A higher percentage of students are now graduating from college with a first-class honours degree than ever before.
That’s according to annual statistics published by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), looking at enrolments. More than 24% of the class of 2020 received first-class honours, compared to 16.8% of all students graduating in 2014.
This is an average figure across all institutions and courses. This percentage has been steadily increasing each year since 2014, with a noticeable jump of 3.7% recorded between 2019, and 2020. In 2019, almost 21% of graduating students received a first-class honours.
A smaller percentage of graduates now are also achieving a lower second class honours degree, or below. In 2020, this was recorded at 25.7%, compared to 36.3% in 2014.
The annual statistics compiled by the HEA look at the number of students enrolled in each particular year, their route to higher education, their gender, and the qualifications they achieve. The data shows the number of enrolments in higher education rose by almost 17.5% over the past six years.
Fall in international students
The statistics also show the numbers of international students signing up to study here dropped dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic, decreasing by almost 12% during the last academic year.
The total number of international enrolments fell by 11.6% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. A fall in non-EU enrolments seems to have driven this overall decrease, as they fell by 18%, excluding other unknowns. This decrease in students from outside of the EU counteracted a small increase in the total number of enrolments from students in the UK, and from other EU countries.
The data also shows the number of new undergraduates in 2020 increased by 6% on the previous year, the largest annual number of new entrants to date.
The majority (69%) entered based on the Leaving Certificate. Almost 9% entered via Hear or Dare schemes, access schemes for disabled students, or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to 7.1% in September 2018 and 8.5% in 2019.
The figures also show the gap between male and female students in higher education has widened. In 2014, there were 3.3% more females in higher education, but by 2020, this gap had widened to 17.8%. These figures do not take into account students who may be pursuing further education and training, apprenticeships or the labour market.