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Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Data sources and definition of cohort
  • Student numbers
  • Profile of courses/institutions
  • Profile of students
  • Degree outcomes
  • Graduate destinations
  • Annex A
  • List of abbreviations

Executive summary

Purpose

1.   This report describes the attributes and attainment within UK higher education of students who studied on full-time first degree courses and who participated in the Erasmus programme, other periods of study abroad, or a work placement, comparing them to other groups of students.

Key points

Trend in numbers

2.   All of these figures have been drawn from the cohort of first degree entrants to full-time courses in 2002-03 who gained a first degree within five years (referred to as 'graduating entrants'). When students and entrants are referred to, it is this cohort of graduating entrants that is being discussed.

3.   The number of full-time first-degree entrants at UK HEIs who went on to graduate increased from 185,190 (entrants in 1998-99) to 203,275 (entrants in 2002-03). However the number of graduating entrants whose first degree involved a placement year fell by around 1,000 across the same period (15,955 for 1998-99 entrants to 14,825 for 2002-03 entrants). The equivalent figures for Erasmus or study abroad have been relatively stable.

Profile of courses

4.   Of the 203,275 students who started a full-time first degree course in 2002-03 and went on to gain a first degree within five years, 4 per cent did a period of study abroad, whereas 8 per cent did a placement.

5.   Just over half (55 per cent) of the entrants who participated in the Erasmus programme in their first degree studied abroad for a whole academic year. The overwhelming majority of entrants who did other forms of study abroad (96 per cent) or who did a placement in the UK (92 per cent) did so for a whole academic year.

6.   Two out of every five entrants who were Erasmus students studied foreign languages as the subject of their first degree. Another 16 per cent of Erasmus students studied business. For students on other periods of study abroad, nearly three out of every five studied foreign languages. Of those who undertook a placement year, four out of five studied business, science or engineering.

7.    The majority of Erasmus and other study-abroad students studied at an institution with a high qualification on entry profile relative to the rest of the sector. The distribution of those who undertook a placement during their first degree is more even across the whole sector.

Profile of students

8.   The degree entrants who studied abroad or did a placement had different characteristics from those entrants who undertook neither study abroad nor a placement:

  1. Students who studied abroad were more likely to be female; placement students were more likely to be male. Sixty-eight per cent of the Erasmus students were female, compared to 61 per cent for students on other periods of study abroad, 45 per cent of the placement year students, and an average for all entrants in the cohort of 56 per cent.
  2. They tended to be younger. Around 6 per cent of the students who studied abroad through Erasmus or other periods of study, and 7 per cent of those who did a year placement, were aged over 20 when they started their course, compared to the average (14 per cent) of all entrants in the cohort.
  3. They were less likely to be from an ethnic minority. The proportion of UK-domiciled students who came from non-White ethnic groups was lower for students who studied abroad (around 10 per cent) than for placement year students (17 per cent) compared to an average of 14 per cent across all students in the cohort.
  4. They were less likely to have a declared disability: 3 per cent of Erasmus students were known to have a disability, compared to 5 per cent of placement students and 5 or 6 per cent of other types of students.
  5. The proportion of students who were domiciled in the UK before their course was lower for students who studied abroad (88-90 per cent) than for placement year students (94 per cent) compared to an average of 91 per cent across all students in the cohort.
  6. The students who studied abroad were more likely to be from higher socio-economic classes. Eighty-two per cent of young Erasmus students and 83 per cent of others who studied abroad came from socio-economic classes 1-3 (managerial, professional and intermediate occupations), compared to 70 per cent of the placement year students. The proportion across all young students in the cohort was 74 per cent.
  7. Students who studied abroad were less likely to come from low participation neighbourhoods. Fourteen per cent of the students who studied abroad were from areas of low participation in higher education, compared to 22 per cent of placement year students and an average of 22 per cent.
  8. They had a different profile of entry qualification from the average for the cohort. Students who studied abroad had higher than average entry qualifications, whereas students who did a placement had lower than average entry qualifications.

Degree outcomes

9.   They had a better profile of degree results. Seventy-five per cent of the Erasmus students received a first or an upper second-class degree, compared to 81 per cent for students on other periods of study abroad, 71 per cent of placement students and 60 per cent of other students from four-year courses.

Graduate destinations

10.   Placement students were more likely to be employed six months after graduating and to have higher salaries than the average. Erasmus students were more likely to be engaged in further study but those in employment were substantially more likely to be employed abroad and had above-average salaries.

Action required

11.   No action is required in response to this document. 

Date: 1 November 2009

Ref: 2009/44

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, planning, employer engagement, international offices

Enquiries should be directed to:

Mark Gittoes, tel 0117 931 7052, e-mail m.gittoes@hefce.ac.uk