Official statistic

Key performance measure 9

Diversity of subject choice by region of domicile

Local London students have the highest subject concentration compared with students from other regions.

The concentration of subjects in London has been steadily increasing for local students since 2014-15, increasing again in 2020-21 (the most recent academic year available).

Subject concentration by region of domicile

Subject concentration for local students by region of domicile

'Local students' refers to students who are studying at a provider located in the same region as their region of domicile.

Subject concentration for geographically mobile students by region of domicile

'Geographically mobile students' refers to students who are studying at a provider not located in the same region as their region of domicile.

Total number of providers in each region by year

Proportion of local and geographically mobile students by region in 2020-21

Proportion of students at new higher education providers in London studying subjects in business and management, split by locality

What does this show?

Students who are geographically mobile typically choose a wider range of subjects. Local students who study in the same region as their domicile tend to concentrate in certain subject areas more. This may be because they prefer these subject areas or it may indicate they have less choices available to them.

The concentration of subjects in London has been steadily increasing for local students since 2014-15 and continues to increase in 2020-21 (the most recent academic year available). This increase can be attributed to the inclusion of new higher education providers to the market and the measure, many of which are based in London.

London has the highest ratio of local to non-local students, many of whom tend to study business and management subjects.

At the same time, the majority of students at these new providers are local students who are studying business and management subjects. The result of this is London becoming more concentrated in one subject area compared to other regions.

Note that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020.

Further information

This measure uses market concentration to estimate the diversity of subject choice for students within each region. A wide range of choices is important for all aspects of the student lifecycle, including experience, outcomes and value for money.

KPM 9 shows an adaptation of the Herfindahl–Hirschman Index (HHI), a measure of the concentration of a market. The measure is calculated by looking at the range of subject areas that students in each region of domicile choose to study.

A region with higher concentration means a high proportion of students study a small range of subject areas.

Regions that are highly concentrated in particular subject areas may put less geographically mobile students living there at a disadvantage. Although the high concentration in particular subject areas may be driven by the demand for these subjects, less geographically mobile students, who may have different preferences, would be restricted in their choice of subject.

If a region has a highly concentrated index for local students, they may have limited choice between subject areas relative to mobile students. This concentration might also reflect strong preferences for example shaped by the environment and major industries in the region.

The HHI ranges from 1 to 10,000, where 1 represents a region in which choice of subject area is perfectly distributed, and 10,000 represents a region where all students of that region study one subject area. The Competition and Markets Authority defines any market with a HHI exceeding 1,000 as concentrated and any market exceeding 2,000 as being highly concentrated.

When viewing these figures, it is important to note the following:

  • The measure changes between the academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15 due to the increase in reported alternative providers. Alternative providers (APs) were regarded as providers which were not further education colleges and which did not receive recurrent funding from the OfS (see HESA for more information). Alternative providers were first required to return data to HESA in 2014-15, leading to an increase in the number of reporting providers in this year. As a result, the increase in the number of providers from 2014-15 is partially due to the change in coverage, and partially due to an increase in alternative providers and other providers.
  • A new subject coding system, the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS), was introduced in the 2019-20 academic year. This replaced the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) used in previous years. For all academic years in this release, the OfS maps subject codes (both JACS and HECoS) to broad Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) groups. This change from JACS to HECoS causes some additional variation in the distribution of subjects between 2018-19 and 2019-20 on top of the usual year-on-year variation, which can also be due to changes in the providers reporting to HESA. This should be taken into consideration when drawing comparisons between these two years.
  • In using market concentration in this measure, the OfS does not intend to suggest that we have formed any views on the scope of economic markets or market power in the higher education sector for any purposes, including those relating to competition law and merger control.

The equation for calculating KPM 9 is displayed below:


  • H = concentration index for region of domicile
  • N = total number of subjects
  • S = proportion of students at subject i


  • Data for the 2020-21 academic year is now included.
  • Previously provider was determined through the students’ teaching provider in the first year of their programme, but this has changed to instead reflect the students’ current teaching provider in the current year where students spent the majority of their academic year.
  • Geographical region is now defined using International Territorial Levels (ITL) instead of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) which was used previously.
  • Apprenticeship students are now included in the population to fully align with our access and participation data dashboard definitions, which has led to a small change to the population used to derive measure.
  • Data for the 2019-20 academic year is now included.
  • We have updated this KPM to further align with the student population used in our access and participation dashboard where possible. While the dashboard population includes all UK-domiciled students, this KPM considers only English-domiciled students for analysis of subject provision by region of domicile. For more information see the field ‘IPACCEXCL’ in our 2020 core algorithms document.
  • Due to a small number of mergers between providers since the previous publication of this measure, the chart showing provider numbers over time has changed further, by roughly five units, in each year.


If you have any queries, feedback or suggestions about the statistics published in KPM 9, please contact Stanley Rudkin at [email protected].

If you have any queries about our overall approach or on individual measures, please contact Josh Fleming at [email protected].

Published 08 December 2020
Last updated 24 March 2022
24 March 2022
Annual update - 2020-21 data published and small change to methodology
11 March 2021
Annual data and change in population
22 December 2020
More data files added to the page.

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