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What do HE students study?: Types of subjects and courses

HE Student Data What do HE students study?

On this page: MBA students | Sandwich courses | Initial Teacher Training (ITT)

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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.

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.

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. HESA have decided not to utilise CAH v1.2 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, 2019/20 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 on this page 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.

MBA students

This table shows the number of students studying for a Masters of Business Administration qualification. These courses usually last one year and are often popular with international students.

Key fact: 50% of MBA students come from outside the UK.

Chart 8 - MBA students by domicile 2014/15 to 2019/20

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20


Sandwich courses

Students on a sandwich course are expected to take six months or more out of their course to undertake work experience or study abroad. This table shows the total numbers of students on undergraduate sandwich courses (not the number who were actually away from the HE provider during the academic year in question).

Table 48 - Undergraduate sandwich student enrolments by subject of study and sex

Academic years 2019/20


Initial teacher training (ITT)

This table shows students on courses leading to teaching qualifications.

Table 20 - ITT students by HE provider and level of study

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20


Initial Teacher Training students are studying Education with the view to become a qualified teacher.

Go to What qualifications do HE students achieve?: Detailed breakdown for ITT qualifications awarded

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What do HE students study?
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