Department for the Economy publishes Higher Education statistical fact sheets

Date published: 27 June 2018

The Department for the Economy has published eight Higher Education (HE) statistical fact sheets.

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This includes the 2016/17 Northern Ireland (NI) HE Age Participation Index (API) as a statistical first release. The API is used to measure the participation of young NI domiciled people in HE over time.

The fact sheets also provide a number of more detailed breakdowns of previously published HE data.

Key points

  • The NI API for the 2016/17 academic year was 51.5%, an increase of 3.3 percentage points from the 2015/16 academic year (48.2%) and the highest on record. While the figure can fluctuate by a few percentage points from year to year, it has grown substantially in net terms since 1993/94, at which stage it was 34.3% (Fact Sheet 1).
  • Between 2008/09 and 2017/18, the number of applicants applying to NI institutions increased by 34.6%, from 18,070 to 24,330. Over the same period, the number of applicants accepted to NI institutions increased by 3.9% (Fact Sheet 2, Section 2).
  • Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the total number of students enrolled on initial teacher training courses at NI HEIs decreased by 2.9%, from 1,460 to 1,420, while those graduating decreased by 4.9%, from 585 to 555 (Fact Sheet 3).
  • In 2016/17, 9.6% of students enrolled at NI HEIs self-reported as having a disability; an increase from 9.3% in 2015/16 (Fact Sheet 4).
  • Of those NI domiciled students enrolled at NI HEIs who were asked to provide their religion in 2016/17 (excluding those at the Open University), 30.5% were ‘Protestant’ and 48.3% were ‘Roman Catholic’, while 21.2% of students fell into the ‘Other’, ‘Unknown’ or ‘No Religion’ categories (Fact Sheet 4).
  • In 2016/17, 25.5% of students at NI HEIs were enrolled on Narrow STEM related courses. The equivalent percentages for English, Scottish and Welsh HEIs were 26.8%, 29.5% and 30.3% respectively (Fact Sheet 5).
  • Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the total number of students enrolled on Narrow STEM related courses at NI HEIs increased by 10.7%, from 12,575 to 13,920 (Fact Sheet 6, Section 1).
  • Over the past 30 years, enrolments on HE courses at NI HEIs have more than doubled, from 22,140 in 1987/88 to 54,570 in 2016/17. Over the same period, enrolments on HE courses at NI Further Education (FE) colleges have increased four-fold, from 2,775 to 11,175 (Fact Sheet 7).
  • Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the total number of NI domiciled students enrolled on HE courses at UK HEIs, UK FE colleges and RoI institutions decreased by a net 1.5%, from 76,610 to 75,640 (Fact Sheet 8).

The fact sheets are available to download at: Higher Education statistical fact sheets


Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistics presented in the fact sheets are based on data from a number of sources, including the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Further Education Statistical Record (FESR), Consolidated Data Return (CDR), Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Department for Education, Welsh Government (WG), Scottish Government (SG) and Higher Education Authority (HEA).
  2. From the 2014/15 academic year onwards, HESA no longer counts the Open University as a wholly English institution, but splits it between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, depending on where the national centre is located.
  3. In 2013/14, the Further Education Statistical Record (FESR) ceased to exist and was replaced by the Consolidated Data Return (CDR).
  4. Higher Education (HE) students for the purpose of HESA's data collection are those students on courses for which the level of instruction is above that of level 3 of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (for example, courses at the level of Certificate of HE and above).
  5. The definition of a HE student used by the different data sources may vary slightly due to different data coding and variable definitions.
  6. The API percentage can fluctuate from year to year as a result of small increases or decreases in the 18 year old population each year in combination with small increases or decreases in enrolments.
  7. Narrow STEM related courses include: Biological sciences; Physical Sciences; Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science and Engineering and Technology.
  8. The academic year runs from 1 August to 31 July.
  9. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.


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