Higher education student numbers



Following the “2012 reforms” numbers fell. However, extra funding made to the sector has seen numbers rise once again. There are some groups in education that are not performing so well however, including part-time undergraduates, some postgraduate students, and EU students. Also of concern is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit on student numbers, particularly EU students.

  • 2 years ago, there were 2.66 million students in the UK.
  • Most full-time students are studying first degrees, as you would expect. However, there are more overseas students studying postgraduate courses than you would expect.
  • The number of students enrolling in ‘other undergraduate’ courses has drastically declined by two-thirds over the past 10 years. Approximately three out of every four students on these courses are part-time UK citizens.
  • Total entrants to part-time courses dropped by 40% since 2008/9, 73% in ‘other undergraduate’ courses, 12% first degrees and 8% postgraduate research courses. Entrants to taught postgraduate courses increased by 3% during this period.
  • Every year there are 750,000 applicants who apply to full-time undergraduate courses at UCAS. Around 560,000 of these applicants were accepted.
  • In 2012, the number of applicants fell, with larger falls among those who faced higher fees. The total was down 7.6%.
  • Many applicants were accepted in 2013, but applicant numbers dropped for the years 2014-2016. However, new records were set for acceptances after that every year.
  • There were concerns of a large drop in students with new record highs in 2020 and 2021. Some people questioned whether this was due to limits on travel, restrictions for AQ coronavirus, or both.
  • Applications from home students have been on the rise, increasing by 2.1% in 2020 and 5.1% in 2021. This growth is primarily being driven by an increased number of 18 year olds in the population and higher application rates for this age group.
  • The Brexit referendum has impacted international students from Europe and beyond. Under the new conditions in 2021, these students will be charged considerably higher tuition fees and will not be eligible for tuition loans. Under these terms, applications from EU students have fallen sharply.
  • Despite concerns about Covid-19, applications from other overseas students increased to record levels in 2020 and 2021.
  • The number of accepted applicants through UCAS has set a new record high in 2020. Numbers fell by 8,400 in the following year that was driven by a fall of 16,300 or 50% in accepted students from the EU. Acceptances for home applicants increased by 1.4% and those for other overseas applicants increased by 2.4%.
  • Applications for the 2022 election up to the January 26th “equal consideration” deadline are down by 1% compared with the same point in the 2021 cycle. There were especially large drops among older applicants.


Source: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7857

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