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Key findings

Following a big decline in part-time PG entrant numbers, there has been a steady increase of around 5,000 in the last 4 years.

International (non-EU domicile) entrants made up a third of PG entrants in 2015-16. The last ten years has seen an increase of more than 30,000 international PG entrants.

The number of PG entrants with a declared disability has more than doubled over the ten year series in all levels and modes.

Student numbers

Postgraduate taught (PGT)

Full-time postgraduate taught entrant numbers saw a dramatic rise between 2007-08 and 2009-10, but since 2009-10 have remained relatively constant between 145,000 and 150,000.

From 2009-10 entrant numbers in PGT courses fell for a period of 3 years to the lowest levels across the whole ten years. Despite entrant numbers increasing over the last three years, there are still fewer entrants in 2015-16 than in 2005-06.

Postgraduate research (PGR)

Entrants to full-time postgraduate research courses have increased across the ten year series, although there was a small decrease in entrants in 2015-16.

The number of part time postgraduate entrants increased substantially between 2007-08 and 2009-10. This trend is seen in other work that looks at postgraduate students and could be due to the economic climate around that time leading students to decide to upskill.

The number of PGR entrants continued to increase after 2009-10, but then also fell slightly in 2012-13. The last two years have seen a small decline, however this could just be due to natural fluctuations in student numbers as it is too early to see any trend.

Student characteristics


The proportion of the PG entrant population made up by each age band decreases as the age increases. Entrants aged 36 and above make up less than a quarter of the population across all modes and levels.

For full-time postgraduates the majority of the entrants are 25 and under. This group is more than twice as large as any of the others in all years. The largest part-time age group is the 26-35 year olds, they make up over a third of the part-time postgraduate population.


There have more female entrants to full-time PGT courses throughout the time period and the gap has widened in recent years with 27,000 more women than men entering full-time PGT education in 2015-16. This is because numbers of male entrants have declined as numbers of female entrants have increased.

In part-time PGT courses the number of female entrants has been consistently higher than male entrants across the ten year series.

The number of full-time male PGR entrants has been has been consistently higher than female entrants. In part-time PGR courses, the number of male and female entrants has been almost the same across the whole ten years.


The number of non-EU domicile entrants exceeded the number of UK entrants in full-time PGT courses for the first time in 2008-09. Since then the gap between the number of international and UK entrants has widened. In research courses, around 50 per cent of full-time entrants and approximately 20 per cent of part-time entrants are not UK domiciled, averaged across the ten year series.

About the interactive charts

The data are presented as interactive charts using a selection of characteristics. The long-term trends tab presents broad groupings, which users can split by characteristic. The further breakdowns tab focusses on 2014-15 and 2015-16 data, and provides detailed two-way characteristic breakdowns. 

The data contained in these pages are available for download on the relevant tabs. The following technical document explains how to make the most of the data presented in these pages. It also presents population and characteristic definitions where necessary.

Methodology, how to use the charts and FAQ

Download the Technical_document_PG_ as PDF (270 KB)

Download the Technical_document_PG_ as MS Word (32 KB)

Contact us 

For any queries about the graphs or any feedback, please email Rhiannon Hawkins in the Analysis for Policy team at