House of Commons Library

Higher education student numbers

Published Monday, June 19, 2017

Headline student numbers have increased to new records following a short dip after to the 2012 reforms. There are however ongoing concerns about numbers outside this group where trends have not been so positive, including part-time undergraduates, some postgraduates students, overseas students from some countries, especially India, mature students and some disadvantaged groups. There is also uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on EU student numbers.

Jump to full report >>
  • In academic year 2015/16 there were just under 2.3 million students at UK higher education institutions.
  • Most full-time students are studying first degrees. There are proportionately more overseas students studying postgraduate courses.
  • Over the past decade the number of entrants to ‘other undergraduate’ courses has fallen by over 60%. The large majority on these courses are part-time UK students.
  • Total part-time entrants have fallen by overall 45% since 2009/10; 61% in ‘other undergraduate’ courses, 34% first degrees, 20% taught postgraduate and 9% postgraduate research courses.
  • There were almost 720,000 applications for full-time undergraduate places through UCAS in 2016 and 535,000 were accepted.
  • Applicant numbers fell in 2012 with larger falls among those who faced fees of up to £9,000. The total was 7.6% down.
  • Applicant numbers bounced back in 2013. A record number were accepted in 2013 and new records were set for acceptances in each of the three following years.
  • Applicants for 2017 were down by 5% (by January) with larger falls among those from the EU, older age groups and those from England wanting to study nursing.

Visual summary of student number data

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headline student numbers have increased to new record levels in recent years following a short dip related to the 2012 reforms in the sector. There have been continued increases in entry rates for different groups of students, including those from disadvantaged areas/backrounds where rates have also hit new record levels. However, headline numbers tend to focus on full-time undergraduates and there are ongoing concerns about student numbers outside this group where trends have not been so positive. This includes part-time undergraduates, particularly those not studying first degrees, some postgraduates students, overseas students from some countries, especially India, mature students and some disadvantaged groups. There is also uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on EU student numbers.

This paper looks at trends in the size of the student population, changes in the number of entrants overall and for different types of students/courses and entry rates for different groups and areas.

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7857

Author: Paul Bolton

Topics: Higher education, Students

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.