2019/20 and 2020/21 data covers the months of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). This may have affected enrolment figures and therefore extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting trends over time.
Further education students:
The total number of students in further education (FE) in the UK continued to decrease in 2020/21, falling in every part of the UK and by 4.5% overall compared to 2019/20.
In 2020/21, females accounted for 55% of FE students across the UK, however, this is mostly driven by England where 56% of FE students are female. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales females accounted for 47%, 51% and 52% of FE students respectively.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, more FE students study part time (49% and 54% respectively) whereas in Wales more students study full time (44%). In addition, in Scotland and Wales, over 15% of students are on work-based learning. Mode of study breakdowns for England are unavailable.
Higher education students:
In 2020/21, there were 2.9 million students in higher education (HE) in UK further education colleges or higher education providers. Nearly two thirds of these were studying first degrees (also known as bachelor's degrees), 1 in 5 studying a masters or other postgraduate aims, 1 in 25 doing a PhD and 1 in 10 on other undergraduate courses.
More females than males made up the overall student population (57%) and females made up a greater share at every level, including at PhD level (in which 50.3% of students were female, or just over 600 more females) where in previous years there were more males.
In 2020/21, 21% of all HE students were from overseas (606,800 students). The number of overseas students as a proportion of total students was greater for postgraduate courses (39% of postgraduate students) than for undergraduate courses (15% of undergraduate students).
Overseas students' predominantly study full-time, but this is particularly noticeable at postgraduate level where 91% of postgraduate overseas students study full-time compared to 45% of postgraduate UK students.
In 2020/21, Business and Management courses attracted the highest number of students with 17% of all students enrolled (nearly half a million students), followed by Subjects allied to Medicine (12%) and Social Sciences (10%).
For females the most popular subjects were Subjects allied to Medicine (17% of all female students) followed by Business and Management courses (15%) and Social Sciences (12%).
For males the most popular subjects were Business and Management courses (21% of all male students) followed by Engineering and Technology (13%) and Computing (10%).
Biological and Sport Science courses had the most even split between males and females [49% of students were female compared to 51% of males], followed by Business and Management courses (52% male and 48% female). Veterinary sciences had the highest percentage of female students (82%) followed by Psychology (81% female). Engineering and Technology had the highest percentage of male students (80%).
The seven subjects with the highest enrolment are presented in the chart below by gender. The number of students studying Biological and Sport Science, Veterinary sciences and Psychology are not presented in the chart below, but these figures are available in the table and in the underlying data as well as by level of study.