You need cookies enabled

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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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.


You need cookies enabled

The data informs our approach to strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS). We use them to monitor where a subject might be at risk, now or soon in the future. It helps us and our partner organisations decide when, where and how to intervene.

We do not rely only on this data. Evidence from universities, colleges, employers, the Government, and from national academies and subject associations also informs our approach. The HEFCE SIVS advisory group includes representatives from all these groups and considers the data each year.

Time periods

Our analysis focuses mainly on trends in the last three years, but occasionally looks back over a longer period. We believe looking at changes in the last year of available data can be unreliable, as there are frequent fluctuations which turn out to be insignificant in the longer term. 

The data cover the following time periods:

  • A-level entries: 2002-03 to 2013-14
  • UCAS acceptances: 2002-03 to 2014-15
  • Students in HE (undergraduates and postgraduates, drawn from Higher Education Statistics Agency data): 2002-03 to 2013-14
  • Destinations of full-time first degree qualifiers in 2011-12 and 2012-13

Latest data on students in HE

We have published the data as interactive visualisations. There are three sets of interactive tables and charts considering students in HE:

  • Time series data
    The time series charts allow users to look at the figures for students across subject areas. The charts also allow users to break down the series by one other student characteristic. For example, the different disciplines within arts, humanities and social sciences could be broken down by mode of study.
  • Comparing two subject areas
    The second set of charts allow users to compare two subject areas broken down by two student characteristics. For example, French studies and Italian studies could both be broken down and compared by students’ age on entry to HE and the type of institution.

All of the interactive tables and charts are available in six categories of students registered at English higher education institutions. For definitions of full-person equivalent, full-time equivalent, JACS codes and HESA costs centres, see the section on coverage and definition below. The categories are:

  • Undergraduate student full-person equivalent (FPE) [in subject areas defined by the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS)]
  • Integrated masters student FPE
  • Taught masters student FPE
  • PhD and MPhil student FPE
  • Other postgraduate student FPE
  • Undergraduate enrolments full-time equivalent (FTE) (in subject areas defined by HESA academic cost centres)

We split these categories further into entrant, all-year (enrolment) and qualifier student populations. The entrant population consists of those in their first year of study only, while the enrolment population consists of all students on any year of their programme of study and encompasses both entrants and continuing students. The qualifier populations consider those students gaining their qualifications from a final year of study.

The student profile and characteristics considered in the interactive charts are: age on entry to HE, balance of study, disability status, distance learner marker, ethnicity, institution type, level of study, mode of study, POLAR3 (area-based classification of HE participation), sandwich course marker, sex and student domicile. 

Data on destinations from full-time first degree study

For the first time, we have published data as on the destinations of UK- and EU-domiciled students gaining first degree qualifications as interactive visualisations. For each of the student characteristics considered with regards to students in HE and listed above, we now also consider the profile observed for full-time first degree qualifiers in terms of their destinations reported six months after leaving HE, to the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.

The destinations overview charts allow users to look at the proportions of leavers progressing into employment, further study or a combination of both, six months after they completed their first degree. The charts also allow users to consider the destinations of leavers from different subject areas, broken down by one other student or course characteristic. For example, destinations of qualifiers from the different disciplines within computer sciences could be broken down by mode of study.

Additional charts provide further information on the nature of employment or further study that qualifiers progress into. For example, qualifiers who progress into employment can be considered in terms of the size of their employer, the salary band of their earnings, or the graduate’s perspective of the role of their HE qualification in gaining their employment.

Coverage and definitions: interactive charts

All splits which include ethnicity are restricted to UK-domiciled students. We also remove the (small) numbers of students with unknown age on entry from all splits involving this variable.

For students’ age on entry in the undergraduate and integrated masters populations, we define ‘young students’ as under 21 and mature students as 21 and over. For postgraduate populations, we define ‘young students’ as under 25 and mature students as 25 and over.

Note that we only split the area-based classification of participation in HE (POLAR3) for undergraduate and integrated masters populations. 

Further information on the use and derivation of area-based classifications of HE participation

Coverage and definitions: headcount vs full-time equivalent

The data we use here from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) typically measure students by headcount (or ‘full-person equivalents, FPE’). The data classifies students by academic subject areas using the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS).

The data provide numbers of students in these subject areas, and also show figures for entrant, all-year (referred to as enrolment) and qualifier student populations. The data covers students registered at publicly-funded English higher education institutions and falling within the HESA standard registration and the HESA qualifications obtained populations. It excludes students registered at the Open University (due to differences in the identification of subject area and level of study in administrative data).

For consistency with previous publications of the evidence base, we also make available analysis of the HESA ‘session population’ registered at publicly-funded English HEIs (again, excluding the Open University). This considers full-time equivalent (FTE) numbers of students reported against the HESA academic cost centres. The purpose of this analysis is to capture overall volumes of activity in different subject areas, but for the all-year (enrolment) student population.

Data on the destinations of UK- and EU-domiciled full-time first degree qualifiers is based on students registered at publicly-funded English higher education institutions and falling within both the HESA qualifications obtained populations and the HESA Destination of Leavers from Higher Education target population.

Coverage and definitions: subject areas

Coverage and definition of subject areas reported within this evidence base are given in the following excel file.

See the coverage and definition of subject areas 

Download the Coverage and definition as MS Excel Spreadsheet (21 KB)

Page last updated 26 March 2015