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    In 2021/22 there were 2.86 million students at UK higher education institutions. The higher education entry rate among UK 18 year olds increased from 24.7% in 2006 to 37.5%, its second highest ever level, in 2022.

    After a busy year impacted by political, societal and environmental changes, what are the biggest trends that have impacted the education landscape in the 2022-2023 academic year? What can we glean from this student data to give us a better picture of what to expect in the ever-changing world of education and student recruitment marketing?

    Are you ready to get stuck into the core learnings from this year? Join us as we reflect on the key insights from the past year that brought change to the education industry in 2023.

    GCSE Results

    Grades in England have experienced a dip, although they are similar to the standards seen in 2019. This decline comes as no surprise – Ofqual had previously confirmed that this year’s grades would revert to pre-pandemic levels. As anticipated, the grades this year closely align with 2019 levels, albeit slightly surpassing them.

    In the latest round of GCSEs in August 2023, 22.7% were graded 9-7, an increase from 21.9% in 2019. Additionally, a whopping 70.5% received grades 9-4, compared to 69.9% in 2019. However, there’s a decrease in the proportion of grades 9-1, with this year’s figure at 98.1%, down ever so slightly from 98.4% in 2019. Looking at the overall picture for 16-year-olds in England, 70.3% of all awards were at grade 4 or above, marking a small 5% decrease from 2022. 22.4% of awards were at grade 7 or above, however still down from 2022, suggesting the return of pre-pandemic grading.

    GCSE passes in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland declined this year, with 68.2% of all entries achieving grades 4/C and above. The sharpest drop occurred in England, where grades were realigned with 2019 levels following pandemic-induced spikes in top grades, leading to over 167,000 students receiving grade 3 or lower in maths, an increase of about 21,000 from 2022, and a further 172,000 failing English language, an increase of 38,000, resulting in the highest combined number in a decade.

    Why is this?

    With the impact of Covid-19 still lingering for many students across the UK, it’s no surprise that grades declined this year. But it’s not all bleak, as many grades returned to pre-pandemic levels. In September 2021, Ofqual outlined a two-year grading plan to help combat the effect of Covid-19 on students.

    This year, Ofqual confirmed a return to pre-pandemic grading for 2023. Protections were implemented for GCSEs, AS, and A levels to mitigate the impact of disruptions, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with Covid-19 slowly affecting daily life less and less, grading of exams now reflect a prepandemic marking system, suggesting the drop from the past two years.

    Like what you see? Unlock the full report now:

    year in education report

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