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Higher Education Student Statistics 2020/21 released

The first release of HESA student data for the 2020/21 academic year shows a 9% increase in overall student numbers. This includes an 11% increase in part-time student numbers.

View Higher Education Student Statistics: UK 2020/21

View The impact of Covid on student statistics in 2020/21

The data released today relates to students enrolled between 1 August 2020 and 31 July 2021, the first full academic year to be affected by the Covid pandemic.

Headline statistics from today’s Statistical Bulletin include:

  • The total number of HE students stood at 2,751,865 in 2020/21, an increase of 9% from 2019/20.
  • The number of first year postgraduate students rose by 16% while the number of first degree entrants rose by 8%.
  • Subjects allied to medicine (including nursing and related subjects) saw a 20% growth in the number of first year undergraduate students.
  • The number of first year entrants to other undergraduate courses (such as HE certificates and diplomas), and the number of mature entrants (aged over 21) both saw increases after a period of declining numbers.
  • The number of first year students from the UK rose by 13% while the number from non-UK countries rose by 4%.
  • The number of first year students from India rose by 27% but the number from China  fell for the first time by 5%.
  • A total of 872,765 HE qualifications were awarded in 2020/21, of which over half were first degrees. This includes awards that were delayed in 2019/20 due to the pandemic.
  • 36% of classified first degrees were awarded first class honours compared to 35% in 2019/20. The proportion of degrees awarded upper second class honours fell from 47% to 46%.

Alongside today’s National Statistics release HESA has published a research insight into the impact of Covid on student statistics for 2020/21. The research considers the effects of centre-assessed grades, remote learning and general uncertainty on entry rates, continuation, mobility, and qualifications.

A further open data publication Higher Education Student Data will be released in February. This will include more detailed breakdowns from the 2020/21 HESA Student, Student Alternative and Aggregate Offshore records. UK Performance Indicators will be published in subsequent weeks including widening participation and non-continuation statistics.

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


  • See Definitions: Students for definitions of terms used in the release and explanation of the coverage of statistics.
  • See Upcoming data releases for a schedule of Official Statistics releases from HESA, including Statistical Bulletins, Performance Indicators and full open data releases.
  • HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.
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