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Introduction - Higher Education Statistics 2012/13

In 2012/13, there were 161 publicly-funded UK higher education institutions (HEIs). HESA holds data on these 161 institutions plus the privately funded institution, The University of Buckingham. This publication brings together student, staff and finance data collected by HESA at these UK institutions; application and acceptances data from UCAS; student loan information from Student Loans Company (SLC); participation rates from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) plus contextual population statistics from Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Applications and acceptances

The majority of UK domiciled full-time undergraduate students apply to UK HEIs through the UCAS application system. In 2012/13, there were 544,750 UK domiciled applicants to full-time higher education (HE) via UCAS (589,350 in 2011/12), of which 407,390 (74.8%) were accepted. Table A and Chart 1 illustrate the UCAS UK domiciled full-time undergraduate applicants and acceptances alongside the numbers of UK domiciled full-time undergraduate entrants studying at UK HEIs. The number of UK domiciled part-time undergraduate entrants is shown for comparison purposes. It is important to be aware that the coverage of UCAS data differs from that of the HESA data, so the graph may be used to analyse the trend, rather than for direct number comparisons.

Please note that the HESA figures published in Table A and Chart 1 of Higher Education Statistics for the UK prior to the 2012/13 edition also included non-UK domiciled students in error. The Agency would like to apologise for this oversight. Table A and Chart 1 for 2012/13 have been corrected to include only UK domiciled first year students within the HESA figures.

UK domiciled applicants, acceptances and entrances to HE 2008/09 to 2012/13

Student population

There were 2.3 million students studying for a HE qualification or for HE credit at UK HEIs in 2012/13. The number of HE students studying at UK HEIs gradually increased from 2008/09 to 2010/11, however this number fell slightly in 2011/12 and continued to drop in 2012/13. Overall since 2008/09 the percentage change was -2.3%, and since 2011/12 the percentage change was -6.3%, which reflects a general decline across the sector in all modes and levels of study which coincides with changes to the tuition fee arrangements.

An additional 35,235 students were known to be studying at further education (FE) level at UK HEIs, although this is likely to be an undercount as institutions are no longer required to return their FE data to HESA. Data on FE students at HEIs have therefore been excluded from the remainder of the introduction.

Table B provides more detail on students by level of study with comparisons between full-time and part-time, where full-time includes those following a full-time or sandwich programme. Since 2008/09, there has been a considerable drop in both full-time (-41.6%) and part-time (-47.1%) other undergraduate students. This may be in part because several institutions re-classified their nursing courses from a diploma of HE to a first degree during this time (see Notes to tables #22). For part-time postgraduate students the percentage change since 2011/12 was -7.4% compared with -10.7% percentage change since 2008/09. For context, Table B also includes data on HE level students studying at FE institutions in the UK.

Equivalent information on students studying at further education level can be found in the current Statistical First Release from the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Over half (56.1%) of the 2,340,275 HE students were following a full-time first degree programme. The following pie chart illustrates the breakdown of HE students by level and mode of study.

HE students by level of study and mode of study 2012/13

Sex and domicile

Over half (56.2%) of all students studying at UK HEIs were female, 43.8% were male. The difference was more noticeable among students studying part-time of whom 60.5% were female and 39.5% were male. For other-EU domiciled students, a higher percentage were female (53.7%) than male (46.3%). However, for non-EU domiciled students a higher percentage were male (50.8%) than female (49.2%)

Table C illustrates the differences in student numbers by level of study, mode of study, domicile and sex.

Subject of study

Table D shows that the distribution of HE student numbers by subject area varied by level of study.

High percentages of other undergraduate students studied subjects allied to medicine (26.6%) and in combined subject areas (12.9%). The high percentage in subjects allied to medicine can be explained because a qualification below first degree level is common in many health-related professions, especially nursing. Many Open University students may not initially have to declare their award intention and are reported as studying for institutional credit in the combined subject area. For both postgraduate and first degree students, the highest percentages were studying Business & administrative studies. (19.7% and 13.2% respectively).

Chart 3 below provides the numbers of HE students by subject area and level of study.

HE students by subject area and level of study 2012/13

Qualifications obtained

In 2012/13 a total of 787,900 qualifications were awarded at HE level to students at UK HEIs. Of these, a third were at postgraduate level, 51.2% were first degree qualifications and 15.5% were other undergraduate qualifications. Chart 4 illustrates this.

Over the period of 2008/09 to 2012/13 the total number of first degree qualifiers increased by 21.0%. This largely reflects the increasing numbers of entrants in earlier years progressing through the system. Table E provides a more detailed breakdown of qualifications obtained for the last five years.

Information on rates of completion for full-time first degrees are published separately in the ‘Projected Outcomes’ tables of the HESA Performance Indicators. These completion rates require two consecutive years’ data to produce so there is a time lag of one year between the latest data available (2012/13), and the latest completion rates (2011/12). The statistics show that the projected completion rate for full time first degrees increased slightly from 77.9% of 2007/08 entrants to 81.5% of 2011/12 entrants.

HE qualifiers by level of qualification obtained 2012/13

Destinations of leavers

Following a review in 2011/12 of the DLHE survey and consultation with government departments, HE funding bodies, the higher education sector and users of the data, the DLHE survey has been re-designed to collect richer information from leavers, particularly regarding their activities on the survey date. Leavers now report all the activities that they are undertaking on the census date and then indicate which one they consider to be most important to them. From these responses, destination categories are derived taking into account the most important activity and, in some instances, other activities the leaver is involved in. Read the changes to the survey document (pdf).

Consequently, the DLHE survey has different definitions for the destination categories reported to those prior to 2011/12. Direct comparisons should not therefore be made with figures presented prior to 2011/12.

The coverage of the survey has been expanded to include additional HE qualifications and now includes non-EU domiciled leavers where it was previously restricted to UK and EU domiciled leavers only. The eligible DLHE population in 2012/13 was 700,490 leavers (699,330 in 2011/12) of which 130,225 were non-EU leavers. Surveying these leavers was undertaken as a pilot for 2011/12, continuing in 2012/13, with a clear distinction that the information collected should not be published until carefully reviewed. These leavers are therefore excluded from this publication.

The DLHE survey includes those qualifiers who completed their programmes during the academic year 2012/13. The reference date for those obtaining the qualification between 1 August 2012 and 31 December 2012 was 15 April 2013, and the reference date for those obtaining the qualification between 1 January 2013 and 31 July 2013 was 13 January 2014.

In 2012/13, of the 570,265 UK and other EU domiciled leavers within the eligible DLHE population, there were 427,870 qualifiers who provided information about their destinations. This gives a percentage with known destination of 75.0% (72.4% in 2011/12). A further 18,965 qualifiers (28,290 in 2011/12) replied to the survey but explicitly declined to give information. Including the explicit refusals, the overall response rate for UK and other EU domiciled qualifiers was 78.4% (77.4% in 2011/12). Table F provides a breakdown of leavers’ activity by level of qualification obtained.

The following pie charts show comparatively the percentage of leavers by activity for postgraduate, first degree, other undergraduate and all leavers. Just over two-thirds (69.3%) of postgraduate leavers entered full-time work. The percentage was closer to half for first degree students (55.3%) and other undergraduates (45.2%). First degree leavers were more likely to be unemployed (7.3%) than postgraduates (5.6%) and other undergraduates (3.6%). Over a third of other undergraduates were engaged in study, either through a combination of work and further study (15.5%) or further study (21.5%).

Destination of postgraduate leavers by activity 2012/13

Destination of first degree leavers by activity 2012/13

Destination of other undergraduate leavers by activity 2012/13

Destination of all leavers by activity 2012/13

Table G and Chart 6 show how the distribution of leavers by activity varies for each subject area for full-time first degree leavers. Unemployment rates for full-time first degree leavers whose destinations were known varied between subjects, ranging from those which have traditionally low rates of unemployment, such as Medicine & dentistry (0.2%), Education (3.3%) and Subjects allied to medicine (4.2%) to those with higher rates of unemployment, such as Computer science (12.9%), Mass communications & documentation (10.8%), Creative arts & design (8.9%) and Business & administrative studies (8.9%). For all full-time first degree leavers, the percentage unemployed was 7.6%

Full-time first degree leavers having studied Law were the most likely to be engaged in some form of further study (including work and further study, 41.0%), which is a common path to qualification in that profession. In contrast, 93.0% of full-time first degree leavers who studied Medicine & dentistry and 89.0% who studied Veterinary science went into work and 2.0% and 1.1% respectively went into work and further study.

Percentage of full-time staff (excluding atypical) by subject area and activity 2012/13


The HESA Staff Record covers all academic and non-academic staff who have a contract of employment with a UK HEI, or for whom the HEI is liable to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions.

On 1 December 2012, there were in total, but excluding those staff on atypical1 contracts, 382,515 staff, of whom 185,585 were academic and 196,935 were non-academic. In addition, there were 74,075 academic staff on atypical contracts. Non-academic atypical staff are excluded from this publication as institutions were only obliged to return atypical staff on academic contracts.

The remainder of the staff figures exclude atypical staff. Table H provides a breakdown of academic staff by academic employment marker and mode of employment for the last five years.

Over the last 5 years both staff and student numbers have fluctuated. Overall staff numbers have increased by 1.1% since last year, but have actually showed little change since 2008/09. Over the same period student numbers increased up until 2010/11 but have since decreased with a drop of 6.3% since 2011/12 and 2.3% since 2008/09

Chart 7 illustrates the fluctuations of both students and academic staff over a five year period. It should be noted that the axis scale for staff differs from that of students in order to express both trends on the same chart. Following the regular review of the HESA Staff record there have been several changes to the collection of staff data for 2012/13. The changes which impact upon the figures in chart 7 include a change to the method for reporting academic contracts.

Students and academic staff (excluding atypical) at UK HEIs 2008/09 to 2012/13

Table I below shows academic staff by terms of employment, mode of employment, academic employment function and sex for 2012/13. Overall, there was a higher percentage of male academic staff than female. However, higher percentages of part-time academic staff were female. This was true for both open-ended/permanent and fixed-term contracts.

Chart 8 below illustrates the percentages of open-ended/permanent and fixed-term contract academic staff by academic employment function, mode of employment and sex. It can be seen that staff engaged in both teaching and research were much more likely to be employed on open-ended/permanent contracts than those undertaking only research.

Terms of employment of academic staff (excluding atypical) by academic employment function, mode of employment and sex 2012/13


The finance data collected by HESA from UK HEIs covers income and expenditure. Net income has increased at a slightly higher rate in cash terms (14.8% increase since 2008/09) than expenditure (11.9% increase since 2008/09) with a HE sector surplus across all years.

Table J provides a time series of the income by source and expenditure by type for the last five years.

Chart 9 illustrates the percentage change of the various sources of income over the same period. In particular, the percentage of income from tuition fees and education contracts has increased from 28.7% in 2008/09 to 40.0% in 2012/13.

HEI total income by source of income 2008/09 to 2012/13

Student Loans

Table K provides information on income from course fees of full-time UK and EU domicile undergraduates (source: HESA) alongside tuition fee loans and maintenance loans paid to HE students (source: SLC). The difference in coverage means that data from these two sources are not directly comparable; however, the figures allow some trend comparisons to be made. Although income of HEIs and loans paid to HE students have increased over time (with the exception of maintenance loans paid to HE students in Wales), the tuition fee loans paid to HE students have increased at a quicker rate, which coincides with changes to the tuition fee arrangements.

1 See Definitions for explanation of atypical staff.

© Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2014