How Student Numbers In The UK Have Changed Over Time

6th December 2017 Chris Clark News and Events

Student numbers have grown almost exponentially over the years, despite a rise in fees, to dizzyingly high numbers compared to the early 1990s. From subject choices to length of time served in higher education, trends are pointing upward in some and down in others. Below we examine a few areas where change has been at its most noticeable. But first, let’s consider the state of education today:

students at higher education
Students at higher education institutions by level and mode of study, 2015–16

Student Choices

In 1992 there were 984,000 people aged between 18 and 24 in full-time education, by 2016 that number rose to 1.87 million.

Despite the long-term rise and better than ever student accommodation, the number of applicants has fallen over the last 10 years with 992,125 entrants in 2006, and 65,175 fewer in 2016. The number of part-time first degrees was down 28.6% in that period, but the number of post graduate taught and research courses increased by 31.2%.

Employment figures are also lower for students in the 2016 roster, with 35.4% having a job while students with a job in 1996 reached 40.3% employment.

A decline in undergrad diplomas and certificates has been attributed to:

  • the switch in student demand from certificates/diplomas to foundation degrees
    at the beginning of the period
  • from 2009–10 onwards, the requirement by the Department of Health for all new
    nurses to be degree educated by 2013
  • from 2008–09 onwards, the removal of funding for students taking qualifications
    equivalent to or lower than those that they already held (the ELQ policy)
  • the increase in fees in England 2012–13

Subject choices have greatly swayed towards the sciences, as the table below shows. ‘Veterinary Science’ as seen an increase of 43.1% in student numbers choosing the subject between 2006 and 2016. While the number of students choosing to study ‘Languages’ has fallen by 20.6% and the number of students choosing to study ‘Education’ has fallen by 26.6%.

Students by subject of study, 2006–07 and 2015–16
Students by subject of study, 2006–07 and 2015–16

The variations continue when we consider what subjects are preferred by gender, as the table below shows, there is still a preference by men to choose Engineering, Computer Science and Architecture, while women choose to study Medicine, Veterinary Science and Language.

Subject of study by level and gender, 2015–16
Subject of study by level and gender, 2015–16

With changes to finance and political events such as Brexit, the higher education sector is set to alter again over the coming decade. Why did you choose your course? What do you hope to get out of it? How do you fit into the figures above?

We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Chris Clark

Chris Clark

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