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1. This analysis is a supplement to HEFCE’s recent report ‘Higher Education in England 2014: Analysis of latest shifts and trends’ (HEFCE 2014/08) [Notes 1 and 2]. It provides a more detailed look at the decline in the number of entrants to undergraduate courses other than first degrees at publicly funded higher education providers in England. These are referred to as ‘other undergraduate’ (OUG) entrants.

2. The key findings of this report are:

  1. Of the decline in part-time undergraduate entrants between 2008-09 and 2012-13, only 6 per cent is accounted for by changes in numbers of entrants to first degrees. The remainder of the decline was in entrants to other undergraduate courses.
  2. Of the decline in full-time undergraduate entrants in between 2010-11 and 2012-13, only 34 per cent is accounted for by first degrees. The remaining 66 per cent is accounted for by falling numbers of entrants to other undergraduate courses.
  3. The number of full-time equivalent other undergraduate entrants registered at English higher education institutions has declined by 47 per cent in the three years to 2012-13.
  4. The number of full-time equivalent foundation degree entrants has declined by 46 per cent in the three years to 2012-13, and there is a similar pattern in full-time and part-time numbers
  5. For all foundation degree subject areas except for biological sciences and subjects allied to medicine, the highest numbers of entrants were recorded in 2009-10. All foundation degree subject areas have declined by at least 23 per cent since then except for biological sciences.
  6. It is likely that these changes reflect, to some extent, changing practice in registering students rather than real shifts in activity, for example:
    • students being entered onto first degree programmes with the foundation degree as a possible earlier exit route for those who do not complete the full first degree programme
    • institutions registering more students for  qualifications including  where previously they were registered as studying for institutional credit
    • institutions ceasing to offer institutional credit for short courses of study without changing the substance of what they provide.
  7. It is unlikely that changes to reporting practice account for all of the declines reported here; but even if they do these changes would still represent a major shift in the way study options are signposted to students, with an increasing emphasis on first degrees and a sharply declining focus on institutional credit and foundation degrees.



1. HEFCE (2014) ‘Higher education in England 2014: Analysis of latest shifts and trends’ (HEFCE 2014/08).

2. In HEFCE 2014/08 we generally report changes in entrants since 2010-11. In this analysis, we employ a range of dates in order to explore significant phenomena; and use analysis of full-time equivalents alongside unweighted entrant numbers.

Date: 22 April 2014

Ref: HEFCE 2014/08c

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Recruitment, Widening access

Enquiries should be directed to:

Thomas Sastry, tel 0117 931 7397, e-mail