All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:
Table 3 - mapping CAH Level 3 to technical route (xlsx, 12 Kb)
This table contains the mapping from CAH Level 3 to the technical routes.
Updated PRA list added
This statistics publication presents an overview of participation and achievements in higher-level learning at Further Education Providers (FEPs) and Higher Education Providers (HEPs) for English-domiciled learners in England in the academic year 2021/22.
Throughout this publication, higher-level learning refers to learning at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Levels 4 to 8. Qualifications covered are at a higher level than A levels or equivalent, and include a range of qualification aims, such as foundation degrees, first degrees and Doctorates.
The statistics show how higher-level skills provision was organised in 2021/22 which will aid our understanding of the potential impacts of the government’s skills reforms and assist in future policy decisions.
The statistics in this release will focus on entrants to higher-level learning rather than total enrolments. Entrants data provides a more responsive yearly snapshot that is not skewed by qualifications that are studied for longer periods of time. Detailed characteristic breakdowns on total enrolments, entrants and qualifiers from 2018/19 to 2021/22 can be found in the underlying data files. Summary level data is available back to 2015/16.
This official statistics series is being published on an experimental basis. DfE welcomes feedback. If you have any comment, please email email@example.com.
View tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from open data using our table tool
Browse and download open data files from this release in our data catalogue
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Download all data available in this release as a compressed ZIP file
All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:
This table contains the mapping from CAH Level 3 to the technical routes.
These statistics provide a holistic view of higher-level learning across the further and higher education sectors. All types of learning are covered, including OfS-recognised higher education (recognised by the Office for Students for funding purposes and generally eligible for student loan support), Apprenticeships (funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and employers, where students earn whilst learning) and institutional credit (bite-sized, standalone modules of learning which are not regarded as full qualifications).
The statistics show how higher-level skills provision was organised in 2021/22 and aid our understanding of the potential impacts of the government’s skills reforms. In particular, it will assist future policy understanding for Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ) reform and the flexible Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE).
The publication presents analysis of the further and higher education sectors after combining two separate data sources:
Statistics on learning in further and higher education have typically been published as separate publications. This makes it complicated to quantify the totality of learning that happens at education Levels 4 to 8. Combined FE and HE statistics are particularly important for understanding learning at education Levels 4 and 5, as this is delivered roughly equally across both sectors.
This release refers only to learners in England doing study aims at education Levels 4 to 8.
Analysis is presented for English-domiciled learners to reflect funding eligibility more closely and allow for consistent comparisons across both HESA and ILR sources.
Most of the data included in this release refers to academic year 2021/22. However, detailed time series data for academic years 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 can be found in the underlying data files and figures back to 2015/16 are also available at summary level.
Changes in this release
After listening to feedback from last year, a number of changes have been made in this release. For example:
HESA published a COVID-19 insight brief that analyses the impact of the pandemic on student data and trends across the years of enrolments and qualifications across various characteristics.
The varying COVID-19 restrictions will also have impacted on apprenticeships and traineeship learning as well as provider reporting behaviour via the Individualised Learner Record. For example, a number of providers experienced administrative hold-ups resulting in some achievements that were not reported in the 2019/20 academic year being carried over to 2020/21 or 2021/22.
Additional care should be taken in comparing and interpreting data for academic years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 in this release.
To produce these statistics, information has been standardised across both the ILR and HESA datasets. Extensive data processing is required to harmonise the information across the HESA and ILR data and remove duplicate records.
Learners can be recorded twice through both collections and duplicates have been removed. Where there was duplication of learners across the ILR and HESA records, the HESA record was retained. The only exception to this was in the case of Apprenticeships, where the ILR record is considered the authoritative record of the learning.
Apprenticeships are a count of programmes recorded in the ILR and undertaken in an academic year. An Apprenticeship programme can contain multiple component qualifications, which make up part of the overarching Apprenticeship framework or standard. In line with other official statistics publications on Apprenticeships, the overarching programme is counted rather than the component qualifications. Component qualifications like degrees would normally be classed under OfS-recognised HE learning, but the overarching Apprenticeship programmes are prioritised as the type of higher-level learning in this release.
Apprenticeships are included in this release if they were at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Levels 4 and above. Counts differ slightly to other official statistics publications on Apprenticeships due to the restriction of English-domiciled learners only in this release.
This publication can only report the higher-level learning that is recorded in administrative data held by government. There is likely to be some unfunded-learning in FE providers that is not recorded as it is only mandatory for providers to record information in the ILR for their ESFA-funded learners. There may also be higher-level learning in the private sector that is not recorded in administrative data held by government. This means that the “Other Higher level” category is a lower bound estimate.
Rounding and suppression
The Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires DfE to take reasonable steps to ensure that its published or disseminated statistics protect confidentiality.
Throughout the publication, all numbers are rounded to the nearest 5 to preserve confidentiality. Percentages are calculated on pre-rounded data but are not published if they are fractions of a small group of people (fewer than 22.5).
Due to rounding, it is possible that the sum of the category percentages may not always total to 100%.
Between the academic years 2020/21 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled entrants to higher-level learning in England has decreased by 2.0%, from 859,945 to 842,730, which was mostly driven by decreases in OfS-recognised HE at Levels 5 and 7.
While the number of entrants to HE in 2021/22 was lower than in 2020/21, it was still 9.6% higher than in 2019/20, mostly due to an atypical sharp increase of 11.8% in the number of entrants in 2020/21.
Across the time-series between academic years 2015/16 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled entrants to higher-level learning in England has increased by 15.7%, from 728,140 to 842,730. The increase since 2015/16 has been mostly driven by increases in OfS-recognised HE at Levels 6 and 7 and Apprenticeships at Levels 4 to 7.
Entrants to Apprenticeships have increased by around four times since 2015/16, from 26,870 to 104,980 in 2021/22. Increases in Apprenticeships occurred at all levels, with Level 4 having the largest increase in entrants (by 25,970).
Total enrolments (All years of learning)
Between the academic years 2020/21 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled enrolments to higher-level learning in England has increased by 1.8%, from 1,949,250 to 1,983,725. This was mostly driven by increases in enrolments in Apprenticeships at all levels.
Across the timeseries between academic years 2015/16 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled enrolments to higher-level learning in England has increased by 19.7%, from 1,657,835 to 1,983,725. This was mostly driven by increases in OfS-recognised HE at Levels 6 and 7 and Apprenticeships at Levels 4 to 7.
Enrolments in Apprenticeships has increased by almost five times since 2015/16, from 46,480 to 246,740 in 2021/22. Increases in Apprenticeships occurred at all levels, with Level 6 having the largest increase in total enrolments (by 59,100), followed closely by Level 4 (by 56,190).
Information on mode of study in this section has been included for OfS-recognised HE only as it is more robustly defined for this group of learners.
Entrants to OfS-recognised HE at education Levels 4 to 8 increased overall but varied by mode of study – the number of Full-time entrants increased by 15.3% since 2015/16 (from 474,835 to 547,265 in 2021/22) while Part-time entrants decreased by 10.7% (from 148,635 to 132,795 over the same period).
Part-time entrants to OfS-recognised HE at Levels 4 to 5 showed the largest proportional change since 2015/16 compared to all other NQF levels (48.4% decrease compared with a 14.9% decrease at level 6, a 12.6% increase at Level 7 and a 3.7% increase at Level 8).
Across all levels of study, part-time entrants to OfS-recognised HE decreased by 13.9% between 2015/16 and 2019/20 from 148,635 to 128,005. Part-time entrants then increased by 14.9% to 147,015 in 2020/21, before falling by 9.7% to 132,795 in 2021/22.
Distance learning is defined as where provision is delivered away from a learning centre, for example: e-learning. Information on distance learning in this section has been included for OfS-recognised HE only while we investigate how to present this information for other types of study.
Between the academic years 2020/21 and 2021/22, the number of English-domiciled, distance-learner entrants to OfS-recognised HE in England has decreased by 10.3%, from 72,285 to 64,850. This was mostly driven by decreases in distance learning at Level 6.
Across the timeseries between academic years 2015/16 and 2021/22, the number of English-domiciled distance-learner entrants to OfS-recognised HE in England has increased by 38.7%, from 46,745 to 64,850. This was mostly driven by increases in distance learning for entrants at Levels 6 and 7. The proportion of entrants that were distance-learners reached a high of 10.3% in 2020/21, during the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2021/22, the qualification level with the highest proportion of distance-learners was Level 4 with 18.1%, followed closely by Level 7 with 13.5%.
Provider type refers to the provider the learner is registered with. This is not necessarily the provider where the learning is taking place. For example, if a franchising arrangement existed between a HEP (registering provider) and a further education college (delivering the learning), the learner is reported under the HEP provider type. In previous years DfE estimates that over 20,000 higher-level entrants who were registered in HEPs were taught at a franchise partner which was not a HEP.
Of the 842,730 English-domiciled higher-level entrants in England in 2021/22:
Level 4 and 5 provision was more evenly distributed amongst different provider types than higher levels of provision, which are almost exclusively offered at HEPs. In the academic year 2021/22, 23.3% of higher-level entrants at level 4 and 40.1% of higher-level entrants at Level 5 were registered at HEPs, compared with 95.6% of higher-level entrants at Levels 6 and above. There was a higher proportion of level 4 and 5 learners registered at private training providers in the FE sector, which was largely explained by the higher proportion of apprenticeships at these levels.
The qualification aim (or study aim) is what the learner is aiming to achieve from their studies. This may differ to what they actually achieve when they complete their studies. The learner may achieve a Level 4 to 8 qualification, or alternatively accrue some institutional credit at one of those levels from 4 to 8.
There were 68,995 English-domiciled learners entering Level 4 in England in 2021/22. At this level, the most common qualification aim was Apprenticeships with (51.3%).
There were 67,750 English-domiciled learners entering Level 5 in England in 2021/22. At this level, the most common qualification aims were Apprenticeships (39.9%), foundation degrees (23.7%) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) (12.8%).
In 2021/22, 91.0% of the 469,370 English-domiciled learners entering level 6 in England were aiming for a first degree (excluding integrated masters degree).
Some learners in the HESA and ILR data are recorded as having an unknown funding source and this occurs more often at different levels of learning. In 2021/22, 3.0% (25,235) of higher-level entrants were recorded as having an unknown funding source. However, 9.9% (13,575) of Level 4 and 5 entrants had an unknown funding source, compared to 1.0% (4,790) for level 6. These differences are due to FEPs being more likely to report incomplete data on funding source to the ILR. To allow for meaningful comparisons across learning types, the following percentages are based on learners whose funding source is known.
OfS-recognised HE refers to qualifications that are classed as recognised HE for Office for Students (OfS) funding purposes (as defined in Annex B here). For OfS-recognised HE learning, student loans were the most common source of funding at each level from 4 to 6, but in smaller proportions at Levels 4 and 5.
Of the 662,575 OfS-recognised HE English-domiciled higher-level entrants in England in 2021/22 with known funding source,
For other higher-level courses that were not OfS-recognised, there was a total of 5,010 English domiciled higher-level entrants who took out an Advanced Learner Loan (ALL) as their primary source of tuition fees in 2021/22. Advanced Learner Loans are available from Student Finance England for those aged 19 or above on the first day of their course to help cover the costs of a level 3, 4, 5 or 6 qualification at an approved college or training provider in England. For more information on Advanced Learner Loans, including funding rules and qualifications available for funding, please see here.
Counts of learners funding their tuition with student loans and Advanced Learner Loans (ALLs) differ slightly to those published by the Student Loans Company (SLC). Refer to the methodology section at the end of this page for more details.
Age refers to the learner’s age at the start of the academic year. A very small number of learners (60 entrants) had unknown age. The following percentages are based on learners where age is known.
There were 842,670 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level learning in England in 2021/22 with known age:
This publication refers to the legal sex of the learner, as opposed to the gender in which they identify.
The number of entrants with unknown sex has been suppressed due to low numbers (c), more information about rounding and suppression can be found in the methodology section. The following percentages are based on learners where sex is known. ‘Other’ sex can be recorded in the HESA record but is not collected in the ILR.
There were 842,730 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level learning in England in 2021/22 with known sex:
Some learners are recorded as having unknown ethnicity, and this occurs more often for certain types of learning. In 2021/22, 2.0% (17,265) of learners entering all types of higher-level study were recorded as having unknown ethnicity. However, 1.9% (1,945) of Apprenticeship starts had unknown ethnicity compared to 2.0% (13,330) for OfS-recognised HE. To allow for meaningful comparisons across learning types, the following percentages are based on learners where ethnicity is known.
There were 825,465 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level study in England in 2021/22 with known ethnicity:
Disability is based on the learners own self-assessment and includes those with learning difficulties.
There were 842,730 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level study in England in 2021/22:
Region of domicile has been derived from the location of the learner’s permanent home address before starting their course. A very small proportion of learners (3,625 entrants) had unknown domicile. The following percentages are based on learners where region of domicile is known.
There were 839,105 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level study in England in 2021/22 with known region of domicile:
The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintile of learners has been derived from the neighbourhood of the learner’s permanent home address before starting their course.
The English indices of deprivation (IMD) is maintained by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and applies only to those domiciled in England. Data displayed in this publication relate to IMD 2015. Quintile 1 areas are considered to be the most deprived, ascending to quintile 5 areas which are considered to be the least deprived.
A very small number of learners had unknown IMD domicile (3,625 entrants). The following percentages are based on learners where IMD domicile is known.
There were 839,105 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level study in England in 2021/22 with known IMD domicile,
Subjects have been categorised using the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) level 1, which was the classification used for HEPs. The Learn Direct Classification System (LDCS) codes and sector subject area categories used in FE providers included in the ILR have been mapped to the closest available Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) . See the “Data processing” section in the methodology notes for more details of this mapping.
There were 842,730 English-domiciled learners entering higher-level study in England in 2021/22:
The Sainsbury Review and Post-16 Skills Plan set out fifteen technical routes describing occupations that require technical and higher technical education. Reforms to higher technical education include the introduction of Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) from September 2022 onwards. HTQs are qualifications at Levels 4 and 5 that have been assessed by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) to meet employer-led occupational standards within the technical routes.
In this publication, Level 4 and 5 provision has been mapped to the fifteen technical education routes to give a broad indication of current supply of technical learning in these areas. The routes have been mapped to the new CAH subject coding system used by HESA and this mapping has been created internally within DfE. Data on Apprenticeships and institutional credit learning are excluded from this section. Full details of the methodology used is described in the “Methodology” notes. The mapping is not the same as the approval process for HTQs used by the IfATE employer led approvals system. Counts provided in each technical route in this publication are based on subject classifications rather than an assessment of whether qualifications meet the employer-led occupational standards within the routes. It is our intention in future publications to alter this section and report only on qualifications that have been approved as Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) as per IfATE guidance.
There were 25,975 English-domiciled learners entering Level 4 study in England in 2021/22 (excluding Apprenticeships and institutional credit aims). At this Level, 89.5% were in a technical education route. The most popular subject area for technical education routes at level 4 was Care services and Engineering and manufacturing (both 14.9%).
For the 37,800 English-domiciled learners entering Level 5 in England in 2021/22 (excluding Apprenticeships and institutional credit aims), 92.8% were in a technical education route. The most popular subject area for technical education routes at Level 5 was Business and administration (28.1%).
Access to student finance can be impacted by whether the relevant course is at the same or below the level of an award the learner already holds. This is determined by the Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) status. This information is derived for OfS-recognised HE learners as prior qualifications are less well recorded on entry to other learning types.
Some learners are recorded as having unknown qualification on entry status and this occurs more often at different levels of learning. In 2021/22, 7.8% of OfS-recognised HE entrants were recorded as having an unknown ELQ status. However, 10.1% of Level 4 and 11.8% of Level 5 entrants had an unknown ELQ status compared to 1.9% for Level 7. These differences are due to FEPs being more likely to report incomplete entry qualification data to the ILR. To allow for meaningful comparisons across learning types, the following percentages are based on learners where ELQ status is known. Caution should be applied when interpreting these statistics due to the high level of unknowns.
There were 626,765 English-domiciled learners entering OfS-recognised HE in England in 2021/22 with known ELQ status. Level 4 (18.2%) and 5 (16.9%) entrants were more likely to be aiming for an ELQ that they already held compared to level 6 (4.7%) entrants. This may be driven by Level 4 and 5 entrants being older and so would therefore be more likely to be retraining compared to level 6 entrants.
In 2021/22, the highest level of qualification already held by entrants to OfS-recognised HE at Levels 4, 5 and 6 was most commonly Level 3 (72.4%).
Entrants to OfS-recognised HE at Level 7 were most likely to be qualified to Level 6 (67.3%), and entrants to Level 8 were most likely to be qualified to Level 7 (78.7%).
Entrants at Levels 4, 5 and 7 were more likely to be aiming for an equivalent or lower qualification than they already held than entrants at Levels 6 and 8. The following chart shows the NQF levels to which entrants to each NQF level of study were qualified prior to study.
Achievements refers to learners who obtained a qualification at some point during the academic year stated. Further breakdowns by characteristic can be found in the underlying data.
Covid-19 impacts on achievements
A number of providers experienced administrative hold-ups related to the COVID-19 pandemic which began in the 2019/20 academic year. As such, some achievements that were not reported in the 2019/20 academic year were carried over to 2020/21 or 2021/22. Hence caution should be taken when comparing and interpreting data from the academic years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Between academic years 2020/21 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled achievements in higher-level learning in England has increased by 1.2%, from 549,085 to 555,805. This was mostly driven by an increase in OfS-recognised HE at Level 4 and 7 and apprenticeships at Levels 6 and 7. The number of achievements at level 4 had the largest percentage increase of 9.4% and Level 7 has the largest absolute increase of 14,240.
Across the timeseries between academic years 2015/16 and 2021/22, the total number of English-domiciled achievements in higher-level learning in England has increased by 10.7%, from 501,980 to 555,805. This was mostly driven by increases in achievements in OfS-recognised HE at Level 7 and Apprenticeships at all levels. The number of achievements at Level 4 increased by 15.4%, but at Level 5 decreased by 22.3%. The decrease in achievements at Level 5 is driven by a decrease in achievements in OfS Recognised HE by almost a third (42,920 in 2015/16 to 28,850 in 2021/22).
Apprenticeship achievements have almost quadrupled over the period (from 6,885 in 2015/16 to 34,250 in 2021/22). Increases in Apprenticeships occurred at all levels, with Level 4 having the largest increase in achievements (by 9,395).
There were 554,100 English-domiciled achievements at higher-level study in England in 2021/22 with known region of domicile:
There were 555,805 English-domiciled higher-level study achievements in England in 2021/22:
These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:
Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.
If you have a specific enquiry about Higher Level Learners in England statistics and data:
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