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Higher education in numbers

Key facts and figures about UK higher education, from the numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students to how much universities contribute to the UK economy.

Higher education institutions (2016–17)

In 2016–17, there were 162 higher education institutions in the UK in receipt of public funding via one of the UK funding councils that returned data to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

136 of these are Universities UK members.


Student numbers in UK higher education (2016–17)

In 2016–17, there were 2.32 million students studying at UK higher education institutions.

  • Undergraduate: 1.76 million
  • Postgraduate: 551,585
  • Full time: 1.80 million
  • Part time: 518,930
  • Students from the UK: 1.87 million
  • Students from the EU: 134,835
  • Students from non-EU countries: 307,540

Graduate employment (2015–16)

Figures from 2015–16 show that more than 90% of graduates were in work or further study within six months of leaving university. 

  • In 2016, working age (aged 16 to 64) graduates earned on average £9,500 more than non-graduates. 


Staff in higher education institutions (2016–17)

  • Academic staff employed at UK universities: 206,870
  • Non-academic staff employed at UK universities: 212,840 


Income and expenditure (2015–16)

Figures for 2015–16 show that the total income for the sector was £34.7 billion. This was made up from the following sources:

  • Teaching (fees): £15.9 billion
  • Teaching (UK government): £3.2 billion
  • Research (UK government): £5 billion
  • Research (other): £2.8 billion
  • Endowment and investment income: £0.8 billion
  • Other income: £7 billion

Figures for 2015–16 show that total operating expenditure by the sector was £33 billion. This breaks down into the following categories of spending:

  • Teaching and research: £18.2 billion
  • Libraries, IT and museums: £3 billion
  • Running the university: £2.4 billion
  • Financial support to students and outreach: £1.2 billion
  • Student and staff facilities: £1.1 billion
  • Maintaining campuses: £3.8 billion
  • Accommodation and conferences: £1.7 billion
  • Other expenditure: £1.7 billion 

The economic impact of universities (2014–15)

In 2014–15, universities across the UK generated £95 billion in gross output for the economy.

  • The UK university sector contributed £21.5 billion to GDP, representing 1.2% of the UK's GDP.
  • The sector also supported more than 940,000 jobs in the UK.


University research

The 2014 Research Excellent Framework rated 76% of the research submitted as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

  • UK academic research productivity is 3.6 times the world average.
  • In 2014, the UK represented 4.1% of the world's researchers, and accounted for 15.2% of the world's most highly-cited articles.


Working with business and industry

In 2015–16, 3,890 new graduate start-ups were created.

  • 150 new university-owned or part-owned spin-off companies were created in 2015–​16, up from 133 in 2014–15.
  • Industry collaboration with higher education institutions increases productivity by between 11 and 16%.
  • There are over 100 university science and enterprise parks in the UK.


Student satisfaction

The latest National Student Survey, published in 2017, found that 84% of students were satisfied with their course.

  • In 2017, 84% of respondents agreed that they were provided with learning opportunities such as exploring ideas or concepts in depth and applying what they had learnt.


Widening participation

In 2017, 20.4% of 18-year-old English-domiciled young people from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR3 quintile 1) entered higher education, compared to 11.2% in 2006.

  • In 2017, English pupils receiving free school meals​ were 83% more likely to go to university than they were in 2006.
  • The number of full-time undergraduates from black and minority ethnic groups rose by 38% between 2007–08 and 2015–16.


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