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Mature students lead the way for foundation degrees

2002/03 foundation degrees data released by HESA

Foundation degree courses have proved to be most popular amongst female mature students. The latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that in 2002/03, 71 per cent of first year foundation degree students were aged 21 or over and that 72 per cent of these mature students were female. A further breakdown of age categories shows that foundation degrees are most popular with students aged twenty-one to twenty-nine (26 per cent), closely followed by those aged in their thirties (25 per cent)1. The data relates to those studying foundation degrees at publicly funded higher education institutions.4

Overall the number of first year students enrolled on foundation degree courses increased markedly to 8,760 in the 2002/03 academic year. This compares to 3,200 in the previous year – the first year that foundation degree data was collected. Foundation degrees were first introduced in September 2001 in prototype form and serve as a higher education qualification with a vocational focus. In total there were 11,715 foundation degree students studying in 2002/03.

Today’s figures also give the first indication of what subject areas foundation degree students are studying. Education is the most popular with 20 per cent of first year students choosing to study this subject. This is followed by Social Studies (14 per cent) and Business and Administrative studies (13 per cent)2.

Full-time study accounted for 4,640 of first year foundation degree students. At 53 per cent this mode of study was marginally more popular than part-time study (4,120 students).

63 per cent, or 5,555, of first year foundation degree students were women compared to 3,205 men. In 2001/02 the gender gap was 61 per cent in favour of women.

UK based distance learning was chosen by 10 per cent of first year foundation degree students. This refers to those students not studying at their actual university or HE college campus, but instead studying primarily at home. A levels or equivalent qualifications were the highest entry qualifications held by entrants to foundation degrees by most students (40 per cent).

When looking at known ethnicity for UK domiciled students, 86 per cent of first years were found to be White, 5 per cent Black, 7 per cent Asian and 3 per cent from other ethnic groups. When compared to students at all levels of study these figures are quite comparable (White 86 per cent, Black 4 per cent, Asian 8 per cent, other 2 per cent). This indicates that foundation degrees are as equally attractive as other levels of higher education to students from non-White ethnic backgrounds. HESA also looked at the disability of foundation degree students, finding that 5 per cent were known to be disabled (this figure is also the same for students at all levels of study).

The 2002/03 academic year is the first year that data on foundation degree qualifiers is available. In all there were 1,110 qualifiers in this year. The majority of qualifiers completed courses in Creative Arts and Design (26 per cent), Business & Administrative Studies (21 per cent) and Engineering & Technology (15 per cent). Females made up 57 per cent of qualifiers.

Notes for Editors

  1. Percentage of first year Foundation Degree students by age and gender, 2002/03
    Age Female Male Total
    17 and under 0.2% 0.8% 0.4%
    18-20 19.9% 45.0% 29.1%
    21-24 12.7% 18.8% 14.9%
    25-29 11.2% 12.0% 11.5%
    30-39 30.7% 15.1% 25.0%
    40-49 22.1% 6.8% 16.5%
    50-59 3.3% 1.3% 2.5%
    60+ 0.1% 0.2% 0.1%
    Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
  2. Percentage of first year Foundation Degree students by subject area 2002/03
    Education 20.1%
    Social studies 13.9%
    Business & administrative studies 13.4%
    Creative arts & design 11.7%
    Computer science 9.2%
    Engineering & technology 8.3%
    Subjects allied to medicine 7.7%
    Combined 5.9%
    Agriculture & related subjects 2.8%
    Biological sciences 1.8%
    Mass communications & documentation 1.7%
    Architecture, building & planning 1.7%
    Physical sciences 1.1%
    Mathematical sciences 0.7%
    Law 0.2%
    Languages 0.1%
    Veterinary science 0.0%
    Historical & philosophical studies 0.0%
  3. Where percentages have been calculated unknowns have been excluded.
  4. This data relates to Foundation Degree enrolments and qualifiers at UK publicly-funded higher education institutions. It does not include data relating to students studying Foundation Degrees at further education colleges.
  5. The Reference Volume: Students in Higher Education Institutions, 2002/03 will be available later in 2004. This will contain further breakdowns and more detailed information on students in the 2002/03 academic year. HESA also provides an Information Provision service for tailor made data enquiries. Telephone 01242 211133 for more information.
  6. HESA is the central source for higher education statistics. HESA was set-up in 1993 following a Government White Paper ‘Higher Education: A New Framework’, which called for more coherence in higher education statistics.
  7. Press Enquiries should be directed to Press Officer at HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ; telephone: 01242 211133.


Press Release

Press Officer