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Findings outlined in the report [Note 1] in relation to UK and EU students at publicly funded universities and colleges include:

  • Confirmation of a strong recovery in the numbers of students entering full-time undergraduate courses in 2013-14. This is 27,000 more than in 2012-13, an increase of 8 per cent.
  • But full-time undergraduate modern foreign language entrant numbers are in decline. Numbers of entrants to full-time modern foreign language first degrees fell by 22 per cent (1,200) between 2010-11 and 2012-13, with UCAS data suggesting that this decline is continuing in 2013-14. However, modern foreign languages were the most popular subjects in 2012-13 for UK students pursuing their studies in France and Germany.
  • High-achieving A-level students tend to progress to university or college irrespective of the subjects they study, but students with lower grades are more likely to progress if they have studied ‘facilitating subjects’ [Note 2]. At A-level grades EEE, 60 per cent of those that have three facilitating subjects at A-level go on to higher education, compared to 42 per cent of those that have none.
  • The number of students on undergraduate courses other than first degrees [Note 3] is in significant decline. This group makes up 60 per cent of the dip in numbers of entrants to full-time undergraduate courses in 2012-13. 
  • Numbers of part-time undergraduate entrants fell by 93,000 between 2010-11 and 2012-13. Entrants to undergraduate courses other than first degrees made up 91 per cent of the decline.
  • There were 23,000 fewer part-time postgraduate entrants in 2012-13 compared to 2010-11. Of these, 18,600 (84 per cent) were studying education and related subjects.
  • Wider international comparisons show that between 2010 and 2011 part-time enrolments declined in around half of the OECD [Note 4] countries for which data are available. Analysis of data on higher education part-time enrolments in England and other OECD countries, suggest that changes in part-time education are connected to a mix of economic and policy factors that have played out differently in different countries.
  • As a result of the decline in undergraduate courses other than first degrees, in 2012-13 there were just 14,000 full-time entrants to such courses taught in higher education institutions, compared with 25,000 taught in further education colleges. There is also data showing that 18,000 students from England and the EU who are accessing student support were enrolled on HND courses at alternative providers in 2012-13.

The report also covers:

  • Differences in entry to higher education by gender, by whether students are young or mature, and by ethnicity.
  • Overall undergraduate and postgraduate student trends.
  • Differences in entry to higher education between students from more advantaged and less advantaged areas.
  • Latest trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
  • Shifts in where students are studying.
  • Latest trends in research and knowledge exchange, and the financial health of higher education institutions.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

‘Higher education in England is undergoing significant change. This report draws on a wide range of evidence to provide a robust and authoritative overview of recent developments. Its aim is to spark debate and discussion, and to inform future directions. HEFCE will continue to collect, assure and analyse the evidence in order to expand understanding and inform decision making.’

Notes

  1. The publication ‘Higher Education in England 2014: Analysis of latest shifts and trends’ (HEFCE 2014/08) is on the HEFCE web-site. A summary report, ‘Higher Education in England 2014: Key facts’ (HEFCE 2014/08b), is also available.
  2. ‘Facilitating subjects’ are mathematics and further mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history, and classical and modern languages.
  3. Undergraduate courses other than first degrees include foundation degrees, certificates and diplomas of higher education, HNDs and HNCs, and study for institutional credit.
  4. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.