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HESA Data Shows Continued Student Growth

Posted by Richard Ward

Key Findings:

  • In 2020-21 total full-time students increased by 7.5% year-on-year (YoY) (2019: 3.9%)
  • Growth was driven primarily by a huge increase in UK domiciled students (+104k)
  • The pace of growth in non-EU students (ex-UK) fell to 9.9% (2019: 16.1%)
  • As usual, student growth was not distributed evenly between institutions

HESA has released the latest full-time student figures covering the 2020-21 academic year. Broadly the numbers can be seen as positive for the industry, with total full-time students increasing by 7.5% year-on-year (excluding alternative providers).

A large proportion of this growth can be attributed to a rise in UK domiciled students, which grew by 7.2% YoY. Astonishingly, this equated to an additional 104k students, which is more than the combined increases from the previous three years.

The data suggests that UK students have not been deterred by the pandemic, whilst the sector is now starting to benefit from the well-reported rise in 18-year-olds. Furthermore, with this trend set to continue, significant future increases are expected.

Positively for the PBSA sector, non-EU (ex-UK) full-time students also rose in 2020-21, increasing by 9.9% YoY, albeit this was a slower pace of growth compared to the previous year. EU numbers also remained in positive territory, rising by 4.2% compared to 2019-20, however, we would expect significant declines in the coming years due to the loss of their home fee status.

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At an institutional level, performance has again been mixed. Institutions such as Canterbury Christ Church University, UWTSD and the University of Glasgow have performed particularly well, whilst De Montfort University, the University of Southampton and the University of Brighton have all witnessed noticeable declines in full-time students.

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Isolating growth in non-EU (ex-UK) numbers, the University of Salford was a top performer. As was, Teesside University, UCLan and the University of Glasgow. De Montfort University again performed poorly, as did the University of Liverpool, Newcastle University and Loughborough University.

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NB: The analysis above excludes alternative providers

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