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Full-time Students Increase but the Flight to Quality Continues

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

The latest data released by HESA, covering the 2017-18 academic year, shows the number of full-time students in higher education increased 2.6% year-on-year, to 1.84m.

Whilst the number of full-time postgraduates increased 5.7% in 2017 (2016: 5.3%), full-time undergraduates grew by just 1.9% (2016: 2.9%).

Split by domicile, the number of full-time non-EU students increased 4.6%, having grown by just 0.2% in the previous year. Meanwhile, UK and EU (exc. UK) full-time students increased by 2.0% and 4.1% respectively.

Whilst year-on-year growth was positive on a national basis, there are some clear individual winners and losers.

Russell Group Universities have performed strongly, with full-time student numbers at these institutions increasing by 3.5% in 2017-18.

Therefore, they continue to capture an increasing proportion of the full-time student population, with 31.0% of all full-time students now attending one of the 24-member institutions. This compares to a market share of 28.2% recorded in 2010.

On an individual basis, those that reported strong year-on-year growth in full-time students include De Montfort University (+12.9%), Plymouth Marjon University (+12.4%) and the University of Reading (+8.9%).

At the other end of the scale, some of the largest declines were reported by Kingston University (-9.2%), the University of Bedfordshire (-7.0%) and London South Bank University (-5.7%).

Universities that have reported steady declines in student numbers will no doubt closely follow the outcome of the Augar review, which could lead to a cut in tuition fees. A reduction in fees will directly impact university funding, adding further pressure on those already facing a reduction through fewer students.