The Department for the Economy has today published an Official Statistics bulletin entitled Further Education Sector Activity in Northern Ireland: 2016/17 to 2020/21.
This statistical bulletin presents a range of analysis regarding enrolments and students (both regulated and non-regulated) in the Northern Ireland Further Education (FE) Sector, covering academic years 2016/17 to 2020/21. This analysis covers the characteristics of those enrolling in FE Colleges across a range of variables, including: sex, age, mode of attendance, provision area, level of study, subject area, deprivation, funding stream, higher education, and performance (retention, achievement and success rates).
The key points include:
- FE College enrolments have decreased by a net 36.3%, from 153,088 in 2016/17 to 97,532 in 2020/21; this includes a 26.3% fall on 2019/20 (132,354). Recent trends, including decreasing part-time enrolments and the number of 16-19 year-olds dipping to its lowest level since the 1950s, have been exacerbated by COVID-19 related factors, such as more generous GCSE and GCE grades (leading to school pupils being more likely to progress to sixth form or university) and practical difficulties with organising community-based courses (impacting mainly on adult provision).
- Over the period 2016/17 to 2020/21, the regulated share of enrolments has increased in net terms, from 84.0% to 89.6%.
- Of the 87,368 FE Sector regulated enrolments in 2020/21, over four-fifths (82.6%) were at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE A*-C) or above.
- Higher Education enrolments at FE Colleges have decreased by a net 10.2%, from 11,175 in 2016/17 to 10,034 in 2020/21.
- Over a third (37.4%) fewer qualifications were awarded in FE Colleges in 2020/21 (51,999) than in 2016/17 (83,015).
- Over the period 2016/17 to 2020/21, net increases have occurred in the rates for achievement (85.9% to 87.2%) and success (77.5% to 78.7%), whereas the retention rate has hovered around 90% (90.3% in 2020/21).
- The number of students enrolled at FE Colleges has decreased by 30.4%, from 80,401 in 2016/17 to 55,971 in 2020/21.
Points to note:
- Retention rate is defined as the percentage of final year regulated enrolments completed by students.
- Achievement rate relates to the percentage of final year regulated enrolments completed by students who achieve a qualification.
- Success rate is recognised as the overall measure of performance, which is the percentage of final year regulated enrolments of students who complete and achieve a qualification.