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Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2019/20 - Subjects studied

Statistical Bulletin SB258

What are students in HE studying?

The 2019/20 academic year saw the implementation of Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) and the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH). The HECoS classification replaces JACS, used in previous years, with CAH serving as a means to connect HECoS and JACS. For more information, refer to HESA's webpage on HECoS and CAH. Following investigations of the quality characteristics of CAH (see notes for more details), HESA has decided not to utilise CAH v1.2 for time series analysis throughout this bulletin, pending further work.

In 2019/20:

  • Business and management attracted the highest number of students overall with 16% of all students enrolling in this subject.
  • Among science subjects, subjects allied to medicine was the most popular for students, accounting for a quarter of all science subject enrolments.
  • In terms of diversity within subjects, 82% of students studying veterinary sciences were female. For engineering and technology and computing, only 20% of students were female.

Figure 13 - HE student enrolments by CAH level 1 subject and sex

Academic years 2019/20

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.

How are science subjects defined?

The science grouping is an aggregation of CAH level 1 codes CAH01 through to CAH13 with the exception of CAH12-01-13 (Human geography). CAH12 (Geographical and environmental studies) has been disagreggated so that CAH12-01-13 (Human geography) is presented in the non-science grouping labelled as 'Geographical and environmental studies (social sciences)'. All other CAH level 3 codes within CAH12 are presented in the science grouping labelled as 'Geographical and environmental studies (natural sciences)'. This grouping of science subjects has been created by HESA. Feedback on this grouping is welcomed and can be sent to [email protected]

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. Download the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (version 1.2) to see more detail of HECoS codes included within each CAH grouping.

What is the ‘combined and general studies’ subject area?

Combined and general studies 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.

Figure 14 shows the percentage of students of certain characteristics, studying science subjects. In 2019/20 there was a lower percentage of females studying science subjects than males.

Figure 14 - Percentage of HE student enrolments in science subjects by personal characteristics

Academic years 2019/20


National Statistic

Release date

27 January 2021, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (1998/99 onwards)


Children, education and skills

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