Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-22, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 20 January, 2022 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2022.


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Full-time equivalent (FTE)

core definition

Full-time equivalent is the proportion of a nominal full-time student in higher education that a non-full-time student is judged to constitute.

explanatory context

Full-time equivalent computations are used for comparative purposes, often related to funding or making comparisons about the size of institutions.

analytical review

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (undated) defines full-time equivalent or full-time equivalence as follows:

For comparison and funding purposes, numbers of part-time students and staff are converted to full-time equivalents. This is because a direct head-count is often a poor indication of the actual volume of activity.


The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (undated) states:

Full-time equivalent: A measure where each part-time staff member or student is expressed as a fraction (or decimal) of a full-time staff member or student, the total being considered collectively for comparison and funding purposes.

EC Eurostat (2010) defines full-time equivalent as:

A full-time equivalent, sometimes abbreviated as FTE, is a unit to measure employed persons or students in a way that makes them comparable although they may work or study a different number of hours per week.
The unit is obtained by comparing an employee's or student's average number of hours worked to the average number of hours of a full-time worker or student. A full-time person is therefore counted as one FTE, while a part-time worker/student gets a score in proportion to the hours he or she works or studies. For example, a part-time worker employed for 20 hours a week where full-time work consists of 40 hours, is counted as 0.5 FTE.
The workforce of an enterprise, activity, or country etc. can then be added up and expressed as the number of full-time equivalents. In the context of education the FTE unit attempts to standardize a student's actual course load in comparison with the normal course load.


The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) (2011, citing the Northwest Educational Technology Consortium (2005), states:

Full-time equivalent – The number of students at a given institution if every student were full time, based on the local definition of full time. (Northwest Educational Technology Consortium, 2005)

associated issues

related areas

See also



European Commission, Eurostat, 2010, Glossary:Full-time equivalent (FTE), available at, modified on 27 May 2010, accessed 30 August 2012, page modified 5 November 2013, accessed 3 January 2017 (quoted definition unchanged), still available 26 June 2019.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 29 August 2012, not available 20 June 2019.

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), 2011, The Online Learning Definitions Project, October, iNACOL.

Northwest Educational Technology Consortium, 2005, Digital Bridges Glossary of Online Education Terms, available at, accessed 4 August 2011, not available 23 June 2013.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 3 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2022

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