EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey Results 2021/22

The results of the 2021 EPC Engineering Enrolments Survey are now available. Watch the launch presentation, view the slide-deck, or read the summary blog.

Firstly, a huge thank you for member 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; and is the only place you can gain this insight, long before official sector enrolment data for 2021/22 is available.

We are delighted to return to a full survey in 2021, following an abridged version last year to respond to the initial challenges of the pandemic. What’s more, member engagement was up even on pre-pandemic levels with approximately half of our member universities submitting a survey – covering nearly 200 discrete disciplines at 40 universities. Coverage was also consistent with pre pandemic, with circa 30K enrolments covering all countries and regions of the UK.

This transports us to headline engineering enrolments holding at pre-pandemic levels, despite reported EU enrolments being (unsurprisingly) distinctly slashed. Post-graduate enrolments are up (dominated by international / Russell Group), first degree home distributions – including at discipline level – are remarkably similar to 2019/20 (a strong home market) and other undergraduate enrolments are down.

This leads us to a couple of really interesting insights…

While a stable non-EU (overseas) market sounds good during a pandemic in which international travel has been seriously impeded, early indications are that the international undergraduate cohort has increased outside of engineering. In engineering, however, and coupled with the realisation of the expected drop in EU enrolments, we’re seeing a contracted overseas market overall. With engineering a dominant international player in UKHE, what does this mean? Could it be an early sign of saturation with the rest of the sector ready to close in, or is there more subject nuance here at a time where engineering cannot readily be studied remotely without compromise on the kit that makes our courses more expensive to deliver in the first place?

What about the foundation degree and degree apprenticeship enrolments? Taking a contraction of enrolments in our survey of approximately 20% as an early indicator of the health of the other undergraduate market, why should engineering be shrinking in this area when UCAS are simultaneously reporting apprenticeships to be more popular than ever? Reminded annually that market forces aren’t the only factor at play in changes to enrolments, we should consider if this is a discipline response to the funding uncertainties, or maybe a lack of capacity for innovation in the context of moving teaching and learning online?

Electrical engineering is one to watch in this space; approx. 1 in 3 Degree Apprenticeships and 1 in 4 Foundation degrees are in Electrical, electronic and computer engineering and this appears to be growing (despite declining elsewhere). Another discipline of interest is IT, systems sciences and computer software engineering with enrolments increasing at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The AI phenomenon?

Many more insights are available in our findings, including in relation to regional, female and part-time enrolments. If you wish to dive deeper into this this year’s outcomes, EPC members can view the presentation slide deck, or watch the launch recording. As always, we would appreciate your views on the value of this work.

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