EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey 2019

Firstly, a huge thank you for your contributions to this year’s EPC engineering enrolments survey. The survey gives us all an early temperature check of the health of HE undergraduate and postgraduate engineering enrolments; our survey is the only place you can gain this insight, many months before enrolment data for 2019/20 is published by HESA.

This year saw challenges in our member engagement, with (temporary) pressures on staff and restructuring cited as the main reasons for non-completion this year. None-the-less, the data quality and coverage remain sound, with responses from over half of our members, covering £30,000 enrolled students, against an unprecedented 193 discrete discipline areas. We continue to work to make your involvement as easy as possible and are pleased that better EPC communication with you has almost eliminated the need for universities to make multiple submissions. Your support in this area is greatly appreciated.


The pattern of engineering enrolments


Postgraduate enrolments were dominated by Electrical, electronic and computer engineering this year. Postgraduate engineering courses saw a much higher proportion of overseas enrolments, especially within the Russell Group (which saw higher international enrolments overall). Overall, 2 in every 3 postgraduate engineering enrolments were international.

First degree:

Mechanical engineering remains the sector leader for undergraduate enrolments. Across all engineering disciplines, just under 1 in 4 of first degree enrolments were international in our survey.

Degree apprenticeships and foundation:

For the first time this year, undergraduate enrolments were returned against Degree Apprenticeship and Foundation separately to first degree undergraduates. Nearly 2,000 students were returned in this category. General engineering dominated the other undergraduate enrolments. This cohort was almost exclusively home students.


Focus on: other undergraduate enrolments

  • 27% of this cohort were enrolled on degree apprenticeships, and
    64% were enrolled on foundation programmes (some universities provided combined data for both). These were almost exclusively UK domiciled (90%).
  • The majority of enrolments on foundation programmes were in General Engineering.
  • Civil engineering dominated Degree Apprenticeships.
  • Other undergraduate programmes shared a lower than engineering average female: male ratio with < 1 in 5 enrolments being female (15.5% foundation and 19.4% degree apprenticeship).
  • More than 4 in 5 Foundation courses were in pre-92 universities.
  • More than 4 in 5 Degree Apprenticeships were in post-92s.
  • 83% of degree apprenticeships and 63% of foundation programmes returned were found in in English universities.
  • Again, only a handful of Degree Apprenticeships were reported at postgraduate level.


Focus on: Electrical, electronic and computer engineering

Enrolling at ¾ of responding universities, Electrical, electronic and computer engineering is a growth discipline in our survey. It also:

  • Dominated our postgraduate sample for the first time this year.
  • Closed-in on Mechanical, aero and production engineering at undergraduate level.
  • Was proportionally the singularly most internationally dependent discipline in our sample (accounting for more than 4 in 5 postgraduate enrolments in this discipline and 1 in 3 first degree enrolments) – nearly 1 in 3 international enrolments overall were in Electrical, electronic & computer engineering.
  • Had a lower than average female: male ratio in our undergraduate sample and a higher than average female: male ratio in our postgraduate sample.
  • Had a higher than average full-time population in our survey.
  • Reported only a handful of degree apprenticeships and foundation courses.

Last year, we were advised by our members that attracting Electronic and electrical engineering students continued to be challenging. What is going on here? Are these all computer engineering courses? Comments welcome!


Focus on women in engineering

Our survey suggests that recruiting from further afield increases female enrolments, particularly if you’re in the Russell Group… and enrolling postgraduates. Just over half of the women enrolled in our sample were at Russell Group universities and females were more dominant in the in this cohort at postgraduate level.

At discipline level:

  • General and civil engineering accounted for 1 in 3 of all home female enrolments.
  • EU females favoured Aeronautical and aerospace engineering, especially at postgraduate level.
  • Over half of first degree enrolments sampled in Bioengineering, medical and biomedical engineering were female.
  • The proportion of international women enrolling in Mechanical engineering is half of the proportion of international men.


Enrolments compared with 2018-19

Overall, the levels of decline versus growth were quite uniform in the data, suggesting relative stability in the engineering sector again this year. Some growth overall was evident, with the other overseas postgraduate market, in particular, reporting substantial growth (as well as Russell Group postgraduate enrolments). Regional variations show greater growth than decline at undergraduate level except for in the North and Wales / Northern Ireland. At postgraduate level, enrolments in these regions appear stable with Scotland, the (South) East and London losing out.

At discipline level, the starkest disciplines are Mineral, metallurgy and materials engineering – which showed only growth – and IT systems sciences & computer software engineering, which had the most diverse change distribution in our survey.

General engineering witnessed the greatest net growth. Chemical, process and energy engineering witnessed the greatest net decline (followed by Mechanical engineering). Chemical, process and energy engineering has seen a decline in our survey in 2 of the last 3 years.



Of course, we know that recruitment and selection is made in the context of institutional strategies and targets, which do vary. For example, some of the fluctuations in numbers will be a conscious decision to reduce cohort size, rather than be based solely fluctuations in market.

Finally, we would appreciate your views on whether the value of this survey is greater than the burden to contribute to it? Engagement has been compromised by other factors this year. Is this just a blip? How can we help? Please share your own reflections below…


Further information

In addition to the slides published here, a headlines slide deck is available to download for all EPC members.

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