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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

Important - Changes to student data for 2019/20
Changes to data coverage mean that the latest student data differs from previously published data. Expand this box for more information.

Student data published by HESA prior to 2021 related mainly to data about all publicly funded HE providers in the UK (and the University of Buckingham) and HE level provision at further education (FE) colleges in Wales. This equated to all providers submitting data to the HESA Student record. This year we are combining data from both the HESA Student record and the HESA Student alternative record to provide a more complete picture of higher education within the UK. This means that the tables and charts within this release include data about:

  • Higher education (HE) providers in England registered with the Office for Students (OfS) in the Approved (fee cap) or Approved categories;
  • Publicly funded HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; and
  • Further education (FE) colleges in Wales.

For users wishing to undertake time-series analysis that make use of data drawn exclusively from the HESA Student record (and therefore comparable with the coverage of tables and charts previously published) this release additionally offers the option to download the source data for each table and chart based on that record alone. This can be done by clicking the link to 'Download source data 051 record only (csv)' underneath each table and chart. Please note that there have been coverage changes over time to both the Student and Student alternative record which can affect the validity of time series comparisons. Any significant changes have been explained in the definitions.

Impact of COVID-19 on student data
There are known areas in which the pandemic has had some impact on the 2019/20 Student data. Expand this box for more information.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020 part way through the 2019/20 academic year. The pandemic did not have any notable impact on student enrolment figures for 2019/20, but did have an impact on qualifications awarded.

Administrative delays related to the pandemic at a few providers meant that significant numbers of qualifications were not reported during the data collection process. The impact can be seen in the decrease in the number of qualifications achieved in 2019/20 compared with 2018/19, particularly among part-time students. These qualifications are expected to be reported to HESA in the 2020/21 data collection.

Many providers issued public statements that a ‘no detriment’ approach to assessment would be adopted in response to the pandemic. This typically ensured that students would be awarded a final grade no lower than the most recent provider assessment of their attainment. The impact can be seen in the increase in the proportion of first class degrees awarded in 2019/20 compared with 2018/19.

Some information is taken from our Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2019/20 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 2019/20

 

Figure 2 - HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2010/11 to 2019/20

 
What does first degree mean?

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 2015/16 to 2019/20

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Classifications achieved

Many providers issued public statements that a ‘no detriment’ approach to assessment would be adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This typically ensured that students would be awarded a final grade no lower than the most recent provider assessment of their attainment. The impact can be seen in the increase in the proportion of first class degrees awarded in 2019/20 compared with 2018/19.

The graphs below exclude unclassified first degree qualifications.

What does unclassified mean?

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 2019/20

 

Figure 16 - Percentage of first degree qualifiers obtaining each classification

Academic years 2015/16 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 

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.

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 2019/20

 
 
 
 

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 2019/20

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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. Following investigations of the quality characteristics of CAH (see notes for more details), HESA has decided not to utilise CAH v1.2 for time series analysis throughout this bulletin, pending further work.

Where can I find historic data about subjects by HE provider?

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 year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
What is the ‘combined and general studies’ subject area?

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

 
 
 
 
 
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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 student enrolments by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
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Table 51 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and subject of study

Academic year 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
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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 year 2019/20

 
 
 

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

How are science subjects defined?

The science grouping is an aggregation of CAH level 1 codes CAH01 through to CAH13 with the exception of CAH12-01-13 (Human geography). CAH12 (Geographical and environmental studies) has been disagreggated so that CAH12-01-13 (Human geography) is presented in the non-science grouping labelled as 'Geographical and environmental studies (social sciences)'. All other CAH level 3 codes within CAH12 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]

Are science subject areas the same as STEM?

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?
open-data   Open data licence: CC-BY-4.0

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