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What are HE students' progression rates and qualifications?

HE Student Data What are HE students' progression rates and qualifications?

On this page: Number of qualifications | Classifications achieved | Qualifications by subject of study

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation in March 2020, just over half way through the 2019/20 academic year. An insight brief has been published that analyses the impact of the pandemic on student data and trends across years of enrolments and qualifications across various characteristics. There are two known areas in which the pandemic has had some impact:

  • There is evidence to suggest that among a few providers, administrative hold-ups related to the pandemic resulted in significant numbers of qualifications awarded in 2019/20 not being reported. The impact of this under-reporting is believed to explain some of the 3% decrease in the number of qualifications achieved in 2019/20 compared with 2018/19, and the impact is most noticeable on the number of part-time qualifications awarded. Qualifications that were not reported in the 2019/20 academic year have carried over to 2020/21 and contributed to the 9% increase in the number of qualifications awarded in 2020/21.
  • In relation to classifications of first degrees and other awards, many providers issued public statements that a 'no detriment' approach would be adopted when it came to assessment in 2019/20. This typically ensured that students would be awarded a final grade no lower than the most recent provider assessment of their attainment.

The 2019/20 and 2020/21 data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exceptional guidance was issued to HE providers regarding a number of data fields within the collections to clarify HESA's expectations about how these fields should be treated in light of the pandemic.

Some information is taken from our Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2020/21 statistical bulletin.

All tables and charts include a link underneath allowing you to download the data. Many tables also include a link to download the complete source data as a machine-readable csv file.

Number of qualifications

Chart 10 - Qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2000/01 to 2020/21

 

Figure 2 - HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2011/12 to 2020/21

 

First degrees are those that, for the most part, lead to a bachelor's degree qualification such as BA or BSc. See the definition for Level of study for more detail.

Figure 15 - HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2016/17 to 2020/21

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Classifications achieved

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2019/20 many providers issued public statements that a 'no detriment' approach would be adopted when it came to assessment. This typically ensured that students would be awarded a final grade no lower than the most recent provider assessment of their attainment. Although many of the blanket ‘no detriment’ policies of the previous year were discontinued at the end of the 2019/20 academic year, many providers instituted modified mitigation policies designed to take into consideration the ongoing difficulties faced by students. The continuation of these mitigation policies, coupled with changes to assessment practices, is reflected in the degree classifications awarded in the 2020/21 academic year. More fetail can be found in The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on student data for 2020/21.

The graphs below exclude unclassified first degree qualifications.

Some first degree level qualifications are not subject to classification. These include medical and general degrees, ordinary degrees, and aegrotat qualifications. These unclassified degrees are not included in percentage calculations for class of degree.

Chart 9 - Classified first degree qualifications by class

Academic years 2006/07 to 2020/21

 

Figure 16 - Percentage of first degree qualifiers obtaining each classification

Academic years 2016/17 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 

Key fact: There was a significant increase in the proportion of HE student qualifiers obtaining a first class degree, from 28% in 2018/19 to 35% in 2019/20. Qualifiers obtaining a first class degree increased by 1% in 2020/21.

Table 26 - UK domiciled first degree qualifiers by classification of first degree, religious belief, sex, age group, disabilty marker and ethnicity marker

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 

The following table gives a breakdown of qualifications by HE provider. Use the buttons to switch between displaying the number of qualifications (by level of qualification obtained) and the degree classifications that first degree students achieved. 

Table 16 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and level of qualification obtained

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

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Qualifications by subject area

The 2019/20 academic year saw the implementation of Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) and the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH). The HECoS classification replaces JACS, used in previous years, with CAH serving as a means to connect HECoS and JACS. For more information, refer to HESA's webpage on HECoS and CAH. This release uses CAH v1.3.4. HESA have decided not to utilise CAH v1.3.4 for time series analysis following investigations of the quality characteristics of CAH. More information can be found in the notes to our Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2020/21 statistical bulletin.

Tables based on subjects coded according to the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) for years 2014/15 - 2018/19 are still available, please refer to the contents page to see these tables.

Figure 17 - HE qualifications obtained by CAH level 1 subject and sex

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 

Combined and general studies is only used for students on courses which do not specify a subject specialism. The majority of students in the combined and general studies subject area study at The Open University.

View data about subject of study by HE provider and teacher training qualifiers

Table 54 - HE qualifiers by subject of study and domicile

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE qualifiers by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
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The table below looks at the proportion of qualifications awarded that were for science subjects. For example the first row shows “out of all qualifications awarded to female students, x% were awarded in science subjects”.

Figure 18 - Percentage of HE student qualifications obtained in science subjects by personal characteristics

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 

To view data on science qualifications broken down by personal characteristics (e.g. “out of all science qualifications, x were awarded to female students”) please see HE qualifications obtained by subject area and sex above, and What are HE students' progression rates and qualifications?: Personal characteristics

The science grouping is an aggregation of CAH level 1 codes CAH01 through to CAH13 and CAH26 with the exception of CAH26-01-03 (Human geography). CAH26 (Geographical and environmental studies) has been disagreggated so that CAH26-01-03 (Human geography) is presented in the non-science grouping labelled as 'Geographical and environmental studies (social sciences)'. All other CAH level 3 codes within CAH26 are presented in the science grouping labelled as 'Geographical and environmental studies (natural sciences)'. This grouping of science subjects has been created by HESA. Feedback on this grouping is welcomed and can be sent to [email protected]

There is no single official definition of which subjects make up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The HESA science grouping includes subjects like medicine, nursing and agriculture that may not be included in other definitions of STEM.

What qualifications do HE students achieve?
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