Graduate Statistics for the UK

The latest facts and figures on UK graduates
Andrew Fennell photo Andrew Fennell | Updated March 2024

Graduates make a huge impact in the UK economy, job market and workplace, so we wanted to record all of the facts and figures surrounding graduates in one place.

We’ve scoured a huge amount of UK graduate information sources to provide you with all of the latest graduate statistics.

If you want to know the current number of graduates in the UK, the average graduate salary, or which universities have the lowest drop-out rates, and more… It’s all below.



Key UK Graduate Statistics

Section 1: Graduate numbers in the UK

Section 2: Universities in the UK

Section 3: Graduate schemes

Section 4: Graduate employment statistics

Section 5: The pandemic and graduates

Section 6: Student finance and student loans




Key UK Graduate Statistics

  • As of 2023, estimates show there will be 36.4 million graduates in the UK.
  • Undergraduate figures increased by 0.4% from 527,070 in 2021 to 529,360 in 2022.
  • Recent graduates (2020 onwards) currently face an unemployment rate of 12.7%, which equates to over 96,000 unemployed graduates each academic year.
  • Universities in the UK awarded 133,995 first-class honours qualifications in 2022, a 14.1% decrease from the 155,955 awarded in 2021.
  • Business studies graduates achieved the highest number of qualified degrees, with a total of 175,670 graduates in 2022.
  • Women made up 57.6% of higher education graduates in 2022, with 530,170 women graduating.
  • On average, 6 in 100 (6.3%) students in the UK drop out of university, an average of 48,548 students each year since 2014.
  • Male graduates typically at the age of 25 earn 5% more than the average female graduate
  • The average student loan debt is £46,150 in England and takes and average of 29 years and 4 months to pay off.


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Number of graduates per year in the UK

In the UK, there are over 800,000 undergraduates and postgraduates leaving higher education each year. Importantly, this is the number of people graduating and does not include those who do not successfully complete their degree.[1]


“There were an estimated 36.4 million graduates in the UK in 2022”


In 2017 (the latest study of this kind), 42% of adults aged 21 to 64 years held a graduate degree, meaning there were over 34 million graduates then. [2] Using annual graduate figures, estimates would show that the figure in 2021 would be around 36.4 million graduates in the country.

Undergraduate numbers have steadily increased in the 2010s. The following graph shows this increase in the number of graduates per year in the UK.


Chart showing number of graduates and postgraduates in the UK each year


Undergraduate figures increased by 7% from 492,355 in 2019/20 to 527,070 in 2020/21.

However, from 2020/21 to the 2021/22 academic year, undergraduate figures increased by only 0.4% from 527,070 to 529,360.

Similar to undergraduates, postgraduate numbers also increased in 2020/21 by 12%. The sharp increase in both undergraduate and postgraduate figures in 2021 is likely due to the drop seen in the 2019/20 year as a result of the pandemic. Postgraduate numbers saw a similar increase in 2021/22 with a 12.9% increase on the previous year, from 345,700 to 390,585.


Gender split of graduates in the UK

The table below shows comparisons of UK graduates by gender from 2019 to 2022: [34]

Academic Year

Female graduates made the largest contribution to the total number of graduates over the previous five years. In fact, females made up 57.6% of higher education students in 2021/22, totalling 530,170. The number of females studying in higher education has increased by 13.5% since 2019/20.

Male numbers have also steadily increased from 332,925 in 2019/20 to 387,690 in 2021/22, a 16.4% increase in male graduates. Graduates who identify as other genders have also increased since 2019/20 from 1,000 to 2,080 in total. A large increase of around 108%. [34]

Chart showing number of men and women graduating in the UK


Which course has the highest number of graduates?

In the UK, typically business studies is the course with the highest number of graduates at a total of 141,125 graduates achieving a degree in this selected field in 2020. In second place, science subjects allied to medicine and biological sciences awarded 159,520 students with a degree in that same year. [1]

Subject2022 Graduates
Business and management175,670
Subjects allied to medicine99,570
Social sciences92,560
Design, and creative and performing arts65,380
Education and teaching65,355
Engineering and technology60,345
Biological and sport sciences36,175
Language and area studies28,405
Historical, philosophical and religious studies27,345
Architecture, building and planning22,525
Medicine and dentistry21,535
Media, journalism and communications19,250
Physical sciences19,000
Mathematical sciences15,900
Geography, earth and environmental studies (natural sciences)10,675
Agriculture, food and related studies6,265
Combined and general studies6,800
Geography, earth and environmental studies (social sciences)4,655
Veterinary sciences2,480

At the other end of the scale, veterinary science courses typically have the fewest number of graduates in the UK with just 2,480 graduates entering the market in 2022.


Undergraduate enrolment by ethnicity

The vast majority (71.5%) of undergraduates are white, while Asian students account for the second-largest demographic at 12.9%. The third-largest ethnicity demographic in 2022 was Black students (8.5%), followed by just under 1 in 20 (4.8%) who were from mixed ethnic backgrounds, as well as 2.3% who were from other minority ethnic groups.


first year entrants to undergraduate courses by ethnicity uk


Over a six-year period prior to 2022, the percentage of Asian, Black, Mixed and other ethnic groups beginning an undergraduate course has increased from 24% to 28.5%. [3]

Black students have seen the biggest increase in postgraduate study as figures rose from 5.8% in 2010/11 to 8.3% in 2019/20. Postgraduate entrants who were Asian rose by 2.4% from 9.4% over the same period.[4]



Graduate achievements by ethnicity

A higher proportion of white graduates (36.1%) complete their degree with a first-class qualification than any other ethnicity, closely followed by those with mixed ethnicity (31.3%).

The data below breaks down degree achievement by ethnicity:


Ethnicity 1st Class Honours Upper 2nd Class Lower 2nd, 3rd or Pass
Asian 27.5% 47.3% 25.2%
Black 17.3% 45.4% 37.3%
Mixed 31.3% 48.7% 20%
White 36.1% 46.9% 17%
Other 25.1% 47.6% 27.3%


According to the UK government, the percentage gap decreased from 26.3% to 20.0% between white and Black graduates getting a first-class or upper second degree from 2015 to 2022. The data suggests the trend is shifting but could take many more years to get to similar levels. [5]


Student dropout rates in the UK

On average, 6 in 100 (6.3%) students in the UK drop out of university. Since 2007/08, dropout rates have decreased by 1.1%, from 7.3% in 2008, to 6.2% a decade later. [6] This would mean an average of 48,548 students each year drop out.


Universities with the highest dropout rates in the UK

The graph below shows the universities with the highest dropout rates:


RankUniversityPercentage No Longer in Higher Education
1Arden University32.30%
2Point Blank Music School19.20%
3SAE Education Limited18.50%
4London Metropolitan University16.00%
5Richmond, The American International University in London15.80%
6University of Bedfordshire15.70%
7The London Institute of Banking & Finance15.70%
8University Centre Peterborough14.60%
9University of the Highlands and Islands14.00%
10Regent's University London Limited13.70%


The university with the highest dropout rate as of the 2019/20 year is Arden University with a dropout rate of 32.3%. This is followed by Point Blank Music School at 19.2% [7]


Universities with the lowest dropout rates

The universities with the lowest dropout rates in the country as of 2019/20 are the Royal Veterinary College (0.4%), the University of Cambridge (0.6%), and the University of St Andrews (0.6%). [7]


RankUniversityPercentage of Students No Longer in Higher Education
1The Royal Veterinary College0.40%
2The University of Cambridge0.60%
3The University of St Andrews0.60%
4The University of Oxford0.90%
5The University of Durham1.30%
6The University of Bristol1.50%
7Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine1.50%
8The University of Birmingham1.60%
9London School of Economics and Political Science1.60%
10Glasgow School of Art1.70%


Studies show that the majority of universities with the lowest dropout rates can be found in the top 20 on the Complete University Guide’s league table. St George’s and the University of London are just two universities that have one of the lowest dropout scores and don’t sit in the top 20 league table.


Undergraduate courses with the highest dropout rates

IT and computing degrees, such as computer science, have the highest dropout rates with 9.2% not making it.

Undergraduate courses with the highest dropout rates were as follows: [7]


RankSubjectDropout Rate
1Computer sciences9.20%
2Business and administrative studies8.60%
3Mass communications and documentation7.60%
4Creative arts and design7.60%
5Subjects allied to medicine7.50%
6Combined subjects7.2
7Agriculture and related subjects7%
8Engineering and technology7%
9Architecture, building and planning6.90%
10Biological sciences6.80%


In 2020, 29,360 students in the UK deferred their studies for a gap year due to the pandemic, a 9.4% increase compared to 2019. [8]


Which universities have the best grades in the UK?

Overall, universities in the UK awarded 133,995 first-class honours qualifications in 2022, a 14.1% decrease from the previous year where 155,955 were awarded.

We ranked data based on which universities awarded the most first class honours awards in 2022 below, with the University of Manchester coming out on top with 2,855 given. [9]

Universities with the most first-class degrees in the UK

RankUniversityFirst-class degrees (2022)
1The University of Manchester2,855
2The University of Leeds2,750
3The Manchester Metropolitan University2,730
4University of Nottingham2,575
5University College London2,550
6The Open University2,505
7Coventry University2,485
8King's College London2,100
9The University of Birmingham2,050
10The University of Exeter2,050


The University of Leeds ranked second awarding 2,750 first-class honours classifications.

Overall, 197,345 upper second class honours qualifications were awarded in 2020/2021, a 4.1% increase compared to the year before.


UK universities with top employment figures

The University of Cambridge has the highest employability ranking for the 2022 academic year, with the University of Oxford coming in second.

The table below shows the UK universities with the highest employability rank in the 2022 academic year. [32]

UniversityUK Employability Rank (2022)
University of Cambridge1
University of Oxford2
Imperial College London3
London School of Economics and Political Science4
London Business School5
King's College London6
University of Manchester7
University of Edinburgh9
University of St Andrews10
University of Birmingham11
Durham University12
Cardiff University13
Brunel University London14


Which universities have the best career prospects?

Five institutions based in London ranked in the top ten for the best career prospects in the UK.  Imperial College London scored the highest (95%) based on the success of graduates after leaving university with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) scoring slightly lower at 91%. [10]

The graph below shows the top ten universities in the UK ranked by their career prospects:


Universities with best career prospects


Best UK universities for business founders

Whilst many graduates full of ambition go on to secure a full-time role, many also opt for a different path and become business founders. The best UK university for the proportion of business founders was found to be the University of the Arts London (15.83%), followed by LSE (14.03%).[11]

The table below shows the top ten universities for producing business founders ranked by the percentage of founders that came from there:


Top universities for producing business founders Percentage
University of the Arts London 15.83%
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) 14.03%
Goldsmiths, University of London 12.25%
Falmouth University 12.09%
 University of Oxford 12.06%
 University of Cambridge 12%
Soas University of London 11.47%
University College London (UCL) 10.41%
University for the creative arts 10.13%
Middlesex University [E] 10.11%

The percentage of business founders is made from the number of graduates from that institution who go on to become business founders.


Graduate schemes: what are they?

Graduate schemes are designed to help someone gain industry experience whilst earning a competitive salary. The aim of the scheme is to allow new candidates to explore various areas of a business in order to broaden their knowledge whilst following a structured program, leading to a successful career for many.

Companies such as Google, KMPG, NHS, and the UK Civil Service are just a few of many large corporations offering graduate schemes on a yearly basis in Britain.



Who is eligible for a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes require a minimum grade in order to be considered for the role. In most cases, a 2.1 or higher is the grade most companies will look for when recruiting new candidates.


How many graduate schemes do students apply for?

Recent reports show that students on average were applying up to 29 graduates schemes with different employers.


“The NHS receives an average of 85 applications for every graduate position”


In terms of NHS graduate schemes, reports show the public health service receives around 85 applications for each graduate position; they have 17,000 applications for just 200 spaces. [12]

On average, reports show that overall graduate job applications have increased by 41% from 2020 to 2021. [13]


What is the average graduate scheme salary?

The average graduate scheme salary is £30,362 and ranges between £25,000 and £32,000 according to Glassdoor [14] .


If you require more information on this topic, our research team has also compiled a complete analysis of graduate salaries in the UK  including a comparison to non-graduates and a variety of job-specific data.


How much do graduate jobs pay by region?

As you would expect, London pays the highest starting salary for graduates at £31,423, with the East of England following at £26,216. In the UK, Northern Ireland pays the least at an average of £22,143 to start. [15]

The table below shows the average starting salary for graduates around the UK:


Region Average starting salary
London £31,423
East of England £26,216
South East £26,180
South West £25,722
Scotland £25,476
North East £25,034
West Midlands £24,877
North West £24,762
Wales £24,758
East Midlands £24,617
Yorkshire and The Humber £24,448


Graduate starting salaries can clearly vary with a clear financial divide between the North and South of the UK. The total average salary in the UK is £29,669 as of 2023, therefore, only London graduates meet and exceed this.


Which graduate schemes pay the highest?

The highest-paid graduate scheme in the UK is a private finance role for Rothschilds, with a salary of £65,000 followed by investment banking positions with J.P. Morgan, who will pay graduates £58,000 a year. [16]


Company Role Salary
Rothschilds Private Finance £65,000
J. P. Morgan Investment Banking £58,000
Goldman Sachs Investment Banking £52,000
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Investment Banking £54,000


Most commonly, the highest-paid graduate schemes sit within finance and banking and often exceed the average amount by tens of thousands of pounds.


How many undergraduates gain work experience?

Studies show that the majority (64%) of undergraduates undertake some period of unpaid work experience, with 41% of this group doing so for at least one month. [17]

In 2020, that would mean around 512,227 (64%) students did some period of work experience before entering the job market as graduates, and 210,014 did so unpaid.


“Over 210,000 students work unpaid during their degrees each year”


A separate study from 1995 showed that 82% of undergraduates had some work experience during their degree, comparatively this could indicate modern students are less likely to do work experience. [18]

In terms of employability, most (94%) interns are offered job roles once they have completed work experience, therefore, it is a valuable decision for students to add to their CV. [17]


How long does it take graduates to secure a job?

Securing a job role is a process many students start prior to graduating with many beginning applications in an attempt to begin full-time work as soon as possible once qualified.

Studies show the time it takes for graduates to secure a job varies anywhere between three to 18 months.


Graduate outcomes and employment figures

In 2023, 82% of UK graduates from 2021 were in full-time or part-time employment. That’s around 314,450 graduates employed from that year. [33]


“A typical graduate cohort will see around 82% enter into employment or further studies within a year”


Below is an example of typical graduate outcomes showing the many different paths students choose once they have completed their degrees. The data refers to the graduates who graduating in 2020 and what they were doing when data was analysed in 2022.


Graduate OutcomeNumber of Graduates
Full-time employment230,595
Part-time employment43,785
Unknown pattern of employment2,610
Voluntary or unpaid work4,825
Employment and further study42,330
Full-time further study33,395
Part-time further study2,260
Unknown pattern of further study290
Other including travel, caring for someone or retired19,530
Unemployed and due to start work4,275
Unemployed and due to start further study1,340


Graduate outcomes and employment 2020-2021


Using 2021 graduates the data shows a typical outcome for a year’s cohort of students: the majority 89% are in some form of education or employment, a further 5% go into caring for loved ones and/or travel, while the remaining 5% are unemployed, or unknown.



Degrees with the highest employment in the UK

Degrees related to professional services, tech, and science, had the highest percentage of high-skilled graduates employed in the UK at 93%, closely followed by information and communication professionals (90%).[19] Therefore, the degrees with the highest employment in the UK, are likely those in I.T., tech, and science related fields.

Below is a table which displays the percentage of graduates and/or postgraduates working in various professional industries by the level of skill, giving some indication of employment by degree subject:


Standard Industrial Classification Total high skilled graduates Total medium skilled graduates Total low skilled graduates
Professional, scientific and technical activities 93% 6% 1%
Information and communication 90% 5% 4%
Education 88% 12% 1%
Mining and quarrying 87% 8% 4%
Human health and social work activities 83% 16% 1%
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security 82% 15% 2%
Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies 82% 16% 2%
Manufacturing 80% 13% 8%
Construction 77% 17% 6%
Real estate activities 77% 19% 5%
Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities 75% 15% 10%
Financial and insurance activities 75% 20% 5%
Arts, entertainment and recreation 69% 21% 10%
Other service activities 66% 29% 5%
Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply 64% 14% 21%
Administrative and support service activities 56% 24% 20%
Transportation and storage 41% 21% 38%
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 34% 8% 58%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 33% 29% 38%
Accommodation and food service activities 17% 16% 67%
Activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods-and services-producing activities of households for own use 7% 91% 2%


9 in 10 (90%) postgraduates who completed their course in 2018/2019 were in high-skilled jobs in 2021. In comparison to this, undergraduates equated to 69% suggesting that postgraduate study makes a prospective employee more likely to be hired.


How many graduates are self-employed?

In 2021, 13,275 graduates (from 2018 onwards) were self-employed, using graduate figures, that would mean only 0.42% of graduates from four academic years became self-employed after graduating.[19]

The table below demonstrates graduate numbers (from two academic years) for self-employment, and those running their own business, or working on creating projects.


Running own businessDeveloping a creative portfolioMultiple
Northern Ireland420130730445
Other UK25103530
Total UK13,2755,03519,74013,770


What is the average graduate salary?

The average graduate salary in the UK is £30,000 and has been this way since 2015. As we’ve discussed, this varies per region, and graduate schemes often inflate the average when compared to an entry-level role outside of such schemes.

Data from the UK government states that as of 2022, the median nominal graduate salary in the UK is £38,500, however, when adjusted for inflation, the median real-terms salary for graduates is £26,500. [30]


UK graduate salaries per subject area

Science-based subjects such as medicine, dentistry, subjects allied to medicine, biological science, and veterinary sciences pay the highest salary to graduates who achieve a first-class degree and are highly skilled with starting salaries ranging between £31,000 to £35,000. [19]

A medium skilled dentistry role could be a dental assistant, while the high-skilled role in the field could be a dentist. This designation is not a choice we have made in the analysis and comes from the various data sources.


Subject area of degree  High skilled   Medium skilled   Low skilled  
Medicine & dentistry £35,000 £18,500   N/A
Subjects allied to medicine £25,000 £19,000 £18,000
Biological sciences £23,000 £18,500 £18,000
Veterinary science £31,000   N/A   N/A
Agriculture & related subjects £23,500 £18,500 £19,000
Physical sciences £25,000 £19,500 £18,000
Mathematical sciences £28,000 £20,500 £17,000
Computer science £27,000 £20,000 £18,000
Engineering & technology £28,000 £22,000 £18,000
Architecture, building & planning £24,000 £20,000 £18,000
Social studies £26,000 £20,000 £18,000
Law £22,000 £19,500 £18,000
Business & administrative studies £25,000 £20,500 £18,000
Mass communications & documentation £21,000 £19,500 £17,000
Languages £24,000 £19,500 £18,000
Historical & philosophical studies £24,500 £19,000 £18,000
Creative arts & design £21,000 £18,000 £16,000
Education £24,500 £18,000 £17,000
Combined £26,000 £19,000 £18,000
Total average £25,000 £19,500 £18,000


For most roles, if graduates possess a lower range of skills when starting out, the average salary earned is £18,000 with the potential to progress as skillsets are improved.


Best universities for high salaries in the UK

The best university for high salaries is the University College of Estate Management (UCEM), as 29% of its graduates receive a salary of £51,000 or more. This is a remote learning institution specialising in construction and real estate graduates, leading to roles that have higher salaries.

London School of Economics (LSE) is the next highest university with 12% of its graduates hitting the £51,000+ salary mark. [13] In 2021, LSE was offering 41 undergraduate courses therefore not having a specialised pool of undergraduates like UCEM.

The following is a list of the top ten universities ranked by the percentage of graduates earning above £51,000:


 University % of graduates receiving salary of £51,000+
University College of Estate Management 29%
London School of Economics and Political Science 12%
BPP University 11%
Birkbeck College 9%
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine 8%
The Open University 8%
The University of Cambridge 7%
Arden University 6%
The University of Oxford 6%
The University of Warwick 5%


The highest published graduate starting salaries for 2021 include law firms White & Case (£50,000), Clifford Chance (£48,000), Baker McKenzie (£48,000), Linklaters (£47,000), technology company TPP (£45,000) and retailer Aldi (£44,000.) [13]

Other studies [31] on universities with the highest graduate salaries have shown:

  • Graduates of Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) earn an average of £52,167 five years after graduating.
  • Students leaving the University of Oxford can expect an average salary of £47,618 after five years.
  • Imperial College graduates earn an average of £45,741 per year after five years.
  • The average salary five years after graduation for students from the University of Cambridge is £44,190.
  • University College London graduates achieve an average salary of £40,855 five years after graduation.


Gender pay gap for graduates

Male full-time high-skilled graduates who obtained first-class degree qualifications and entered full-time paid employment in the UK in 2019 were paid on average £26,000 compared to high skilled females who were paid £24,500. [19]

On average, male graduates at the age of 25 earn 5% more than the average female graduate. By age 30, the gender pay gap in annual earnings stands at 25%. [20]

The graph below demonstrates the portion of graduates and their earnings for men and women. [19] Studies do not offer comparative information for anyone identifying as other than male or female.


Graduate gender pay gap


Lower salary bands on average have a higher percentage of women earning more than men. Whilst an average of 6% more women than men earned more in the salary bracket £24,000 – £26,999, it seems that the gender pay gap widens as the salary band increases. In particular, 7% of males earn £51,000+ compared to just 3% of females.



How many unemployed graduates in the UK?

The graduate unemployment rate is 12.7% for graduates who obtained a degree in recent years (2020 onwards). In 2021, the graduate unemployment rate was 12%, meaning the rate has decreased by 0.7 percentage points.[30]

With the rate of 12%, this would mean, in recent years, there are approximately 96,041 unemployed graduates each year in the UK, based off 2021’s academic year.

When looking at the data regionally, we can see that England, Wales, and Scotland have an average graduate unemployment rate of 5%, while Northern Ireland has just 3%. [2]


How many jobs do graduates apply for?

Most graduates who apply for graduate schemes and job roles will never receive a response from the majority of their applications. With most graduates applying on average to around 25 job roles, they find that the ratio of receiving an invitation to an interview to job applications is just over twenty to one.


Degrees with the highest unemployment in the UK

There are some degree subjects that are more likely to land you a job when you graduate than others. One study analysed the employability of different degrees by asking students to give a rating on the job prospects available to them after graduating.

Media and cultural studies came out as the worst degree subject for employment with students rating it a 2.5/5 on average. As a broad degree, students found that jobs in media were highly competitive and applicants with more specific skills generally fared better.

The degree subject with the second lowest employability rating was European studies (2.8/5). Similar to international relations (3/5), graduates in this sector are often competing for a small number of roles in global organisations, making it a tough job market.

Other subjects that students rated poorly for job prospects were Psychology (2.9/5), which often requires further study to obtain a job, and civil engineering (3.1/5) which saw a 50% decrease in new apprentices in 50% as the sector has struggled to offer new jobs.[28]


RankSubjectRating for job prospects
1Media and cultural studies2.5/5
2European studies2.8/5
4International Relations and European Studies3/5
5Civil Engineering3.1/5


UK graduates and Covid-19

The pandemic had a detrimental impact on the opportunities available and career prospects for everyone, but especially graduates who entered the market at the time.

As many were ordered to stay indoors, 75% of graduates noticed a fall in the number of available opportunities in 2020 and 2021, with many (72.6%) graduates feeling less confident about their future. [38] According to the University of Southampton, 83% said that the pandemic had a detrimental impact on graduates’ employment prospects with most graduates saying they had to rethink their future (79.4%). [21]

Furthermore, the ONS found that UK graduates reported a lower life satisfaction score (6.7) than people of their typical age (6.9) and average adults (7.0) during that time. [22]

The pandemic also saw many more graduates in roles that aren’t typically filled by people with degrees. In the UK in 2020, 25.5% of graduates were in a role that was requiring skills less than they had gained in their degree, referred to as a ‘skills mismatch’, this was 5% more in 2019 during the pandemic. [2]


Student finance statistics in UK

Fees to study at university were first introduced in 1998. In 2006, a new system was introduced which would make studying for a degree more accessible. The cost to study was raised to £3,000 in England which would be classed as a tuition loan. As fees gradually increased, the Government raised fees further to £9,000 per year in 2012.

Whilst the pandemic caused record unemployment, graduates were also unable to make repayments. [40] In fact, 201,900 graduates (From various academic years) failed to make repayments through their salary in 2020-21.


How much is the average student loan debt in the UK?

As students in England pay £9,000 a year to study for their chosen degree, they will incur an average of over £46,150 of student loan debt in the 2021/22 year.

In comparison, the average student loan debt varies in other regions, for example, Wales has an average of £33,830, and Northern Ireland has £24,360. Scotland has the lowest average student loan debt at £14,840, this is due to Scottish students not having to pay tuition fees. [23]


When does a student debt have to be paid off?

Whilst the new system implemented in 2012 allows students to defer their student loans during their study, these debts still have to be repaid within 30 years.

The table below shows a graduates minimum earnings (before tax) to have to pay back their student debts:


Region Annual earnings Monthly earnings
England £27,295 £2,274
Scotland £25,000 £2,083
Wales £27,295 £2,274
Northern Ireland £19,895 £1,657



As you can see, England has the highest repayment threshold allowing graduates to earn up to £27,295 a year before having to start making repayments. In comparison, Northern Ireland has the lowest threshold with graduates beginning repayments once earning £19,895.

The average annual repayment via HMRC per region in order was England (£930), Northern Ireland (£840), Wales (£800), and finally, Scotland (£660.)


How long on average does it take a graduate to pay off their student loan?

As students start making repayment at different thresholds, the average time to pay off a student loan may vary per person. A study revealed that a student loan takes an average of 29 years and 4 months to pay off with the average debt being just under £48k in England. [25]

According to the UK Government, it is expected that just 25% of current full-time undergraduates will repay their full student loan. [26]


Outstanding student debt

The Students Loan Company states that as of 2021, outstanding student loan debt in the United Kingdom reached over 177 billion British pounds starting from 2013/14 when student debts were increased to £9,000 a year.


“Estimates say by 2050, there will be £560 billion of student loan debt in the UK”


England owes the majority of this debt standing at £160 billion with Scotland totalling £6.5 billion, Wales £6.2 billion, and Northern Ireland £4.1 billion. By the middle of the century, the Government predicts that the value of outstanding loans will be around £560 billion. [27]

In 2021, 1,117,000 students took a student loan. The value of student loans equalled £15,908 million.




[1] HESA: Higher Education Student Statistics: UK


[2] ONS: Graduates’ labour market outcomes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic


[3] Gov: First year entrants onto undergraduate study

Accessed February 2024


[4] Office for Students: Equality, diversity, and student characteristics data.


[5] UK Gov: Undergraduate degree results


[6] Debut: Degree Dropouts


[7] HESA: UK Higher Education Performance Indicators –


[8] Teaching Abroad Direct: Gap Year Statistics UK


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[10] Complete University Guide: University League Tables 2022


[11] Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance: Which university produces the most CEOs? Via


[12] NHS: Multi-award winning Graduate Management Training Scheme doubles its intake


[13] Highfliers: The Graduate Market in 2021


[14] Glassdoor: Graduate Scheme Salaries in the UK,15.htm

Accessed February 2024


[15] Prospects Luminate: Graduate Salaries in the UK


[16] Glide: Highest Paid Graduate Schemes


[17] Prospects: Students urged to focus on longer work experience for employability boost


[18] HEFCE: Nature and extent of undergraduates’ work experience


[19] HESA: Graduates’ salaries


[20] IFS: Gender differences in subject choice lead to gender pay gap immediately after graduation,annual%20earnings%20stands%20at%2025%25.


[21] AGCAS : The Impact of Covid-19 On Recent Graduates’ Career Decisions And Outcomes


[22] ONS: Coronavirus and higher education students. November 2021


[23] UK Gov: Average Loan Balance on entry into repayment

Accessed February 2024


[24] STS: Student Loan repayment guide 2021


[25] Cosmopolitan: It takes a depressingly long time to pay off your student loan


[26] UK Parliament: House of Commons Library: Student loan statistics


[27] Statista: Outstanding debt of student loans in the UK 2013-2021


[28] Ice: Is COVID-19 a friend or foe of civil engineering? –


[29] Edu Opinions: Student reviews of the best degrees for job prospects –


[30] UK Gov: Graduate Labour Markets 2022 –

Accessed February 2024


[31] Adzuna: Which Universities Produce the Highest Earning Graduates? –


[32] Times Higher Education: Graduate Employability –


[33] HESA: Higher Education Graduate Outcomes –

Accessed February 2024


[34] HESA: Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2021/22 – Qualifications achieved –


[35] HESA: Higher Education Student Statistics: What are HE students’ progression rates and qualifications?-