Higher education in numbers
Last updated on Thursday 16 Dec 2021 on 10:33am
Key facts and figures about UK higher education.
Higher education institutions
In 2018–19, there were 165 higher education institutions in the UK that returned data to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). This webpage includes data from these institutions, plus the University of Buckingham. For further information on higher education institutions visit HESA's website.
In 2018–19, there were 2.38 million students studying at UK higher education institutions.
- Undergraduate: 1.80 million
- Postgraduate: 0.59 million
- Full time: 1.88 million
- Part time: 0.5 million
- Students from the UK: 1.9 million
- Students from the EU: 0.14 million
- Students from non-EU countries: 0.34 million
(Source: HESA Student record 2018–19)
In 2018–19, there were 439,955 staff (excluding atypical staff) employed at UK higher education institutions.
- Staff employed on academic contracts made up 49% of the population
- 18% of academic staff with a known nationality had an EU (non-UK) nationality, while 14% had a non-EU nationality
- 7% of non-academic staff with a known nationality had an EU (non-UK) nationality, while 4% had a non-EU nationality.
(Source: HESA Staff record 2018–19)
The latest National Student Survey, published in 2020, found that 83% of students were satisfied with the quality of their course.
- 84% of respondents agreed that they were happy with the teaching on their course
- 86% of respondents were happy with their learning resources
- 83% were happy with their learning opportunities.
(Source: 2020 National Student Survey)
In 2020, a record 23.3% of UK 18-year-olds from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR4 quintile 1) were accepted to study a full-time undergraduate degree through UCAS, compared to 14.0% in 2011.
The entry rate of state school students in England who, while aged 15, were in receipt of free school meals, has increased from 13.2% in 2011 to 20.3% in 2020.
(Source: UCAS 2020 End of Cycle data resources).
Applicants and acceptances
A record 570,475 people were accepted through UCAS to start an undergraduate course in the 2020 cycle.
- In 2020, 728,780 people applied through UCAS to an undergraduate course.
(Source: UCAS 2020 End of Cycle report)
Working with business and industry
- In 2018–19, 3,825 new graduate start-ups were created.
- 131 new university-owned or part-owned spin-off companies were created.
Income and expenditure
Figures for 2017–18 show that the total income for the sector was £38.2 billion. This was made up from the following sources:
- Tuition fees and education contracts: £18.9 billion
- Funding body grants: £5.1 billion
- Research grants and contracts: £6.2 billion
- Investment income: £0.2 billion
- Donations and endowments: £0.6 billion
- Other income: £7.2 billion.
Figures for 2017–18 show that the total operating expenditure by the sector was £37.2 billion.
(Source: HESA Finance record 2017–18)
- In 2017–18, 91% of responding graduates were in or due to start work or further study approximately 15 months after leaving university. (Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey results record 2017–18)
- In 2019, the median, English domiciled graduate salary was £9,000 more than the median non-graduate salary. (Source: DfE Graduate labour market statistics: 2019)
In 2014–15, universities across the UK generated £95 billion in gross output for the economy.
- The UK university sector contributed £21.5 billion to GDP, representing 1.2% of the UK's GDP
- The sector also supported more than 940,000 jobs in the UK.
(Source: UUK (2017) The economic impact of universities in 2014–15)
The 2014 Research Excellent Framework rated 76% of the research submitted as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'. (Source: Research Excellent Framework (REF) 2014)
- UK academic research productivity is 3.6 times the world average
- In 2014, the UK represented 4.1% of the world's researchers, and accounted for 15.2% of the world's most highly-cited articles. (Source: BEIS (2017) International comparative performance of UK research base 2016)