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Patterns and trends in UK higher education 2015

Report cover

2015's 'Patterns and trends' report continues the series on changing trends in higher education and takes the story up to academic year 2013-14.

The report covers a period of considerable change for the higher education sector, including the introduction of the new undergraduate funding regime in 2012–13. The overall trajectory is one of growth in students, staff and income, but growth which tails off from 2010–11, and of increasing divergence between the UK nations. By the final years of the report, the world had become much less certain for universities.

Key points:

  • Part-time – The decline in the number of part-time students has continued. Full-time students now make up nearly three-quarters of the student body, up from just over 60% in 2004–05
  • Disadvantaged backgrounds – The student body has become more diverse in terms of student background, with 42% more students from disadvantaged backgrounds on full-time first degree programmes in 2014 than in 2005. This is something which Universities UK will be focusing on in the next year, and we are leading a taskforce to advise the universities and science minister on supporting progress in social mobility through widening participation in higher education.
  • Non-EU international students – This year’s report shows that the proportion of students coming from outside the EU increased from 9.0% in 2004-05 to 13.5% in 2013-14. In some subjects this is even higher, with just under a quarter of those studying engineering in 2013–14 from outside the EU.
  • Employment – Figures show that graduates have had consistently lower unemployment rates compared with non-graduates, even during recessions. Latest HESA data show that 95% of the class of 2010–11 were employed or undertaking further study three and a half years after graduating.
  • Gender split – In 2013–14, 56.1% of students were female; this is down from 57% in 2004–05.  Within this there was some variation by level of study. At first degree level 55.1% of students were female while at postgraduate research level 47.0% of students were female (this increased from 44.5% in 2004–05).


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