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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 (2015–16)

In 2015–16, there were 162 higher education institutions (excluding further education colleges) in the UK in receipt of public funding via one of the UK funding councils.

136 of these are Universities UK members.

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Student numbers in UK higher education (2015–16)

In 2015–16, there were 2.28 million students studying at UK higher education institutions.

  • Undergraduate: 1.75 million
  • Postgraduate: 532,970
  • Full time: 1.7 million
  • Part time: 540,285
  • Students from the UK: 1.84 million
  • Students from the EU: 127,440
  • Students from non-EU countries: 310,575


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 (2015–16)

  • Academic staff employed at UK universities: 201,380
  • Non-academic staff employed at UK universities: 208,750 

 

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.

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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 2016, 19.5% 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 2016, English pupils receiving free school meals​ were 78% 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.

Blogs

Higher education in facts and figures 2017

Latest facts, figures and trends in higher education

26 October 2017
UUK's Daniel Wake looks at some of the latest trends from this year's higher education in facts and figures publication.

Admissions latest: what’s happened since A-level results day?

22 August 2017
UUK's Eleanor Jubb looks at what can be learned following ​the publication of this year’s A-level results.

What are university graduates doing now?

18 August 2017
UUK's Stephanie Harris looks at the employment outcomes of graduates.

News

Universities UK response to Home Office exit check report and ONS student migration reports

24 August 2017
The two official reports show that there is very high visa compliance by international students, with the number of students overstaying their visas a tiny fraction of previous incorrect claims