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Higher education in numbers

Key facts and figures about UK higher education, from the numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students to how much universities contribute to the UK economy.

Higher education institutions (2014–15)

In 2014–15 there were 164 higher education providers (excluding further education colleges) in the UK in receipt of public funding via one of the UK funding councils.

135 of these are Universities UK members.


Student numbers in UK higher education (2015–16)

In 2015–16 there were 2.28 million students studying at UK higher education institutions.

  • Undergraduate: 1.75 million
  • Postgraduate: 532,970
  • Full time: 1.7 million
  • Part time: 540,285
  • Students from the UK: 1.84 million
  • Students from the EU: 127,440
  • Students from non-EU countries: 310,575 

Graduate employment (2014–15)

Figures from 2014–15 show that 90% of all graduates were in work or further study within six months of leaving university. 

  • On average, female graduates earn £250,000 more over their working lifetimes than non-graduates; male graduates earn £165,000 more. 


Staff in higher education institutions (2015–16)

  • Academic staff employed at UK universities: 201,380
  • Non-academic staff employed at UK universities: 208,750 


Income and expenditure (2014–15)

Figures for 2014–15 show that the total income for the sector was £33.2 billion. This was made up from the following public and private sources:

  • Funding body grants (teaching and research): £5.3 billion
  • Tuition fees and education contracts: £15.6 billion
  • Research grants and contracts: £5.9 billion
  • Other income: £6.1 billion
  • Endowment and investment income: £360 million

Figures for 2014–15 show that total expenditure by the sector was £31.2 billion. This breaks down into the following categories of spending:

  • Staff costs: £17.1 billion
  • Other operating expenses: £11.7 billion
  • Depreciation: £1.96 billion
  • Interest and other finance costs: £404 million


The economic impact of universities (2011–12)

In 2011–12, universities across the UK generated more than £73 billion in output for the economy.

  • Output: £73 billion
  • Contribution to UK GDP: £39.9 billion (2.8%)
  • Export earnings: £10.7 billion
  • Jobs, direct and indirect: 757,268 (full-time equivalent)


University research

The 2014 Research Excellent Framework rated 76% of the research submitted as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

  • UK academic research productivity is 3.6 times the world average.
  • With just 4.1% of world's researchers, the UK produces 15.9% of the world's most highly-cited articles.


Working with business and industry

In 2014–15 over 4,160 new graduate start-ups were created, supporting over 20,500 jobs (full-time equivalent [FTE]).

  • 129 new university-owned or part-owned spin-off companies were created in 2014–15, supporting nearly 12,500 jobs (FTE).
  • Industry collaboration with higher education institutions increases productivity by between 11 and 16%.
  • There are over 100 university science and enterprise parks in the UK.


Student satisfaction

The latest National Student Survey, published in 2016, found that 86% of students were satisfied with their course.

  • In 2016, overall satisfaction was the same as in 2015. Satisfaction with assessment and feedback has improved from 73% in 2015 to 74% in 2016.


Widening participation

In 2016, 19.5% of 18-year-old English-domiciled young people from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR3 quintile 1) entered higher education, compared to 11.2% in 2006.

  • In 2016, English pupils receiving free school meal were 78% more likely to go to university than they were in 2006.
  • The number of full-time undergraduates from black and minority ethnic groups rose by 38% between 2007–08 and 2015–16.


Patterns and trends in UK higher education 2017

21 July 2017
Jovan Luzajic, Senior Policy Analyst at Universities UK, discusses the key themes in UUK's latest Patterns and trends report.

What do students want from their university?

21 June 2017
Emily Darian highlights key findings in today's new report – Education, consumer rights and maintaining trust: what students want from their university.

What does the Longitudinal Education Outcomes data tell us?

13 June 2017
William Hammonds, Programme Manager at Universities UK, discusses what we can learn from new Longitudinal Education Outcomes data.