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Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2017/18 - Subjects studied

Statistical Bulletin SB252

What are students in HE studying?

Between 2016/17 and 2017/18:

  • Architecture, building & planning and social studies rose in popularity for first year undergraduate students.
  • There was a notable decrease in first year undergraduate students taking subjects allied to medicine. This follows the removal of NHS bursaries from August 2017.
  • Education and combined subjects were the only subjects to see a decline in the number of first year postgraduate students.
What if a student studies more than one subject?

Figures in subject tables are Full Person Equivalent (FPE). If a student on a course (an 'instance') studied more than one subject then that instance is split between those subjects. For example, a student studying ⅔ business studies and ⅓ french will be counted as 0.67 FPE in business & administrative studies and 0.33 FPE in languages. See the subject of study definitions for more detail.

Figure 13 - HE student enrolment subject area changes between 2016/17 and 2017/18



What is the ‘subjects allied to medicine’ subject area?

Subjects allied to medicine are those related to human health such as nursing, pharmacy and anatomy. Over half of students in the subjects allied to medicine subject area study for nursing qualifications. See this list of principal subjects included in each subject area for more detail.

What is the ‘combined’ subject area?

Combined is only used for students on courses which do not specify a subject specialism. The majority of students in the combined subject area study at The Open University.

Over the five year period 2013/14 to 2017/18:

  • Business & administrative studies attracted the highest number of students.
  • Veterinary science had the lowest number of students.
  • The most popular subject amongst females was subjects allied to medicine.
  • The number of students studying science subject areas has increased year on year.

Figure 14 - HE student enrolments by subject area and sex

Academic years 2013/14 to 2017/18

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Figure 15 shows the percentage of students of certain characteristics, studying science subjects. Over the academic years 2013/14 - 2017/18, there was an increase in the percentage of female students studying science subjects, but this remains lower than the total sector percentage.

Figure 15 - Percentage of HE student enrolments in science subject areas by personal characteristics

Academic years 2013/14 to 2017/18


National Statistic

Release date

17 January 2019, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (1998/99 onwards)


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