It presents a picture of a sector at the beginning of a significant period of change. 2012–13 was the first year of the new undergraduate funding regime, which in part contributed to a decline of 6.3% in student enrolment. While growth is expected to return after 2012–13, this dip illustrates the ongoing need for the sector to demonstrate its value to prospective students.
The higher education sector continues to make a crucial contribution to the UK’s development as a world-leading advanced economy. Over half of those in employment aged between 30 and 34 now have a higher education qualification, compared to 36% in 2003. In difficult conditions graduates continue to experience better outcomes than non-graduates in both lifetime earnings and employability. The sector’s economic contribution is further demonstrated by the continued growth of knowledge exchange income to £3.6 billion, a real terms increase of 45% since 2003–04.