Office for Students respond to HESA statistics

The Office for Students has commented on the latest statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Commenting today on the publication by HESA of Higher Education Student Statistics for 2018-19 – which show a halt in the increasing proportion of students being awarded first class degrees following significant year-on-year increases since 2011 – Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said:

'This data shows us that the rapid increase in the rates of students being awarded first class degrees has stalled. This arrests a long-term trend, with significant, year-on-year increases having been seen since 2011. Previous analysis from the OfS found evidence of unexplained increases in the rates of first class degrees at 94 per cent of universities.

'We will analyse this data further and report in the spring. We will use statistical modelling to determine the proportion of first class degrees which can’t be explained by things like entry grades or the make-up of the student body.

'Grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in higher education for students, graduates and employers alike. We will continue to seek action to address these issues, both across the higher education sector as a whole and, should it be necessary, at individual universities. This will help ensure that everyone can be confident in the value of degrees which students work so hard to achieve.'

For further information contact Richard Foord on 0117 905 7676 or [email protected]


  1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. 'Higher Education Student Statistics: UK 2018-19' is published on HESA’s website.
  3. Previous analysis from the OfS found that in 2018, across the sector as a whole, 13.9 percentage points of the increase in first and upper second class degrees awarded are unexplained by changes in the graduate population. The OfS will repeat this analysis for the data published today, and report its findings in the spring. 
Published 16 January 2020

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback