Enrolments in higher education grew by 6 per cent this academic year compared with 1994/95, figures published this week show, writes Tony Tysome.
Recruitment to both first degree and postgraduate programmes was up by 4 per cent in the same period, and full-time enrolments overall increased by 3 per cent, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Part-time enrolments appear to have taken a giant 13 per cent upwards leap, and recruitment on undergraduate courses other than first degrees shot up by 16 per cent.
But the figures are deceptive, since they include for the first time all enrolments on continuing education courses. In 1994/95, only some institutions included continuing education enrolments in their head count, but for this academic year they were all required to do so.
Including continuing education recruits in the data will have boosted the enrolment total for the United Kingdom which stood at 1,625,000 this year. But HESA does not give separate totals for traditional part-time and continuing education enrolments, so the precise impact of this change is unknown.
The number of students enrolled from the UK increased by 5 per cent in the same period, while recruitment of students from other European Union countries rose by 24 per cent. Enrolments of overseas students from outside the EU was up by 11 per cent. These figures partly reflect decisions by Austria, Sweden and Finland to join the EU.
Over half (51 per cent) of students recruited this year were female, compared to exactly half in 1994/95. There was also a 3 per cent increase in the number of recruits to science courses, which now represent 35 per cent of all enrolments.