UK marked by diversity

October 2, 1998

Striking differences in the student profiles of Britain's higher education institutions emerge in figures just released.

Variations in numbers of overseas, part-time, mature, disabled and ethnic minority students reveal a diverse sector, with individual universities and colleges clearly appealing to a certain type of student.

The figures are taken from 1996-97 Higher Education Statistics Agency data and compiled by the Higher Education Management Statistics Group, which will publish the data in sections over the autumn.

They show that non-United Kingdom, European Union and overseas students flock to institutions such as the London Business School, where they made up more than 70 per cent of first-year undergraduates and postdoctoral candidates in 1996-97, and the London School of Economics, where the figure was 67 per cent. But foreign students virtually ignore many others. The University of Derby drew just 3 per cent of its students from abroad, the University of Teesside less than 5 per cent. The national average was 14 per cent.

While 90 per cent of students at the Institute of Advanced Nursing Education and 76 per cent of those at St George's Hospital Medical School attended part-time, part-timers made up less than 2 per cent of those studying at the Royal Veterinary College.

Part-timers accounted for more than 61 per cent of first-years at the University of Sussex and Thames Valley University; more than 57 per cent at the University of Leicester, and nearly half at the University of Glasgow. At the University of St Andrews, however, the figure was less than 1 per cent.

Overall, Scotland was less open to part-time study. Fewer than 25 per cent of first-year students there went part-time; compared with 30 per cent in Wales, 37 per cent in England and 41 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Scotland also had fewer undergraduates over 21: 41 per cent, compared with 52 per cent in England, 48 per cent in Wales, and 38 per cent in Northern Ireland.

More than three-quarters of first-year undergraduates at TVU were mature. At London Guildhall and South Bank universities, the figure topped 70 per cent.

At the other end of the scale, mature students represent just 10 per cent at Bath University and Imperial College and 11 per cent at Aston and Loughborough universities.

The highest numbers of ethnic minority first-year students were found at the Universities of North London (45 per cent) and East London (45 per cent) and United Medical and Dental Schools (44 per cent.) But the University of Wales, Lampeter had none, the University of Stirling less than 1 per cent and the University of Plymouth less than 2 per cent.

Numbers of disabled students also varied. Disabled students, most likely to be found at art and design or drama colleges, made up 8 per cent of first-years at St Andrews and 7 per cent at Kent, Loughborough and Nottingham. The universities of Keele, Bristol Brighton, the LSE and Manchester Metropolitan were among those with less than 1 per cent.

Gender breakdowns were more consistent, but still some figures stood out. Just 20 per cent of first-year students at the London Business School, 29 per cent at Heriot-Watt and a third at Loughborough were women. Women are now in the majority at 126 of the 182 institutions covered by Hesa.

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