The number of students studying higher education in a UK further education institution has dropped, new figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show.
The data reveals that while the total number of HE student enrolments across all provider types increased between 2014-15 and 2018-19, fewer students enrolled on postgraduate, first degree and other undergraduate courses at further education colleges.
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HE in FE colleges
The number of enrolments on first degree courses in colleges decreased from 24,305 in 2014-15 to 21,620 in 2018-19 – a drop of 11 per cent. The number of students enrolling on other undergraduate courses, which include higher national qualifications which are predominantly offered in colleges, dropped from 162,320 to 151,535 over that time.
Overall enrolments on HE courses increased from 2,505,510 to 2,629,435 – largely due to an increase in the number of enrolments on first-degree courses at universities. The number of students taking first-degree and postgraduate courses at alternative HE providers also increased.
Last month, Tes highlighted the challenge that some FE institutions in England have faced since the introduction of the Office for Students' register of providers in 2017.
Institutions that are not registered cannot access OfS or UK Research and Innovation public grant funding or charge above the basic fee amount. Registration also affects the levels of support that students can receive. Rejection by the OfS therefore effectively halts HE provision at an institution.
Tes analysis shows that, so far, eight institutions have had their applications to join the OfS register rejected – half of these FE colleges. This, sector experts said, was limiting access to HE for some prospective students.