1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016/17, 337,740 people graduated from an undergraduate degree (only counting those who were UK residents before their degree and whose ethnicity was known)
  • 28.6% of White graduates achieved a first class degree in 2016/17, compared with 12.3% of Black graduates (the highest and lowest percentages respectively out of all ethnic groups)
  • 50.9% of White graduates achieved an upper-second class (2:1) degree, making them the most likely group to do this
  • 79.5% of White graduates achieved a first class or 2:1 degree compared to 55.6% of Black graduates
  • the difference between the percentage of White and Black graduates achieving a first class or 2:1 degree decreased slightly between 2012/13 and 2016/17
Things you need to know

The data refers to undergraduate students who started a course at a university, college or other higher education institution in the UK.

The data only includes students whose normal residence before starting their degree was in the UK, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. (Guernsey and Jersey in this context refer to the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, which includes their smaller islands.)

Entrants from outside the UK are not asked to report their ethnic origin and are therefore not included.

Percentages shown refer to graduates who were awarded a classified degree. Some first degrees, such as medical degrees, can be awarded without a classification and are therefore shown as ‘unclassified’.

What the data measures

The data includes full-time and part-time students achieving an undergraduate degree (usually a bachelor's degree like a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or Bachelor of Law (LLB)).

Students must have been UK residents before enrolling onto their degree.

The ethnic categories used in this data

The Higher Education Statistics Agency collects 11 detailed categories of ethnicity.

The ethnic category groups included in the White group differ between England and Wales, and Scotland and Northern Ireland. To present data for the whole of the UK, the statistics here have been aggregated into the 5 broad categories used in the 2011 Census (for the years from 2012/13 onwards)

The broad ethnic groups are:

  • Asian or Asian British
  • Black or Black British
  • Mixed
  • White
  • Other

The White ethnic group includes:

  • White Scottish (used by Scottish higher education providers)
  • Irish Traveller (used by Northern Irish higher education providers), Gypsy or Traveller
  • other White background (used by Scottish higher education providers)

HESA also collects data of students whose ethnicity is categorised as unknown or not applicable. This includes students:

  • who did not live in the UK before starting their course
  • whose place of residence before starting their course is unknown (2014/15 only)
  • who refused to give ethnic information
  • whose ethnicity is unknown

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of graduates within each ethnic group achieving the different degree classifications
1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass Unclassified
Ethnicity % of each ethnicity Number of students % of each ethnicity Number of students % of each ethnicity Number of students % of each ethnicity Number of students
Asian 20.8 6,850 48.4 15,940 30.8 10,130 N/A* 2,605
Black 12.3 2,510 43.3 8,865 44.5 9,110 N/A* 660
Mixed 24.2 2,835 50.3 5,900 25.5 2,990 N/A* 540
White 28.6 71,340 50.9 127,005 20.4 50,980 N/A* 15,160
Other 20.4 840 46.8 1,920 32.7 1,345 N/A* 230
Unknown 16.9 1,010 37.0 2,210 46.1 2,745 N/A* 540

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016/17, there were 264,485 White graduates, 35,525 Asian graduates, 21,145 Black graduates, 12,265 graduates from a Mixed background, and 4,335 graduates from Other ethnic backgrounds
  • 28.6% of White graduates from undergraduate courses achieved a first class degree, the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups, followed by 24.2% of graduates with Mixed ethnicity
  • out of all ethnic groups, Black graduates were least likely to achieve a first class degree, with 12.3% doing so
  • 50.9% of White graduates achieved an upper second class degree (2:1), compared with 43.3% of Black graduates
  • the combined percentage of Black graduates who achieved a first class or 2:1 degree was 55.6%, less than for White graduates at 79.5%

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage and number of graduates within each ethnic group achieving the different degree classifications, over time
2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Ethnicity 1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass 1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass 1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass 1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass 1st class Upper 2nd class Lower 2nd, 3rd class or pass
Asian 13.5 46.3 40.2 15.0 48.1 36.9 17.7 47.5 34.8 18.4 48.0 33.5 20.8 48.4 30.8
Black 7.5 39.3 53.2 8.7 40.8 50.5 9.8 41.0 49.2 10.9 42.2 46.9 12.3 43.3 44.5
Mixed 16.4 50.7 32.9 18.1 52.7 29.3 19.6 52.5 27.9 20.9 51.7 27.4 24.2 50.3 25.5
Other 13.3 46.2 40.5 15.0 47.5 37.5 17.1 45.6 37.4 17.7 47.0 35.3 20.4 46.8 32.7
Unknown 14.5 37.1 48.4 14.8 36.5 48.8 15.3 36.4 48.3 15.1 36.2 48.7 16.9 37.0 46.1
White 20.4 52.8 26.8 22.4 53.3 24.4 24.7 52.4 22.9 26.3 52.0 21.6 28.6 50.9 20.4
All (excl Unknown) 18.8 51.3 29.9 20.7 52.0 27.3 22.8 51.1 26.1 24.3 50.9 24.8 26.5 50.1 23.4

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • from 2012/13 to 2016/17, the percentage of graduates from Asian backgrounds achieving a first class or 2:1 degree increased by 9.4 percentage points (the biggest increase out of all ethnic groups); there was an 8.8 percentage point increase among Black graduates, and a 6.3 percentage point increase among White graduates
  • in the same period, the difference between the percentages of graduates from White and Black backgrounds achieving either a first class or 2:1 degree decreased from 26.4 to 23.9 percentage points

4. Methodology

These statistics have been prepared from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) student record.

Ethnicity of the student is recorded on the basis of their own self-assessment. In the case of full-time undergraduates, the information is captured as part of the admissions process through UCAS. For other student groups the information is captured directly by the higher education institution.

Rounding

Student numbers are rounded to the nearest 5 students. Percentages are rounded to 1 decimal place.

Related publications

Analysis published by the Office for Students investigates these differences in more depth.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Rounding and suppression to anonymise statistics

5. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Higher Education Statistics Agency

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Higher Education Statistics Agency has been collecting student information (known as the ‘student record’) since 1994/95.

The data it contains is used extensively by various stakeholders for higher education:

  • funding
  • performance indicators
  • publications (including UNISTATS)
  • league tables

The student record collects individual data about students including:

  • the student’s entry profile and personal characteristics
  • module and course-level data
  • funding information
  • qualifications awarded

6. Download the data

Undergraduate degree results - Spreadsheet (csv) 23 KB

This file contains the following variables: Measure, Ethnic group, Ethnicity_type, Academic year, Classification of first degree, Count, Value, Geography, Source