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Experimental statistics - Degree attainment by socioeconomic background

The difference in degree attainment between students from the most and least deprived areas based on HESA’s deprivation measure reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but increased in Wales.

View Degree attainment by socioeconomic background 

New statistics show that across the academic years 2017/18 to 2020/21, 89% of young UK domiciled graduates from the least deprived areas of the UK gained a first or upper second class degree compared to 73% of graduates from the most deprived areas.

Today’s figures use HESA’s new UK-wide measure of deprivation which ranks small areas based on 2011 Census data showing the qualifications and occupations of residents.

The release examines the difference in degree attainment by socioeconomic background in each UK administration and looks at how this changed following the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the largest difference in degree attainment between the most and least deprived areas was found in England.

During the pandemic-affected academic years of 2019/20 and 2020/21, the proportion of first or upper second class degrees awarded increased across the whole of the UK. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, students from the most deprived areas saw the greatest increase in first or upper second class degrees awarded. There was less change among students from the least deprived areas leading to a reduction in the gap in these nations. Only Wales saw a greater level of disparity in degree attainment between the most and least deprived deciles during the pandemic than existed before.

Today’s release is marked as experimental statistics with a view to incorporating the new deprivation measure in more of HESA’s official statistics outputs in future, subject to feedback from users of the data.


  • Data relates to students enrolled between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2021.
  • Experimental statistics are newly developed or innovative official statistics undergoing evaluation. Experimental statistics are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in the assessment of their suitability and quality at an early stage.
  • More research using HESA’s new measure of deprivation can be found via our Research page.
  • See Upcoming data releases for a schedule of Official Statistics releases from HESA. 
  • HESA is now part of Jisc. Jisc is now the data controller of personal data previously controlled by HESA. Privacy information on the HESA website has been updated.
  • Jisc cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.
Press Release

Press Officer