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Postgraduate numbers drop for first time in five years

The number of students enrolling on postgraduate courses has decreased for the first time since 2007-8, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

As well as a 3 per cent fall in postgraduate enrolment between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the data show an overall decrease of 4,650 students enrolling on all HE courses in the past year—again, the first drop since 2007-08.

The information, published 10 January, looks at student enrolment and qualifications in the UK for the academic year 2011-12.

The number of overseas students enrolling on part-time postgraduate courses also dropped in 2011-12—by 10 per cent among non-EU students and 7 per cent among EU students. For full-time postgraduate courses, the number of EU students remained the same, but the number of non-EU students dropped 1 per cent.

Nevertheless, the proportion of non-EU students enrolling on a full-time postgraduate course in a UK HEI—45 per cent—was two percentage points higher than the number of UK students on full-time postgraduate courses.

Of the four worst-hit areas of postgraduate study this year, three were in the sciences. Computer science, veterinary science and engineering and technology saw enrolments drop by 15, 10 and 7 per cent in 2011-12, compared with 2010-11, respectively. The fourth was in education courses, where enrolment fell 14 per cent.

The biggest increase in postgraduate enrolment this year was in agriculture and related subjects, with 10 per cent more students than in 2010-11 at 3,380 enrolments.

While enrolment on full-time postgraduate science courses dropped by 2 per cent, part-time courses saw no percentage change in enrolment. Overall, 217,715 postgraduate students enrolled on science courses in 2011-12.

The data also show a 1 per cent increase in undergraduate numbers in 2011-12, compared with the previous year. There was a 3 per cent increase in the number of students enrolling on full-time science courses, with 6 per cent increases in those choosing mathematical and biological courses.

Statistics on qualifications obtained at HEIs in the UK show that 24,665 more were awarded in 2011-12 than in 2010-11, an increase of 3 per cent. This includes a 6 per cent increase in first degrees, which account for half of all HE qualifications in 2011-12.

The data show that more full-time students received a first or upper second class degree than those studying part-time—67 per cent compared with 53 per cent.