First year entrants onto undergraduate degrees


Last updated 14 May 2019 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2015/16, there were 564,700 undergraduate entrants for whom ethnicity was known at UK higher education institutions – of those, 77.1% were White, 10.3% were Asian, 7.4% were Black, 3.8% were from a Mixed ethnic background and 1.4% were from the Other ethnic group

  • between 2007/08 and 2015/16, the number and percentage of undergraduate entrants decreased for the White ethnic group, but increased for all other ethnic groups

  • the number of undergraduate entrants reached a high of 721,165 in 2009/10 – there has since been a decline, dropping to 555,625 in 2012/13, the lowest number over the 9 years shown here

Things you need to know

The data doesn't include students whose ethnicity wasn't known (1.5% of first-year undergraduate entrants in 2015/16).

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.

Much of the observed decline in the number of undergraduate entrants was due to lower participation in part-time undergraduate study. The number of entrants to full-time undergraduate courses is higher now than in 2007/08, and has been continually increasing over the last 4 years.

What the data measures

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

The data includes full-time and part-time students joining 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:

  • 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, Chinese people were counted under the Other ethnic group. In the 2011 Census, Chinese people were counted under the Asian ethnic group.

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. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of first year entrants on undergraduate 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 8.0 52,745 5.8 38,735 2.4 15,980 82.8 549,365 1.0 6,540
2008/09 8.1 57,165 6.2 43,975 2.6 18,280 82.2 582,495 1.0 6,850
2009/10 7.9 57,265 6.3 45,465 2.7 19,125 82.1 592,095 1.0 7,220
2010/11 8.1 55,955 6.3 43,165 2.8 19,515 81.8 562,385 1.0 6,575
2011/12 8.3 56,125 6.3 42,660 3.0 20,500 81.4 552,195 1.0 6,575
2012/13 9.0 50,105 7.0 38,870 3.1 17,485 79.6 442,385 1.2 6,785
2013/14 9.3 52,750 7.0 39,395 3.3 18,705 79.1 447,130 1.3 7,065
2014/15 9.8 55,030 7.1 39,865 3.5 19,780 78.1 436,945 1.4 7,755
2015/16 10.3 58,175 7.4 41,980 3.8 21,250 77.1 435,120 1.4 8,175

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of First year entrants onto undergraduate degrees By ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2015/16, 77.1% of undergraduate entrants were White, 10.3% were Asian, 7.4% were Black, 3.8% had Mixed ethnicity, and 1.4% were from the Other ethnic group

  • from 2007/08 to 2015/16, the percentage of undergraduate entrants from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined increased from 17.2% to 22.9% – there were around 129,580 students from these groups in 2015/16, around 15,580 more than in 2007/08

  • the greatest increase among ethnic minority entrants was for Asian students, increasing from 8.0% to 10.3%, a rise of around 5,430 students

  • the percentage of undergraduate entrants from the White ethnic group (including White ethnic minorities) fell from 82.8% to 77.1%; there were 435,120 White students in 2015/16, around 114,245 fewer than in 2007/08

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 an undergraduate programme.


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

Further technical information

Definitions - Students 2015/16

4. Data sources


Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Higher Education Statistics Agency

Publication frequency


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

5. Download the data

Enrolments onto undergraduate degrees - Spreadsheet (csv) 5 KB

This file contains: ethnicity, year, value, denominator and numerator.