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Qualifications obtained by and examination results of higher education students at higher education institutions in the United Kingdom for the academic year 2003/04

Statistical First Release SFR82


This Statistical First Release (SFR) has been produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in collaboration with Department for Education and Skills (DfES) statisticians. It provides provisional details of qualifications obtained by and examination results of higher education (HE) students at HE institutions (HEIs) in the United Kingdom (UK) for the academic year 2003/04.

Key Points

The number of first degree graduates in 2003/04 was 282,100 compared to 273,400 in the previous year.

Of those gaining a first degree in 2003/04, 11% obtained a first class honours award compared to 10% in the previous year, and 44% obtained an upper second class honours award compared to 45% in the previous year.

10% of first degree graduates gained their award through part-time and other modes of study in 2003/04 compared to 11% in 2002/03.

56% of first degree graduates in 2003/04 were women, the same as in 2002/03.

In 2003/04, 43% of first degree graduates achieved their qualification in a science discipline, compared to 42% in the previous year. Of these, 48% were women, the same as in 2002/03.

156,800 students obtained HE qualifications at postgraduate level in 2003/04. Of these, 26,700 (17%) were awarded a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), 14,100 (9%) completed their studies mainly by research, and a further 115,900 (74%) obtained qualifications after following taught postgraduate courses other than PGCE.

The number awarded other undergraduate qualifications was 101,000 in 2003/04, an increase of 7% from 2002/03.

38,300 undergraduate and 53,300 postgraduate students obtaining HE qualifications in 2003/04 came from overseas. Overseas students accounted for 17% of all students awarded HE qualifications in 2003/04.


Table 1 shows the Qualifications Obtained by Students on HE courses at HEIs in the UK by Mode of Study, Domicile, Gender and Level of Course, 1999/2000 to 2003/04.

Table 2 shows Examination Results of Students Obtaining First Degree Qualifications at HEIs in the UK by Gender and Mode of Study, 1999/2000 to 2003/04.

Table 3 shows the Qualifications Obtained by Students on HE courses at HEIs in the UK by Level of Course, Gender and Subject Area, 1999/2000 to 2003/04.

Download all tables

Notes to Editors

  1. The statistics in this SFR are derived from data collected from publicly funded HEIs in the UK by HESA. The figures include HE qualifications awarded by The Open University but exclude those obtained at further education colleges, the University of Buckingham and at other private and independent HE colleges.
  2. The 2003/04 figures in this SFR are provisional.
  3. For the 2000/01 and subsequent data collections, the figures exclude qualifications obtained by incoming visiting and exchange students. To enable comparison, there were approximately 500 first degree qualifications obtained by incoming visiting and exchange students not included in the figures presented for 2000/01.
  4. The figures presented for 1999/2000 have been adjusted to take account of under-reporting of qualifiers by one institution. The figures presented here may therefore differ from those published elsewhere that do not contain these adjustments.

    A number of qualifications awarded have been adjusted in previous years to take account of differences in reporting practices, mis-coding or mis-reporting of qualifiers by some institutions. Details of these adjustments can be found in earlier versions of this SFR.

  5. The figures presented in this SFR include all qualifications submitted to HESA by a reporting deadline; however, this deadline has changed over the years. Details of reporting schedules are given in earlier versions of this SFR. These changes are not thought to have affected the number of qualifications reported.
  6. A statistical reference volume Students in Higher Education Institutions, 2003/04 setting out more information about students in higher education in the UK will be published by HESA in Spring 2005.
  7. In 2002/03 the Joint Academic Subject Classification (JACS) replaced HESACODE as the basis for grouping by Subject Area. Although JACS and HESACODE look similar and are closely related, they are not by any means identical, and so are not directly comparable. It has accordingly been necessary for 2002/03 onwards to construct Subject Area definitions afresh in terms of JACS.

    The shift of numbers shown between 2001/02 and 2002/03 in Table 3 is largely attributable to the introduction of a new procedure of apportionment for dealing with students, notably those on combined/split programmes, rather than to the changes in the way subjects are classified. It can also be seen that improved reporting practice has led to further reduction in the numbers on combined programmes shown in 2003/04.

    Details of both the differences between HESACODE and JACS and this apportionment algorithm can be found here.


  1. Higher education students are those students on courses that are of a standard that is higher than the Advanced Level of the General Certificate of Education, the Higher Grade of the Scottish Certificate of Education, GNVQ/NVQ level 3 or the BTEC or SCOTVEC National Certificate/Diploma.
  2. The figures presented in this SFR, with the exception of 2002/03 and 2003/04 figures shown in Table 3 (see Notes to Editors 7), are counts of student enrolments during the reporting period 1 August to 31 July that are associated with the award of an HE qualification.
  3. Level of course

    Postgraduate courses are those leading to higher degrees, and diplomas and certificates (including postgraduate certificates of education and professional qualifications), which usually require a first degree as an entry qualification.

    First degrees include first degrees, first degree leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care or veterinary statutory regulatory body, first degrees with qualified teacher status, enhanced first degrees, first degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma, and intercalated first degrees.

    Other undergraduate HE includes all HE courses not listed above (e.g. Post Registration health and social care courses, Foundation Degree, Diploma of Higher Education, Higher National Diploma, Diploma in HE leading towards obtaining eligibility to register to practice with a health or social care regulatory body, etc).

    Foundation Degrees were first introduced in September 2001 in prototype form and serve as a higher education qualification with a vocational focus. In 2003/04, just over 3,000 students obtained a Foundation Degree from UK HEIs but because of the relatively small numbers they are not shown separately in the tables.

  4. Mode of study

    Full-time students include all students studying full-time (for more than or equal to 24 weeks in the academic year), students on thick or thin sandwich courses, and those on a study-related year out of their institution.

    Part-time students include those studying part time, on block release, during the evenings only, full-time for less than 24 weeks in the academic year or those employing ‘Other’ modes of study.

    Other modes of study include those students writing-up theses or on sabbatical.

    Figures for awards from dormant status are not included in this SFR. In 2003/04 there were 55,800 qualifications obtained by students whose mode of study was dormant, 45% of which were postgraduates.

  5. Domicile

    UK domiciled students are those normally resident in the United Kingdom, including those living in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

  6. Classification of first degrees

    The classification of an undergraduate degree indicates the qualification class that the student obtained. Certain qualifications obtained at first degree level are not subject to classification of the award, notably medical and general degrees. These, together with ordinary degrees, fourth class honours and unclassified honours have been included within the ‘Pass’ category.

  7. In the text the figures presented are rounded to the nearest 100. The figures presented in the tables are shown in thousands, or percentages calculated on the base data.

    The symbols used in the tables are:

    ‘0.0’ zero

    ‘-’ non-zero, less than the least significant figure shown (50).

  8. Press enquiries should be directed to Press Officer at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ: Tel: 01242 211133. General enquiries about the data contained within this SFR should be addressed to Rachael Millichope, Data Quality Manager, HESA (at the same address): Tel: 01242 255577.


National Statistic


11 January 2005, 9:30




Education and training

Issued by

HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

01242 211133

Public enquiries

01242 255577


Rachael Millichope


[email protected]