Latest HESA data shows student enrolments continue recovery

Our analysis of the newly released HESA student enrolment dataset for 2018/19 highlights the latest trends in enrolments for Business & Administrative Studies courses. This briefing offers an overview of the findings by broad student domicile and level of study (undergraduate and postgraduate courses).


Overall enrolments for Business & Administrative Studies grew for the third consecutive year, which reinforces the positive reversal of the downward trend that had been in place since 2012/13. Total enrolments for business schools remain 1% below the peak of 363,860 seen in 2011/12 before the changes to the student visa regulations and the increase in tuition fees for UK/EU students.

In 2018/19, enrolments grew to 358,470 from 342,970, a proportional increase of 5%. Only two other subjects recorded larger proportional growth in enrolments in the last year: Computer Science (+7%) and Veterinary Science (+7%). Students from non-EU countries continue to make up a large share of total enrolments in Business & Administrative Studies (29%) with the proportion unchanged from last year.

The UK’s departure from the EU is yet to have an adverse impact on business school enrolments at undergraduate level, with enrolments from EU countries increasing 7% in the last year which offsets a 2% decline in EU enrolments at postgraduate level. Overall enrolments from the EU increased by 4% since 2017/18.

Compared to last year there was a 4% increase in the number of students enrolled from the UK and this is the fourth consecutive year in which UK enrolments have grown, with increases observed for both undergraduate and postgraduate study. However, the total in 2018/19 remains 4% below the high of 233,335 recorded in 2011/12.

Business & Administrative Studies remains the most popular subject at UK universities. It is still the case that 1 in 7 undergraduate students are enrolled on a business or management course (15%), increasing to 1 in 5 for postgraduate students (19%). Around 1 in 3 of all non-EU international students are enrolled on a business school course.

Total enrolments in Business & Administrative Studies

  • Across all domiciles and levels of study, total enrolments in Business & Administrative Studies increased by 5% from 342,970 in 2017/18 to 358,470 in 2018/19. This is the third year of growth in a row and the second highest total ever recorded. The increase in enrolments of 5% is above the 2% increase in enrolments observed for all subjects.
  • This year’s results confirm that the business school sector is seeing a trend of positive growth and has managed to recover some of the ground that was lost during the three year decline in enrolments between 2012/13 and 2014/15.

All Business & Administrative Studies enrolments by domicile

  • Enrolments of non-EU international students increased from 99,700 to 105,465 (+6%) in the last year and represents the second consecutive annual increase following three years of declining enrolments between 2014/15 and 2016/17. Non-EU enrolments are now almost level with the all-time high of 105,575 seen in 2013/14.
  • Despite the backdrop of Brexit there was a 4% increase in enrolments from the EU compared to 2017/18, and the total of 28,355 is the fourth consecutive annual increase and slightly exceeds the high of 28,095 recorded in 2011/12. However, as will be seen later on there is substantial variation in EU enrolment trends by level of study.
  • In contrast to the figures for EU and non-EU international students, enrolments for UK students are yet to recover to the peak set in 2011/12 despite numbers increasing in each of the last four years.
  • There has been no change in the proportional representation of the three student domiciles for enrolments within Business & Administrative Studies. UK students still account for 63% of enrolments, non-EU students 29% and EU students 8%.

Undergraduate enrolments - Business & Administrative Studies

  • Across all domiciles undergraduate enrolments within Business & Administrative Studies grew for the fourth year in a row, with enrolments increasing by 4% relative to 2017/18. The total enrolments of 249,680 is only marginally below the high of 249,955 recorded in 2011/12.
  • The 4% growth in undergraduate enrolments for Business & Administrative Studies over the last year is above the 1% increase recorded for all subjects at undergraduate level.

Undergraduate enrolments by domicile

  • In absolute terms the annual growth in undergraduate enrolments is largely accounted for by UK students who comprise 73% of the students enrolled in undergraduate courses at UK business schools.
  • In the last year total enrolments of UK students increased from 176,255 to 183,150 (+4%) and enrolments of non-EU international students grew from 44,835 to 46,325 (+3%). In proportional terms the largest growth occurred for EU students, with enrolments increasing from 18,950 to 20,205 (+7%) despite the Brexit uncertainty.
  • Non-EU international enrolments at undergraduate level remain 3% below the peak of 47,520 set in 2013/14, whereas EU enrolments have set a new high for the second year running. UK undergraduate enrolments are 3% below the 2011/12 high despite four years of increases since the low of 162,780 seen in 2014/15.

Postgraduate enrolments - Business & Administrative Studies

  • At postgraduate level overall enrolments in Business & Administrative Studies increased by 6% compared to 2017/18, the second annual increase in a row. This potentially represents the start of an uptrend following the three year decline recorded between 2014/15 and 2016/17. However, postgraduate enrolments remain 8% down from the 2009/10 high of 117,860.
  • The 6% increase in postgraduate enrolments for Business & Administrative Studies since 2017/18 exceeds the 3% growth in postgraduate enrolments for all subjects overall.

Postgraduate enrolments by domicile

  • Postgraduate enrolments from non-EU international countries increased by 8% in the last year which is the second consecutive year of growth. The total non-EU international enrolments of 59,145 is now almost equal to the peak seen in 2011/12.
  • The long-term downward trend in postgraduate enrolments from the EU continued in 2018/19 with the total of 8,150 being 2% lower than a year ago and 16% lower than in 2011/12. Postgraduate enrolments from the EU have now declined in five of the last seven years.
  • Postgraduate enrolments from UK students increased for the third year consecutively with growth of 4% in the last year. However, the total of 41,500 in 2018/19 is down by 21% on the peak of 52,255 set in 2009/10.
  • Compared to 2017/18, the share of non-EU international students within postgraduate enrolments in Business & Administrative Studies has increased from 53% to 54% whilst the UK share fell from 39% to 38%, and the EU share from 8% to 7%.

This analysis and data is presented in tables for download here.


[1] Higher Education Statistics Agency, ‘Table 22 - HE student enrolments by subject of study and domicile 2014/15 to 2018/19’, published February 2020 Data for years prior to 2014/15 is taken from historical HESA Student Record public releases.