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Who's studying in HE?

HE Student Data Who's studying in HE?

On this page: Student numbers | Student numbers by HE provider and subject of study | Personal characteristics | Widening participation

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 tables and charts on this page provide information on who is studying in higher education. 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.

Student numbers

The following tables and charts contain information on the numbers of students in higher education. 

Key fact: The total number of student enrolments increased by 3% from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

Chart 1 - Students by level of study

Academic years 2000/01 to 2019/20

 

Level of study is determined by the qualification that a student is aiming for.

HESA student figures include anyone enrolled for more than two weeks on a higher education (HE) course that is primarily based in the UK, unless they are an incoming exchange student, on sabbatical, writing-up or dormant. HE level students at further education (FE) colleges in Wales are included, but not students at FE colleges in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

See the definition of Standard registration population for more detail. For students studying primarily outside the UK, see our transnational education data.

Key fact: The number of first year postgraduate taught students increased by 10% from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

Figure 1 - First year higher education (HE) student enrolments by level of study

Academic years 2010/11 to 2019/20

 

 

 

Figure 3 - HE student enrolments by level of study

Academic years 2015/16 to 2019/20

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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.

View student numbers by full-time equivalent (FTE)

Chart 2 - First year students by level of study and mode of study

Academic years 2005/06 to 2019/20

 

The following table provides data on the breadth of UK student enrolments, including data on HE students at FE colleges throughout the UK. Some of this data is sourced from external organisations as detailed in the notes to the table.

Figure 4 - HE student enrolments at HE and FE providers by level of study and HE provider type

Academic years 2015/16 to 2019/20

 
 
 

* 2019/20 data for FE providers in Northern Ireland is provisional. Due to a delay in availability of this data, 2018/19 values have been carried across to 2019/20. Please use caution in interpreting this data, in particular when viewing breakdowns by level and mode of study. The Northern Ireland FE data for 2018/19 is also included within UK wide totals for 2019/20 when the Country of provider filter is set to “All”. This table will be updated in due course with final data once available from DfE(NI).

Student numbers by HE provider and subject of study

The table below shows the number of students at each HE provider. Use the buttons on the right to show a breakdown by sex or domicile (UK/EU/non-EU). Use the filters to restrict to first year students only, full-time or part-time students, or a particular level of study.

Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Table 1 - HE student enrolments by HE provider

Academic years 2014/15 to 2019/20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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See Where do HE students study? for further information on specific universities and other HE providers

HESA collects data from universities, higher education colleges and other specialist providers of higher education. Collectively, we refer to these organisations as higher education (HE) providers. Most tables of HESA data count students at providers in England registered with the OfS in the Approved (fee cap) or Approved categories plus publicly funded higher education providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. From 2016/17, HE level students at further education (FE) colleges in Wales are included, but not HE level students at FE colleges in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

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.

 

Table 46 - HE student enrolments by subject of study

Academic years 2019/20

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Table 9 provides data on students by subject at each HE provider for years 2014/15 - 2018/19. This is based on subjects coded according to the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). Table 46 replaces Table 9 from 2019/20, following the introduction of HECoS and CAH in the same year. Refer to the contents page to see other tables containing JACS data.

See What do HE students study? for more detailed information

Personal characteristics

The following table provides overview information on all students broken down by sex, age group, disability status, and religious belief, and on UK domiciled students broken down by ethnicity.

Figure 5 - HE student enrolments by personal characteristics

Academic years 2015/16 to 2019/20

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Widening participation

The following table summarises some of our published measures of widening participation.

Figure 6 - UK domiciled full-time HE undergraduate student enrolments by participation characteristics

Academic years 2018/19 to 2019/20

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Local areas are given a score of 1-5 based on how many young people from those areas have historically gone into higher education. The 20% of areas with the lowest proportion of young people entering HE are called 'Low participation neighbourhoods'. POLAR stands for 'Participation of Local Areas' and is calculated by the OfS (Office for Students). POLAR is re-calculated every few years. This data is only returned to HESA for students who apply through UCAS, so to align with the cohort who typically enter through this route, the table has been restricted to undergraduate UK domiciled full-time students. Some regions of the UK have traditionally high participation rates, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Figures in these areas, when viewed in isolation could misrepresent the contribution being made to widening participation. For a number of years, HESA publications have for this reason excluded data for Scotland from POLAR figures (both where the country of HE provider or country of domicile is in Scotland). As such, low participation figures for all countries in a given year, will not sum to totals represented at the bottom of the table.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland) recommend the use of the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure (NIMDM) Quintiles as a more representative measure of educational disadvantage among these students. Although Northern Ireland data has historically been included in POLAR figures published by HESA, recognising the possibility for misrepresentation of this data coupled with the availability of NIMDM as an alternative in some HESA published tables from January 2019, HESA are proposing to remove Northern Ireland data from POLAR figures in all publications from January 2022. If you wish to provide feedback on this proposal, please email [email protected].

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

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