Monday, 18 March 2013

HESA Undergraduate Figures

A post from Chemjobber today prompted me to dig through some data. It references an article from C&EN, which discusses a revival in the number of students studying chemistry at university in the UK. One quote stood out to me:
“Between the academic years 2004–05 and 2011–12, the total number of U.K. undergraduates studying chemistry rose 41%”
This is a significant increase, and one that usually comes with a few caveats. The main one would be that the overall number of students has also increased during this time, so the figure may appear somewhat inflated. The relevant statistics are provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, so are freely available.

Using these, the chart below illustrates both points nicely: 

It shows the number of undergraduates studying chemistry has indeed increased by over 40%* since 2004-05, at a time when the number of total undergraduates has itself increased by 20%. This is still good news for chemistry, and the C&EN article makes some good suggestions why this may be occurring.

The data also highlights the “dark decade” leading up to this recovery, where chemistry undergraduate numbers fell 20%, while overall student numbers increased 17%. This is further emphasised by looking at the number of students studying chemistry as a percentage of all students:

It now becomes clear that, although the latest HESA figures show a 16-year (minimum) high in chemistry students, the recovery may have some way to go.

*Note on data: HESA changed its data format and content in 2009/10. In the figures above, I have used “Full Time Undergraduates” up to this time, and “Full Time First Degrees” + “Other Undergraduates” after. If comparing this to the C&EN article, note that “Other Undergraduates” do not appear to be included in their analysis, so figures may be slightly different.