In 2019/20 there were 2.7 million students doing higher education at UK higher education providers and further education colleges. About 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.
Females made up 57% of the overall student population and made up a greater share at every level except PhDs (49.5%). This has remained stable between 2018/19 and 2019/20.
The most popular subject group studied in higher education in the UK is business and management with 447,000 students (17% of all students), followed by subjects allied to medicine (12%) and social sciences (10%).
There are clear differences in the subject group figures by gender:
- Females were more likely to enrol in both subjects allied to medicine and social sciences than males. 16% of all female students enrolled in subjects allied to medicine and 12% in social sciences whereas for males the figures were 6% and 8% respectively.
- For males the most popular subjects were business and management (20% of all male students) followed by engineering and technology (13%) and computing (10%). Only 2% of female students enrolled in each of these subjects.
These figures are available in the underlying data by level of education and mode of study.
The number of overseas students studying higher education in the UK continued to increase in 2019/20, rising by 12% to 559,000 overall. Although this follows a rising trend, this was a larger increase than in recent years.
The total number of students in further education in the UK continued to decrease in 2019/20, falling in every part of the UK and by 11.4% overall compared to 2018/19. The number of students fell by 11.9% in England, by 8.4% in Scotland, by 8.1% in Wales and by 7.2% in Northern Ireland. The decrease in the number of students in further education in Scotland in 2019/20 follows year-on-year increases between 2015/16 and 2018/19. The 2019/20 data covers the early months of the global COVID-19 crisis and the nationwide lockdown. This may have affected enrolment figures and therefore extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting trends over time.
Further information on the demographics of further education students (gender, age and mode of study), as well as the number of colleges, can be found in the underlying data.