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2004/05 Student enrolment data released

The 2004/05 HESA student dataset shows that the total number of HE students increased by 1.8 per cent from 2,247,440 in 2003/04 to 2,287,540.

The dataset shows that the number of first year HE students at publicly-funded higher education institutions in the UK fell by 0.1 per cent in the 2004/05 academic year. However, a problem identified with data submitted by the Open University2 to HESA masks an actual rise in first year student numbers. Owing to a programming error, approximately 3,400 postgraduate students have not been returned as first years by the OU that should have been.

The error affects data only for the 2004/05 academic year. This press release shows figures both including and excluding the OU where appropriate. Where they are excluded and a comparison of academic years is being made, they have been excluded from both academic years’ figures.

When the sector is considered without the inclusion of the Open University, first year numbers have risen from 943,815 in 2003/04 to 950,130 in 2004/05, an increase of 0.7 per cent. When their data is included there is a fall of 1,050 students from 1,012,215 to 1,011,165.

When numbers are broken down by level of study (including the OU), first year first degree students (e.g. BA, BSc etc) are seen to have increased by 245 to 431,480 (an increase of 0.1 per cent) and other undergraduates (e.g. HND, Foundation Degree etc) by 195 to 318,220 (an increase of 0.1 per cent).

First year postgraduate numbers (not including the OU) increased by 1,535 (or 0.6 per cent) from 255,465 to 257,000. This trend is reversed when they are included with a fall of 1,490 from 262,955 in 2003/04 to 261,465 in 2004/05.

Females made up 58 per cent of the first year cohort (excluding the OU) in 2004/05 compared to 59 per cent in 2003/04.

This is the first analysis of enrolment numbers from the 2004/05 student dataset, which became available this month. HESA will release the reference volume Students in Higher Education Institutions, 2004/05 in March 2006 providing more detailed information on the characteristics of the UK student population.

Notes to editors


Higher education (HE) students are those students on programmes of study for which the level of instruction is above that of level 3 of the National Qualifications Framework, i.e. courses leading to the Advanced Level of the General Certificate of Education (GCE A-levels), the Advanced Level of the Vocational Certificate of Education (VCE A-levels) or the Advanced Higher Grade and Higher Grade of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Advanced Highers/Highers).

The HESA Student Record contains information about individual enrolments, which, because a student can be enrolled on more than one programme of study, will exceed the number of students. Postdoctoral students are not included in the HESA Student Record.

The HESA standard registration population has been derived from the HESA Student Record and ensures that similar activity is counted in a similar way irrespective of when it occurs. The population splits the student experience into ‘years of programme of study’; the first year of which is deemed to start on the commencement date of the programme with second, and subsequent years, starting on, or near, the anniversary of that date. Registrations are counted once for each ‘year of programme of study’. Short course registrations are counted in the standard registration population regardless of whether they are active on the 1 December of the reporting period. However students who leave within 2 weeks of their start date, or anniversary of their start date, and are on a course of more than two weeks duration, are not included in the standard registration population. Dormant students, incoming visiting and exchange students from overseas and students studying for the whole of their programme of study outside of the UK are also excluded from this population.

Rounding strategy

Due to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998, HESA implements a strategy in published and released tabulations designed to prevent the disclosure of personal information about any individual. These tabulations are derived from the HESA non-statutory populations and may differ slightly from those published by related statutory bodies. This strategy involves rounding all numbers to the nearest 5. A summary of this strategy is as follows:

So for example 3 is represented as 5, 22 is represented as 20, 3286 is represented as 3285 while 0, 20, 55, 3510 remain unchanged.

Level of study

The level of study is taken from the qualification aim of the student.

Postgraduate programmes of study are those leading to higher degrees, diplomas and certificates (including Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) and professional qualifications) and usually require that entrants are already qualified to degree level (i.e. already qualified at level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework).

First degree includes first degrees with or without eligibility to register to practice with a Health or Social Care or Veterinary statutory regulatory body, first degrees with qualified teacher status (QTS)/registration with the General Teaching Council (GTC), enhanced first degrees, first degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma and intercalated first degrees.

Other undergraduate includes qualification aims below degree level such as Foundation Degrees, diplomas in HE with eligibility to register to practice with a Health or Social Care regulatory body, Higher National Diploma (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC), Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), foundation courses at HE level, NVQ/SVQ levels 4 and 5, post-degree diplomas and certificates at undergraduate level, professional qualifications at undergraduate level, other undergraduate diplomas and certificates including post registration health and social care courses, other formal HE qualifications of less than degree standard, institutional undergraduate credit and no formal undergraduate qualifications.

First year students

First year students are based on the HESA standard registration population who commenced their programme of study in the reporting period relevant to the data collection year.


  1. Press enquiries should be directed to:
    • Byron Price
    • HESA Press Officer
    • 01242 211133
    • [email protected]
    • 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ.
  2. The Open University is the largest institution in terms of student numbers and so any fluctuation in their data can have a disproportionate effect on the overall sector level figures. For example, this institution accounts for 19 per cent of part-time HE students.
  3. HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.
  4. Definitions of the terms used in this press release follow:
    • 0, 1, 2 are rounded to 0
    • All other numbers are rounded to the nearest 5
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