What do HE students study?
These tables and charts show the subjects that students study in higher education. Subjects are coded according to the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). Detailed subject codes are grouped into Principal subjects, which are then arranged into 19 Subject areas. Some information is taken from our Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2017/18 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.
The table below provides subject codes at the maximum four-digit level of detail. Use the Subject of study drop-down to choose between Subject area (19 high level groups), Principal subject (165 two-digit codes), or 4-digit JACS subject (for maximum detail).
Figures in subject tables are Full Person Equivalent (FPE). If a student on a course (an 'instance') studies more than one subject we apportion that instance between those subjects. For example, a student studying ⅔ Business studies and ⅓ French will be counted as 0.67 FPE in Business & administrative studies and 0.33 FPE in Languages.
The table below looks at the proportion of students who studied science subjects. For example the first row shows “out of all female students, x% were studying science subjects”.
To view data on science students broken down by personal characteristics (e.g. “out of all science students, x were female”) please see What do HE students study?: Personal characteristics
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.
This chart shows the change in student numbers studying each subject from one year to the next. Use the buttons to see either percentage change or the change in actual numbers. Subjects with smaller numbers of students sometimes show large percentage fluctuations that actually represent small numbers of students.
Combined is used for courses that cover a range of subjects, such as modular courses offered by The Open University.
The table below gives a breakdown of students by subject at each HE provider. If you select either the science or non-science principal subjects buttons, a drop-down menu will appear allowing you to show detailed principal subject breakdowns within each subject area. For example, select Languages to see the separate figures for Chinese, French, Spanish, etc.
Table 13 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and subject of study
Academic years 2014/15 to 2017/18
The subject area with the highest number of students is Business & administrative studies, accounting for around 1 in every 7 students.
HE Student Data pages
- Who's studying in HE?
- Where do HE students come from?
- Where do HE students study?
- What do HE students study?
- What are HE students' progression rates and qualifications?
- Contents of releases
- Historical data
- Information on staff, graduates and HE providers
- Widening participation - UK Performance Indicators 2017/18
- Higher Education Student Statistics: UK 2017/18 - Statistical Bulletin
- Higher Education Student Statistics: Alternative Providers, 2016/17 - Statistical First Release
- Custom data and analysis request form
Support and contacts
- Introduction to our data on HE students
- Give us your feedback
- Pre-release access to official statistics
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