Department for the Economy publishes higher education statistics

Date published: 20 February 2020

The Department has today published two statistical bulletins.

Higher education enrolments and qualifications statistics
Higher education enrolments and qualifications statistics

1. Enrolments at UK Higher Education Institutions: Northern Ireland Analysis 2018/19

This statistical bulletin provides information on the number of NI students enrolled at UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and the number of students enrolled at NI HEIs.

Key points

NI domiciled enrolments at UK HEIs:

  • In 2018/19, 63,535 NI students were enrolled at UK HEIs. This represents a net 1.7 per cent (1,100) decrease from 2009/10. Notably, the 1 per cent (605) increase in the number of enrolments between 2017/18 (62,930) and 2018/19 (63,535), marks the end of a downward trend in enrolments that began in 2013/14 (64,570).
  • The number of NI students enrolled on first year undergraduate courses at UK HEIs decreased by 2.8 per cent, from 19,445 in 2017/18 to 18,895 in 2018/19; in contrast, first year postgraduate enrolments increased by 6.5 per cent (from 6,005 to 6,395), in part due to the uptake of recently introduced postgraduate loans.
  • Of the 63,535 NI domiciled students enrolled at UK HEIs in 2018/19, 72.6 per cent were enrolled at NI HEIs (including 6.2 per cent studying locally at the Open University); the proportion studying in GB (27.4 per cent) was marginally lower than the 2017/18 peak (27.7 per cent).

In 2018/19, 50.3 per cent of NI domiciled students at UK HEIs were studying a Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (Broad STEM) related subject and 26.7 per cent a Narrow STEM related subject.

Enrolments at NI HEIs:

  • While there has been a 2.4 per cent (1,295) increase between 2017/18 (54,460) and 2018/19 (55,755), student enrolments at NI HEIs are near the same level they were 10 years ago, having increased by a net 0.3 per cent (155) over the decade (from 55,600 in 2009/10).
  • Between 2017/18 and 2018/19, the number of first year undergraduates enrolling at NI HEIs decreased by 1.2 per cent, from 16,590 to 16,400; however, the number of first year postgraduate enrolments at NI HEIs increased by 9.7 per cent during this time period (from 6,930 to 7,600), partly due to the continued uptake of postgraduate loans, introduced in 2017/18.
  • Of the 55,755 students enrolled at NI HEIs in 2018/19, 82.7 per cent were from NI, 6.2 per cent from GB, 4 per cent from the Republic of Ireland, 0.7 per cent from other EU countries and 6.3 per cent from non-EU countries.
  • In 2018/19, 50.5 per cent of students enrolled at NI HEIs were studying a Broad STEM related subject and 25.9 per cent a Narrow STEM related subject.

This document is available to download at: Higher education enrolments

2. Qualifications gained at UK Higher Education Institutions: Northern Ireland Analysis 2018/19

This statistical bulletin provides information on higher education qualifications gained by students at NI HEIs and by NI domiciled students at UK HEIs.

Key points

Qualifications gained by NI domiciled students at UK HEIs:

  • Although fluctuating over the past ten academic years, the number of NI domiciled qualifiers from UK HEIs has increased by a net 7 per cent, from 17,740 in 2009/10 to a new high of 18,985 in 2018/19.
  • ‘Postgraduate’ qualifications gained have experienced the largest percentage increase (34.4 per cent) among NI domiciled students over the past ten years (3,975 to 5,345), while ‘first degree’ qualifications have increased by 9.2 per cent (10,970 to 11,975). In contrast, the number who qualify with ‘other undergraduate’ degrees has decreased by 40.5 per cent (2,795 to 1,665).
  • In 2018/19, four-fifths (80 per cent) of NI domiciled first degree graduates from UK HEIs achieved either a first class or upper second class honours degree, a new high.
  • During 2018/19, 46.6 per cent of qualifications gained by NI domiciled students at UK HEIs were in a Broad STEM related subject, and 23.6 per cent in a Narrow STEM related subject.

Qualifications gained at NI HEIs:

  • At 17,275, the number of qualifications gained by students from NI HEIs in 2018/19 has increased by 11.4 per cent since 2017/18 (15,500), the largest annual increase over the last decade.
  • Postgraduate qualifications gained by students from NI HEIs rose by 30.1 per cent (4,695 to 6,110) between 2017/18 and 2018/19; this may be partly explained by the introduction of postgraduate loans in 2017/18.
  • In 2018/19, 80.6 per cent of ‘first degree’ graduates at NI HEIs achieved either a first class or upper second class honours degree, a new high.
  • During 2018/19, 46.6 per centof qualifications gained by students at NI HEIs were in a Broad STEM related subject, and 22.4 per cent in a Narrow STEM related subject.
  • In 2018/19, three-fifths (60.0 per cent) of students gaining qualifications at NI HEIs were female.

This document is available to download at: Higher education qualifications

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistics presented in these bulletins are based on data collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). HESA is the official agency for the collection of information on publicly funded higher education (HE) institutions in the UK.
  2. The HESA data presented in these bulletins relate to students at publicly funded HE institutions in the UK and do not include HE students at Further Education (FE) colleges in NI or GB, or at institutions in the Republic of Ireland.
  3. Higher education 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).
  4. The academic year runs from 1 August to 31 July.
  5. Further notes and technical details are available in the bulletin on the Department’s website.
  6. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI
  7. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604 or email pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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