Posted on: 22 February 2023

In this latest release of census data, we uncover more about the level of educational achievement, as well as the latest figures on the number of students in England and Wales.

Schoolchildren and full-time students

Respondents over the age of five years old were asked whether they were in full-time education on census day (21st March 2021). Out of the 56.4 million applicable residents, 11.5 million (20.4%) were schoolchildren or full-time students.

Whilst the overall number of schoolchildren and full-time students has increased by 700,000 in the ten years since the last census, the actual proportion of the usual resident population has changed very little, 20.4% in 2021, compared to 20.5% in 2011.

Of the 11.5 million students, 10.9 million were in England, with the remaining 588,000 residing in Wales.

Impact of Covid

The census counts students at the their term-time address. At the time the census was taken, the UK was in a national lockdown. There is some evidence to suggest that the pandemic impacted the usual term-time population of students. Many students who would normally live close to their universities, for example, may have stayed in their home addresses, due to limits on travel and social mixing.

Highest level of qualification

As well as the number of current students, the census also uncovers data on the qualifications held by the rest of the adult population.

Residents aged 16 years and over in England and Wales were asked record any qualifications they had achieved. These included any academic, vocational, and professional qualification they achieved, either in England and Wales, or elsewhere.

Using the following categories, the highest level of qualification for each respondent was then calculated:

  • No qualification: no formal qualifications
  • Level 1: one to four GCSE passes (grade A* to C or grade 4 and above) and any other GCSEs at other grades, or equivalent qualifications
  • Level 2: five or more GCSE passes (grade A* to C or grade 4 and above) or equivalent qualifications
  • Apprenticeships
  • Level 3: two or more A Levels or equivalent qualifications
  • Level 4 or above: Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma, Bachelor’s degree, or post-graduate qualifications
  • Other qualifications, of unknown level

Of the 48.6 million applicable residents, 16.4 million (33.8%) reported “Level 4 or above” as their highest level of qualification.

After “Level 4 or above”, the second most common response was “no qualifications”, at 18.2% of the adult population.

2.6 million respondents held “apprenticeship” as their highest qualification.

In England, the region with the highest proportion of people with “Level 4 or above” qualifications was London. 3.3 million people in the capital had this qualification, and the two local authorities with the highest proportion of their population holding this qualification were also in London, the City of London (74.2%) and Wandsworth (62.6%). The City of London was also the local authority with the lowest proportion of people reporting “no qualifications”

The North East reported the lowest proportion of people with the highest level of qualifications (28.6%). The West Midlands reported the highest proportion of people over the age of 16 with “no qualifications” (21.1%).

In Wales, Cardiff and Monmouthshire reported the highest proportions of people with “Level 4 or above” (40.0% and 39.4% respectively). Blaenau Gwent was the local authority in Wales which reported the highest proportion of people with “no qualifications” (27.9%).

Wales reported a higher proportion of its population with an “apprenticeship” as their highest level of qualification than England, 5.6% compared with 5.3%. Across England and Wales, the top three local authorities for apprenticeships were Barrow-in-Furness (10.9%), Scarborough (8/1%) and Copeland (8.1%). Only 3.2% of the London population reported an “apprenticeship” as their highest level of qualification.