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As reported by HEFCE earlier this month [Note 1], there have been declines in part-time study in many countries. A HEFCE analysis published today [Note 2] shows that in England undergraduate courses other than first degrees account for almost all of this effect.

First degree courses [Note 3] account for only 6 per cent of the overall fall in numbers of part-time entrants between 2008-09 and 2012-13: the rest of the decline results from fewer students studying other undergraduate (OUG) qualifications such as foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas or institutional credit [Note 4].

Numbers of full-time first degree entrants are high and remain close to record levels, but full-time OUG entrants fell by a third between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

Other findings of the analysis include:

  • The decline in OUG covers all types of study. Foundation degree numbers (both full- and part-time, and in most subjects) peak in 2009 before falling back sharply. The same is true of study for institutional credit. Numbers of students enrolling in Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Certificates (HNCs) in higher education institutions (HEIs) have been declining since at least 1995.
  • Full-time equivalent entrant numbers into OUG courses in HEIs have declined by 47 per cent in three years from 2009-10. If study for institutional credit (which is most likely to be affected by changes in registration practice) is excluded, the decline is still about the same (46 per cent).
  • These shifts may be partly due to changes in the way data are recorded. It is possible that the numbers are depressed by a tendency for HEIs to record students as aiming for a first degree even if they leave having completed a foundation degree. They may also be affected by HEIs which are ceasing to attach formal credit to short courses. It is highly unlikely that effects such as these could explain changes on this scale.

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said:

‘The decline in undergraduate courses other than first degrees is stark. Explaining the declines, though, is not simple. A wide range of factors have affected these courses over a long period of time. The challenge in the future will be to support and develop high-quality higher education that meets the needs and aspirations of a diverse range of potential students and employers.’

Summary data from the report

 

 

 

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

Full-time entrants (headcount)

 

 

 

 

 

 

First degree

353,800

370,700

377,900

404,900

366,700

 

Other undergraduate

73,200

75,800

66,700

55,500

45,000

 

 

Foundation degree

29,800

34,000

31,500

31,100

25,300

 

 

Diplomas

16,900

16,400

13,700

4,900

1,600

 

 

HND and HNC

9,900

9,200

7,700

7,800

8,900

 

 

Other (inc. institutional credit)

16,700

16,200

14,000

11,700

9,100

 

Total full-time undergraduate entrants

427,000

446,400

444,600

460,400

411,700

Part-time entrants (headcount)

 

 

 

 

 

 

First degree

61,100

63,500

61,900

70,400

53,200

 

Other undergraduate

231,000

219,600

190,900

164,400

104,500

 

 

Foundation degree

18,800

20,600

18,900

18,000

10,900

 

 

Diplomas

4,400

4,300

3,400

3,800

2,300

 

 

HND and HNC

12,000

10,100

9,200

9,500

8,300

 

 

Other (inc. institutional credit)

195,900

184,600

159,500

133,200

83,000

 

Total part-time undergraduate entrants (headcount)

292,100

283,100

252,800

234,800

157,700

Part-time entrants (full-time equivalent)

 

 

 

 

 

 

First degree

23,900

25,900

24,800

27,400

24,500

 

Other Undergraduate

65,200

64,000

55,000

47,700

30,300

 

 

Foundation degree

11,500

12,400

11,400

10,900

6,700

 

 

Diplomas

1,700

1,600

1,300

1,300

900

 

 

HND and HNC

6,600

5,700

5,000

5,600

4,700

 

 

Other (inc. institutional credit)

45,300

44,300

37,200

30,000

18,000

 

Total part-time undergraduate entrants (full-time equivalent)

89,000

89,900

79,800

75,100

54,700

 

Notes

  1. HEFCE report reveals dramatic changes in English higher education’ was published on 10 April.
  2. Undergraduate courses other than first degrees: An analysis of recent trends’ (HEFCE 2014/08c)
  3. First degrees are honours degrees, ordinary degrees and integrated masters degrees.
  4. Other undergraduate (OUG) students and courses are those at undergraduate level excluding first degrees. They include foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas and Certificates, and study for institutional credit, as well as various other diplomas and certificates.