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Who's studying in HE?: Personal characteristics

HE Student Data Who's studying in HE?

On this page: Breakdown by sex | Personal characteristics by HE provider and by subject of study | Detailed disability, ethnicity and age breakdowns

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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.

Breakdown by sex

Key fact: In 2020/21, 57% of students were female.

Chart 3 - HE Students by sex

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 

Personal characteristics by HE provider

Key fact: 15% of students in 2020/21 were known to have a disability. This has increased in recent years largely due to students reporting mental health conditions or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or AD(H)D.

Show:

Table 3 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and age group

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 

Table 4 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and disability marker

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 

Table 5 - UK domiciled HE student enrolments by HE provider and ethnicity marker

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 

Personal characteristics by subject of study

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.

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

 
 
 
 
 
 

Tables 6, 7 and 8 provide data on subjects students study by their personal characteristics for years 2014/15 - 2018/19. This is based on subjects coded according to the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). Tables 43, 44 and 45 replace Tables 6, 7 and 8 respectively from 2019/20, following the introduction of HECoS and CAH in the same year. Refer to the contents page to see these and other tables containing JACS data.

See What do they study? for more detailed information on HE courses

See What are HE students' progression rates and qualifications? for equivalent data on qualifiers from HE providers

Detailed disability and ethnicity breakdowns

Show:

Table 14 - UK domiciled student enrolments by ethnicity and sex

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 

Table 15 - UK domiciled student enrolments by disability and sex

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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

Academic years 2019/20 to 2020/21

 
 

Key fact: The proportion of students aged 20 and under decreased by 2% relative to 2019/20, while those aged 30 and over increased by 2%.

Table 58 - HE student enrolments by age and domicile

Academic years 2014/15 to 2020/21

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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