First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees


1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2017/18, 208,030 people started a postgraduate course at a UK higher education institution (whose ethnicity was known)
  • 77.7% were White, 9.8% were Asian, 7.3% were Black, 3.4% were from a Mixed ethnic background and 1.8% were from the Other ethnic group
  • between 2007/08 and 2017/18, the percentage of entrants decreased for the White ethnic group, but increased for all other ethnic groups
  • over the 11 years shown here, the number of postgraduate entrants reached a high of 208,030 in 2017/18 – the number of entrants from each of the Asian, Mixed and Other ethnic groups also peaked in 2017/18
  • entrants from White backgrounds reached their highest level in 2009/10 and entrants from Black backgrounds reached their highest in 2016/17
Things you need to know

The data doesn't include students whose ethnicity wasn't known (2.7% of first-year postgraduate entrants in 2017/18).

The data only includes students whose normal residence before starting their university 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.

In the 2001 Census, people from the Chinese ethnic group were counted under the ‘Other’ category. In the 2011 Census, they were counted under the ‘Asian’ category.

A new postgraduate loan scheme was launched in 2016/17, which may be partly responsible for the increase in postgraduate entrants in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

What the data measures

This data measures the number of students who enrolled onto postgraduate degrees in the UK, broken down by ethnicity.

The data includes full-time and part-time students joining a postgraduate degree – usually a master's degree like a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), Master of Engineering (MEng) or Master of Law (LLM).

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:

  • 2001 Census (for the years before 2012/13)
  • 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

White includes:

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

In the 2001 Census, people from the Chinese ethnic group were counted under the ‘Other’ category. In the 2011 Census, they were counted under the ‘Asian’ category.

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

Data about these students is not included in the graphs and tables.

2. First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees by ethnicity

Percentage and number of first year entrants onto postgraduate degrees by ethnicity
Asian Black Mixed White Other
Time Asian % Asian Number Black % Black Number Mixed % Mixed Number White % White Number Other % Other Number
2007/08 8.3 13,890 4.8 7,965 2.0 3,325 83.6 139,160 1.3 2,090
2008/09 8.4 15,350 5.1 9,305 2.1 3,915 83.1 151,375 1.2 2,220
2009/10 8.8 17,310 5.1 10,075 2.3 4,550 82.6 163,210 1.2 2,405
2010/11 8.7 16,690 5.2 10,050 2.4 4,560 82.5 158,700 1.2 2,375
2011/12 9.2 16,390 5.7 10,085 2.7 4,790 81.1 144,345 1.4 2,455
2012/13 9.4 15,815 5.6 9,430 2.7 4,625 80.8 136,345 1.5 2,600
2013/14 9.0 15,890 5.6 10,000 2.8 4,910 81.1 143,575 1.5 2,715
2014/15 9.0 16,080 5.6 10,075 2.9 5,220 80.9 144,695 1.5 2,735
2015/16 9.4 17,100 6.1 11,065 3.1 5,585 79.8 144,560 1.6 2,945
2016/17 9.3 19,110 7.7 15,695 3.3 6,655 78.0 159,700 1.7 3,505
2017/18 9.8 20,330 7.3 15,205 3.4 7,125 77.7 161,700 1.8 3,670

Download table data for ‘First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees by ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2017/18, 77.7% of postgraduate entrants were White (including White ethnic minorities), 9.8% were Asian, 7.3% were Black, 3.4% had Mixed ethnicity and 1.8% were from the Other ethnic group – these figures are based on students whose ethnicity was known
  • from 2007/08 to 2017/18, the percentage of postgraduate entrants from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined increased from 16.4% to 22.3% – there were around 46,330 students from these groups in 2017/18, around 19,060 more than in 2007/08
  • the greatest increase was in the percentage of entrants from the Black ethnic group, from 4.8% to 7.3% – a rise of around 7,240 students to 15,205 in 2017/18; the number of Black entrants peaked in 2016/17 at 15,695, or 7.7% of first year postgraduate entrants
  • the only percentage point decrease in postgraduate entrants was among White students, falling from 83.6% to 77.7% – however, the total number of White postgraduate entrants fluctuated over the period, reaching a peak of 163,210 in 2009/10 and falling to a low of 136,345 in 2012/13, before rising again to 161,700 in 2017/18

3. Methodology

These statistics have been prepared by the Department for Education using the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) student record.

The student record is used to derive the HESA standard registration population.

The standard registration population includes first-year students at registered higher education and further education providers who started their programme of study within the reporting period (1 August to 31 July).

Students must be on courses that lead to the award of a qualification or higher education credit.

In some cases the student’s first year of study may be the second or subsequent year of a postgraduate programme.


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

Further technical information

Definitions - Students 2017/18

4. Data sources


Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Higher Education Statistics Agency

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

Student information collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency 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

5. Download the data

First year entrants onto postgraduate degrees - Spreadsheet (csv) 1 KB

Measure, Academic Year, Ethnicity, Ethnicity Type, Value, Value Type, Numerator, Denominator