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Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2017/18

Statistical Bulletin SB252


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

Academic years 2008/09 to 2017/18

  • First degree courses remain the most popular type of higher education, as enrolments in other types of undergraduate courses continue to fall.
  • Postgraduate taught courses have seen an increase in first year student numbers in recent years.
    • In 2016/17 this coincided with the introduction of postgraduate loans for students from England.
    • In 2017/18, the rise was largely due to an increase in enrolments from Non-European Union (Non-EU) students.

Figure 2 - HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2008/09 to 2017/18

  • The number of postgraduate taught qualifications obtained has reached its highest point in ten years. This follows the increase in enrolments on postgraduate taught courses in 2016/17.
  • The number of first degree qualifications obtained has increased each year, with the exception of 2014/15 which is likely to be related to the drop in first year students in 2012/13.
  • The number of other undergraduate qualifications continues to decline in line with the decline in first year student numbers.

About this release

This Statistical Bulletin is the annual first release of HESA student data. In previous years, our statistical bulletins were known as statistical first releases. We have changed the name to align with terminology used by other official statistics producers.

This bulletin covers higher education (HE) providers who submit a full Student record data return to HESA. This includes publicly funded Higher Education Institutions, the privately funded University of Buckingham, and HE level provision at Further Education (FE) Colleges in Wales (accounting for 1,670 students in 2017/18).

This bulletin also includes information from the HESA Aggregate offshore record and can be seen in figure 12. This separate record counts students studying wholly outside the UK who are either registered with the reporting HE provider or who are studying for an award of the reporting HE provider.

Higher Education Student Statistics: Alternative Providers 2017/18, will be published on 14 February 2019. This will focus on Alternative Providers (APs), who we classify as HE providers who do not receive recurrent public funding, and who submit an AP student record to HESA. It will also include summary information on HE students at FE colleges in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to illustrate the totality of higher education provision in the UK.

Readers should be aware that data definitions sometimes change over time. This, and coverage changes can affect the validity of time series comparisons. Any significant changes have been explained in the definitions.

The student record quality report contains important information on uses and users of the data, the quality of the data and a summary of methods used to compile student data outputs.

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National Statistic

Release date

17 January 2019, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (1998/99 onwards)


Children, education and skills

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Rebecca Mantle

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Department for Education

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Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland)