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Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2021/22

Statistical Bulletin SB265

At the time of publishing, the csv downloads to figures 8 and 9 of this statistical bulletin were showing incorrect data for 2021/22. Corrected csv files were processed as soon as this came to our attention and were published in replacement of these on 1st February 2023. The interactive tables were unaffected by this issue.


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

Academic years 2012/13 to 2021/22

  • First degree courses remained the most popular type of higher education, despite a decrease of 2% between 2020/21 and 2021/22. Even though an increase was seen for the first time in over a decade in 2020/21, enrolments in other types of undergraduate courses decreased by 2% in 2021/22.
  • First year postgraduate taught numbers continued to rise, showing a 10% increase compared to the previous academic year. This increase comprises a 45% increase in non-European Union domiciled students, and a 7% decrease from UK students (see Figure 9).
  • Postgraduate research courses reached the lowest number of first year student enrolments since 2012/13, with a decrease of 7% compared to the previous academic year.
  • Note that there have been coverage changes over time in the data displayed in Figures 1 and 2. See the notes below each figure, or the notes section of this release for more detail.

Figure 2 - HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification

Academic years 2012/13 to 2021/22

  • Following a decrease in the number of qualifications obtained in the 2019/20 academic year, 2020/21 saw increases for all levels other than postgraduate research, which can largely be attributed to administrative hold-ups as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant many qualifications were not reported until the 2020/21 academic year (see the notes and accompanying student insight brief from 2020/21 for more detail). 
  • In 2021/22, all levels excluding first degree saw increases in the number of qualifications obtained.
  • The number of other undergraduate qualifications awarded in 2021/22 increased by 15% relative to 2020/21. This is the second year the number of qualifications increased at this level, following a declining year-on-year trend prior to 2019/20.

About this release

This bulletin is the annual first release of HESA student data. It covers data about higher education students and qualifiers from the following types of providers within the UK:

  • Higher education (HE) providers in England registered with the Office for Students (OfS) in the Approved (fee cap) or Approved categories;
  • Publicly funded HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; and
  • Further education (FE) colleges in Wales.

These providers submit data to HESA via either the Student record or the Student alternative record. This is the third year that data from both records have been combined together in the figures within this release to provide a more complete picture of higher education within the UK. Further details on coverage can be seen in the notes section of this release.

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.

Data in this release does not reflect any notable impact on student enrolment numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further details about the impact of COVID-19 on this release can be seen in the notes and accompanying Student insight brief.

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 data 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.

National Statistic

Release date

19 January 2023, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (1998/99 onwards)


Children, education and skills

Issued by

HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]

Public enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected]


Rebecca Mantle

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