First year entrants onto undergraduate degrees


1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2017/18, 552,860 people started an undergraduate degree at a UK higher education institution (whose ethnicity was known)
  • 75.3% were White, 11.2% were Asian, 7.8% were Black, 4.1% were from a Mixed ethnic background and 1.7% were from the Other ethnic group
  • between 2007/08 and 2017/18, the number and percentage of undergraduate entrants decreased for the White ethnic group, but increased for all other ethnic groups
  • the Asian ethnic group saw the biggest increase in the percentage and number of entrants in the same time period
  • the number of undergraduate entrants reached a high of 721,165 in 2009/10 – there has since been a decline, dropping to 552,860 in 2017/18, the lowest number over the 11 years shown here
Things you need to know

The data doesn't include students whose ethnicity wasn't known (1.6% of first-year undergraduate 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.

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 every year since 2012/13.

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, 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 undergraduate degrees 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 52,755 7.0 39,410 3.3 18,715 79.1 447,175 1.3 7,065
2014/15 9.8 55,025 7.1 39,865 3.5 19,775 78.1 436,865 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
2016/17 10.8 60,110 7.7 42,820 3.9 21,950 76.1 424,265 1.5 8,565
2017/18 11.2 61,815 7.8 42,975 4.1 22,450 75.3 416,455 1.7 9,165

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


This data shows that:

  • in 2017/18, 75.3% of undergraduate entrants were White (including White ethnic minorities), 11.2% were Asian, 7.8% were Black, 4.1% had Mixed ethnicity, and 1.7% 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 undergraduate entrants from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined increased from 17.2% to 24.7% – there were around 136,405 students from these groups in 2017/18, around 22,405 more than in 2007/08
  • in the same period, the greatest increase was in the percentage of entrants from the Asian ethnic group, from 8.0% to 11.2% (a rise of around 9,070 students)
  • the percentage of entrants from the White ethnic group fell from 82.8% to 75.3% – there were 416,455 White students in 2017/18, around 132,910 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, which includes first-year students at registered higher education and further education providers who started their programme of study between 1 August to 31 July the following year.

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 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 undergraduate degrees - Spreadsheet (csv) 1 KB

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