Postgraduate research degree qualification rates improving

A report published by HEFCE presents projected rates of qualification for a cohort of students studying for postgraduate research degrees. Data on students who began their studies in 2010-11 show that their projected completion rates are higher than equivalent rates for students beginning postgraduate research degrees in recent years. 

Postgraduate research degree qualification rates improving

The study looks at projected rates of qualification following research degree study, for students living in the UK and EU who started full-time research degrees at English HEIs in 2010-11. Qualification rates are provided for each HEI, and have been projected over periods of 7 years (at which point there is a reasonable expectation that the majority of students who will ever complete their qualification will have done so) and 25 years (taken as the point when any student who will ever complete has done so).

The latest data show that around 73 per cent of the 11,625 students who started research degrees in English HEIs in 2010-11 are projected to qualify within seven years, and around 80 per cent will qualify over a longer period. These figures have each increased by over 2 percentage points since the 2009-10 cohort. These outcomes demonstrate an improvement on those observed for previous cohorts considered under this methodology.

Publication: Rates of qualification from postgraduate research degrees Projected study outcomes of full-time students starting postgraduate research degrees in 2010-11



  1. The term postgraduate research degree’ is used to refer to all doctorate degrees obtained primarily through advanced supervised research written up as a thesis/​dissertation. A student is defined as qualifying when they have been awarded a postgraduate research degree and the qualification obtained has been returned through the individualised HESA student record. This will typically be up to a year after the student submitted their thesis for assessment.
  2. The 2012 report, Rates of qualification from postgraduate research degrees: Projected study outcomes of full-time students starting postgraduate research degrees in 2008-09 and 2009-10’ (HEFCE 2012/10), can be accessed on the HEFCE web-site.
  3. HEFCE consulted HEIs on the methodology used to calculate these qualification rates in late 2011. In February and May 2012, English institutions previewed their own results for the 2010-11 cohort for the purposes of quality assurance. This engagement led HEFCE to make some minor modifications to the 2012 methodology for the 2013 publication, and for this reason the tables accompanying HEFCE 2012/10 have been recreated to ensure accuracy and comparability with the most recent publication. The engagement also led to the suppression of nine institutions’ results, where problems they have identified in the underlying data they returned to HESA have led to misleading qualification rates being calculated.