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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Key facts

Around three-quarters of FT UG entrants studying arts, humanities and social sciences

7.3 per cent increase in FT entrants to psychology first degrees

A quarter of FT PG students in business and management

Full-time undergraduate

Approximately three-quarters of all full-time entrants to first degrees at higher education institutions are studying arts, humanities and social sciences. There were 418,000 of these entrants in 2015-16, of which 307,000 started degrees within these fields.

Within this broad grouping, the most popular subject groups were:

  • business, management and administrative studies (65,000 entrants)
  • social studies (59,000)
  • creative arts and design (45,000).

Across all arts, humanities and social sciences there was an increase of 4.3 per cent in first degree entrant numbers in 2015-16. Subjects experiencing strong growth in the number of entrants in 2015-16 included:

  • business, management and administrative studies which grew by 6.9 per cent
  • geography which grew by 5.4 per cent
  • psychology which grew by 7.3 per cent.

There were 93,000 full-time entrants to first degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in 2015-16, which was an increase of 3.2 per cent on 2014-15.

The number of full-time students studying modern foreign languages (MFL) has declined in recent years. There were only 5,400 entrants to first degrees in MFL in 2015-16 and these made up only 1.3 per cent of the full-time first degree entrant population. 

Although this was an increase of 6.2 per cent on the previous year, it was down from 6,200 in 2007-08, a fall of about 13 per cent. The decline has been concentrated in European languages:

  • French studies fell 39 per cent
  • German and Scandinavian studies fell 33 per cent
  • Iberian studies fell 28 per cent.

Non-European languages have fared better: there has been a 49 per cent increase in the number of entrants to Asian studies.

Part-time undergraduate

The most common subject area for part-time students is social studies. Of all part-time first degree entrants in 2015-16, 14 per cent were in social studies subjects.

Within this broad subject grouping, law and social work are most popular with part-time undergraduates.

Relative to full-time first degree students, those enrolled part-time are much more likely to be studying nursing, psychology and combined subjects, but less likely to be studying creative arts and design or business subjects.


As with undergraduate courses, a large majority of students starting taught postgraduate programmes entered subjects within the arts, humanities and social sciences. In 2015-16, this was 81 per cent of full-time entrants (123,000 students).

However, compared with undergraduate programmes, there were relatively more students in education and business, management and administrative studies. The latter made up 26 per cent of all full-time taught postgraduate entrants in 2015-16, which is more than all STEM subjects combined (16 per cent).

Students in postgraduate research courses are relatively more likely to be in STEM subjects. Of the 24,200 students starting full-time postgraduate research courses in 2015-16, STEM subjects attracted 11,200 (46 per cent). 

Page last updated 5 July 2017