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Personal characteristics of higher education qualifiers

Detailed data on the ethnicity, disability and age of students awarded HE qualifications in the UK has been published by HESA for the first time.

Data on the personal characteristics of qualifiers reveals that in 2017/18 14% of first degree qualifications1 were awarded to students with disabilities. However, double this proportion of first degree graduates in fine art were disabled (28%), while only 7% of business studies graduates were disabled.[ref:Table 33

10% of first degrees were awarded to graduates aged over 30. In nursing, 43% of degrees were awarded to older students compared to only 3% of mathematics degrees, and 2% of degrees in French, Spanish and Italian.[ref:Table 32]

Out of 345,635 first degrees awarded to UK domiciled students2, 23% were awarded to black and minority ethnic students, including 11% to Asian ethnicity students, 6% to Black students and 5% to mixed and other ethnicity students. These proportions varied across subjects, with 60% of ophthalmics degrees awarded to Asian ethnicity students, and 23% of social policy degrees awarded to Black students.[ref:Table 34]

The most detailed subject breakdown shows that qualifications are awarded to more non-UK domiciled students than to UK students in some subjects. Aquaculture, petrochemical chemistry, and economic policy were among those subjects where more than half of HE qualifications were awarded to non-UK domiciled students.[ref:Table 25]

The statistics all come from new tables added to HESA’s open data release HE Student Data. Other newly published data includes qualifications data by HE provider, degree classification by ethnicity, and the ethnicity of UK entrants to providers grouped by level of entry qualifications.

If you have comments or suggestions about today’s release please give feedback via the Open data feedback form.



  1. First degrees generally lead to a bachelor’s qualification such as BA or BSc (rather than a masters or doctorate degree). ‘First degree’ describes the course of study and may include students who already hold a first degree. See the level of study definitions for more detail.
  2. UK domiciled means that the UK was a student’s normal place of residence before starting their course. In this release Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man residents are included in ‘UK domiciled’. Ethnicity data is only collected for UK domiciled students. See the domicile definitions for more detail.
  3. See Definitions: Students for full definitions of terms used in the release and explanation of the coverage of statistics.
  4. See Upcoming data releases for a schedule of Official Statistics releases from HESA.
  5. HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.
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