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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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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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In December 2017 we published a report that investigates the effect of higher education on students' subjective wellbeing.

Read the report on student wellbeing (HEFCE 2017/31)

Differences in degree outcomes

The 2015 report on degree outcomes not only looks at the variation between different groups of graduates but also the proportion of first and upper second class degrees between 2010-11 and 2013-14. This has seen an annual increase of around one and a half percentage points, around half of which can be explained by changes in student characteristics.

The remainder is therefore due to other factors, which may include institutional effects and other factors such as changes in learning, teaching and retention practices or students’ own study behaviour following the introduction of higher fees.

The report at a glance

  • Across degree subject areas, there is a wide variation in the proportion of graduates who gained a first or upper second. This relationship itself varies depending on whether firsts are considered in isolation or in combination with upper seconds.
  • Graduates who study degree courses part-time do less well than their full-time counterparts.
  • Although a lower proportion of mature graduates obtain a first or upper second class degree compared with young graduates, on a like-for-like basis mature graduates outperform their younger counterparts.
  • Female graduates are more likely to achieve a first or upper second.
  • Graduates with disabilities tend to do slightly less well than those without reported disabilities.
  • White graduates have significantly higher degree classifications than graduates from other ethnicities.
  • For all but those with the very highest A-level grades, state school graduates tend to have higher degree outcomes than independent school graduates with the same prior educational attainment.
  • Graduates from the highest-participation neighbourhoods have the highest degree classifications compared with graduates from other neighbourhoods.
  • Between 2010-11 and 2013-14 there has been an annual increase of around one and a half percentage points in the proportion of qualifiers with first and upper second class degrees, around half of which is explained by changes in student characteristics.

This report builds on a previous report.

Further work, by HEFCE, by the sector and by Government, will be needed to understand why this is so, and what sorts of interventions will be most effective in bringing about positive change.

We’re interested to hear your views and reactions to the report. What’s causing these effects? What do we know about interventions which work? What further research needs to be done? 

Page last updated 9 January 2018