The Office for Students (OfS) uses benchmarking to make meaningful comparisons between higher education providers, different student groups and other groups or units of interest.
Because there are such differences between some of these groups and providers, average values for the whole of the higher education sector are not necessarily helpful when making these comparisons.
To account for some of the factors that contribute to these differences, we calculate a sector average that is then adjusted (‘weighted’) for each group based on the characteristics of the students in that group or the provision being offered.
The factors we commonly use in calculating these sector averages relate to individual students at a provider, and include their:
- subject of study
- age on entry
- qualifications on entry
- mode of study.
The sector average, adjusted for these factors, is called the adjusted sector benchmark. It can be used in two ways:
- to see how well a group is performing compared to the higher education sector as a whole
- to assess similarities between groups and providers.
We use benchmarking in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and the National Student Survey (NSS).
Our current methodology to benchmarking is well established and has been used in the UK Performance Indicators (UKPIs) since 1997.
Read more about our current benchmarking approach and methodology.
More technical details of the methodology are described in ‘Statistical analysis of performance indicators in UK higher education’ by D. Draper and others, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, volume 167, part 3, 2004.