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What do HE students study?: Personal characteristics

HE Student Data What do HE students study?

On this page: Personal characteristics by subject of study | Detailed ethnicity breakdown | Entry qualifications

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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.

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.

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.

Personal characteristics by subject of study

In the tables below, use the buttons to show subject statistics by age, disability, ethnicity, sex or domicile. Note that ethnicity data is only collected for UK domiciled students.

Key fact: The most popular CAH level 1 subject among those aged 20 and under is Business & management.

Show:

Table 43 - HE student enrolments by subject of study and age group

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
 

Table 44 - HE student enrolments by subject of study and disability marker

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
 

Table 45 - UK domiciled HE student enrolments by subject of study and ethnicity

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
 

Table 46 - HE student enrolments by subject of study

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

Show:

 
 
 
 
 
 

Detailed ethnicity breakdown

Table 53 - UK domiciled undergraduate students of known ethnicity by CAH level 1 subject and ethnicity

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 

Entry qualifications

This table shows, for UK domicile entrants, the highest qualification they held at the start of their course. Use the Subject of study drop-down to show the more detailed CAH level 3 subject breakdowns.

Table 47 - First year UK domiciled HE student enrolments by subject of study and highest qualification on entry

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
 

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What do HE students study?
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