Today’s Education in the Media looks at the publication of annual student statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) which showed an increase in the number of university graduates being awarded first class degrees and a rise in international students.

Degree classification

On Thursday 16 January, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published student statistics for 2018/19 which covers a wide range of topics.

One of the main findings from the data was that the share of first-class degrees awarded at English Higher Education Institutes remains at a record high - 28.4% of all classified first degrees and 76.4% for first-class and upper second-class degrees combined.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

It is vital that students, graduates and the public are confident in the value of a university degree, but the increasing proportion of students being awarded the top grades is undermining our world-class reputation.

The levels of firsts and upper second honour degrees remain at an all-time high. Universities are expected to use their awarding powers responsibly and must not inflate grades for their own reputation or league table ranking.

I know the sector are looking at this and while I recognise that change will take time, I expect action to end artificial grade inflation for good.

International students

The HESA figures also showed an increase in the number of enrolments from EU and overseas students. In 2018/19, there were 2,383,970 students in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) – which was up 2% from 2017/18.

Meanwhile, the number of first year students from EU countries (excluding the UK) rose by 2% while the number from non-EU countries rose by 10%.

Yesterday’s statistics from @ukhesa have shown record numbers of international students want to come and study at our world class universities- I’m determined to ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world to study

— Chris Skidmore (@CSkidmoreUK) January 17, 2020

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said:

International students make an important cultural and economic contribution to our country - and these figures shows our world-leading universities continue to attract the brightest and best.

I am delighted to see a continued increase in both EU and non-EU students, and we want to grow the number of international students to 600,00 by 2030.

Our universities thrive on being open, global institutions, which is why we’re allowing international students to remain in the UK for two-years post-graduation.


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