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Background Statistics

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This chapter provides some background information on the numbers of graduates broken down by various analysis parameters. This information may be used as a reference when interpreting the findings of the previous chapters. Note that the data in this section includes those graduation records with missing or invalid PPSN. Since such records cannot be matched to outcomes, they are excluded from the previous chapters, but they are included in the present section to provide a more complete picture of trends in Ireland's higher education sector. 

Note that the data throughout this report includes a single graduation per person per year, so that individuals are not double-counted in any of the outcomes analysis in any single year. As a result, the data for numbers of graduates presented here may vary from other sources which may include multiple awards per person within a single year. 

Interactive tables on all Background Statistics are available on the CSO Statbank: Statbank Link

Numbers of graduates

Graduate numbers for each year are broken down by a range of parameters in Table 5.1. Female graduates outnumber males in each year, with women making up 54.7% of the total number in 2016. Approximately three out of every five graduations in 2016 were from universities, while one third came from institutes of technology. Colleges made up the remaining 6.5% of graduations. Two thirds of all graduations in 2016 were at NFQ level 8 (honour's degrees), and one fifth graduated with a level 9 award (master's degrees and postgraduate qualifications). Level 7 degrees (ordinary degrees) constituted 9.6% of all graduations in 2016, while 3.5% of graduations were at level 6 (certificates). Level 10 (doctoral degrees) made up just 1.6% of 2016 graduations. 

One important development over the period examined was the introduction of a two year master's degree programme for teacher training courses, replacing the one year higher diploma which was common prior to 2015. There was a reduction in graduation numbers for 2015 as a result, and fluctuations were created in some series which are related to these types of programmes. In colleges, where teacher training courses are commonly offered, we see a reduction in graduate numbers of approximately 30% between 2014 and 2015. The reduction in graduate numbers within the field of 'Education' can be seen more clearly in the following section. 

Table 5.1. Breakdown of Graduates by Analysis Parameters
Total Number of Graduates34,46034,36035,00036,07036,47035,10037,470
Institute Type       
   Institute of Technology12,93013,04013,06012,77013,06013,17013,010
NFQ Level       
Nationality Category       
   Irish 30,84030,51031,33031,56031,61030,28032,090
Degree Class (level 8 only)       

Numbers of graduates by field of study

Graduate numbers for each of the ten fields of study from 2010 to 2016 are shown in table 5.2. There is a drop of over 50% in the number of 'Education' graduates for 2015, primarily caused by the introduction of the two year master's degree for teacher training courses. This has also lead to some discontinuities in the profile of education graduates over time, such as an increase in the number of level 9 awards after 2015.

The most common field of study in each year was 'Business, Administration and Law', which accounted for 22.8% of all graduations in 2016. This was followed by 'Arts and Humanities', with approximately one in six graduates in 2016. Graduate numbers in 'Health and Welfare' rose by a third between 2010 and 2016, while 'Information and Communication Technologies' saw an increase of almost 40%. The number of graduations from 'Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction' fell by a quarter over the same period, from 4,640 in 2010 to 3,420 in 2016

Table 5.2. Number of graduates by field of study
Field of Study2010201120122013201420152016
Arts & Humanities5,3405,6405,7905,8605,6105,7306,110
Social Sciences, Journalism & Information2,4002,3602,5702,7202,7602,5902,330
Business, Administration & Law9,0608,7108,9908,8408,8108,6908,560
Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics2,9002,9203,1303,5503,7903,6903,980
Information & Communication Technologies1,5001,6601,3201,5801,7801,8702,090
Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction4,6404,3004,1803,6903,4303,4603,420
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries & Veterinary460560670710730770790
Health & Welfare4,4204,3204,6005,0905,2205,3905,870
All fields of study34,46034,36035,00036,07036,47035,10037,470

Field of study of graduates by sex

Male and female graduates from 2016 are broken down by field of study in table 5.3. Women made up almost 80% of all 'Health and Welfare' graduates, with more than one in five (22.4%) female graduates graduating from this field compared to just 7.6% of males. Women were also more than twice as men likely to study 'Education', which accounted for 9.1% of female graduates and only 3.9% of male graduates. One in four male graduates and approximately one in five female graduates had studied 'Business, Administration and Law', the most common field for males. The second most common field among male graduates was 'Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction', with males making up almost 80% of graduate numbers. Approximately 80% of graduates from 'Information and Communication Technologies' were also male. 

Table 5.3. Field of study of graduates by sex (2016 graduates)
Field of StudyNo.%No.%
Arts & Humanities15,30018.79,16013.5
Social Sciences, Journalism & Information5,5506.83,7605.5
Business, Administration & Law17,22021.017,05025.1
Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics8,69010.67,23010.6
Information & Communication Technologies1,7402.16,6609.8
Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction2,8203.410,85016.0
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries & Veterinary1,1101.42,0403.0
Health & Welfare18,32022.45,1707.6
All fields of study81,93010067,960100

NFQ proportions by field of study

While level 8 qualifications were the largest grouping for each field of study, the prevalence of the other levels varied considerably. Over 40% of 'Education' graduations were at NFQ level 9, with the remainder almost entirely at level 8. Similarly in 'Social Sciences, Journalism and Information', the vast majority of graduations were at levels 8 and 9. There were 220 graduations at level 10 from 'Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics', and these accounted for 37% of all level ten graduations in 2016.

Certain other fields of study had relatively high numbers of graduates at lower NFQ levels. More than half of all graduates from the field of 'Services' received an award at level 6 or 7, and a third of graduations from 'Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Veterinary' were at level 7. These fields had relatively few graduates at levels 9 and 10. 

Table 5.4. Breakdown by NFQ for each field of study (2016 graduates)
Field of studyNFQ 6 NFQ 7 NFQ 8NFQ 9NFQ 10
Arts & Humanities202105,05079050
Social Sciences, Journalism & Information10401,52071050
Business, Administration & Law3906905,1202,34010
Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics403502,900470220
Information & Communication Technologies403301,22048020
Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction1006701,81075090
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries & Veterinary302604603020
Health & Welfare4603504,160760140
All fields of study1,3003,61024,4907,470590

Field of study by geographical region

The proportions of 2016 graduates from each field of study are examined separately for each of the eight NUTS III statistical regions in Ireland in table 5.5. The region for each graduate is based on the county that they lived in prior to entering their higher education course.

Some fields of study were markedly less popular among Dublin graduates than among those from outside Dublin. For example, Dublin had the lowest proportion of graduates that studied Education, at only 4.1%, compared to 7.6% for graduates from outside Dublin. Dublin also had the lowest proportion of graduates from 'Information and Communication Technologies' at 4.3%, while the South-West region had the highest proportion at 6.8%. Just one in eight graduates from Dublin studied 'Health and Welfare', compared to around one in six (16.3%) for the remainder of the country. The Border region had the highest proportion of graduates from 'Health and Welfare' at 19.4%, making it the most popular field for that region. 

Conversely, there were fields which were more popular among graduates from Dublin than other parts of the country. 'Social Sciences, Journalism and Information' accounted for 9.1% of Dublin graduates, but only 5.1% of graduates from outside Dublin. Around one in four Dublin graduates studied 'Business, Administration and Law' compared to one in five graduates from the remainder of the country. Dublin also had the highest proportion studying 'Arts and Humanities' at 19.5%, compared to 15.9% for all other graduates from Ireland. 

The varying proportions for each region has interesting consequences for the ranking by popularity of fields within regions. Dublin is the only region where 'Education' was less popular than 'Information and Communication Technologies', and was also the only region where 'Social Sciences, Journalism and Information' was more popular than 'Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction'. 

Table 5.5. Field of study of graduates by geographical region (2016 graduates)
 DublinOutside DublinMid-EastSouth-WestSouth-EastMid-WestWestMidlandBorder
Field of studyNo. %No. %No. %No. %No. %No. %No. %No. %No. %
Arts & Humanities1,57019.54,03015.981017.679014.549016.263017.358015.432016.242014.6
Social Sciences, Journalism & Information7309.11,2905.13006.52805.11304.31905.22105.6804.01103.8
Business, Administration & Law2,13026.45,28020.81,09023.71,20022.061020.270019.274019.739019.754018.8
Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics85010.52,82011.155012.059010.831010.341011.344011.721010.633011.5
Information & Communication Technologies3504.31,4405.72505.43706.81705.61804.92005.31206.11505.2
Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction7108.82,3009.14309.34107.52608.639010.73609.61708.62709.4
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries & Veterinary700.97002.81002.21102.01103.6902.51102.9804.01003.5
Health & Welfare1,02012.74,14016.356012.21,00018.350016.655015.164017.033016.756019.4
All fields of study8,06010025,3401004,6001005,4501003,0201003,6401003,7601001,9801002,880100
Dublin: Dublin
Mid-East: Meath, Kildare, Wicklow
South-West: Cork, Kerry
South-East: Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford
Mid-West: Limerick, Clare, Tipperary
West: Galway, Mayo, Roscommon
Midland: Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois
Border: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth

Non-Irish Graduates by Year

There were a total of 5,380 non-Irish graduates in 2016. The largest group was 'Europe excluding the UK', which made up 31% of this number. The UK provided a further 12%, with the remaining 57% of non-Irish graduates coming from outside Europe. The total number of non-Irish graduates has grown by almost 50% between 2010 and 2016. Around half of this increase is due to a rise in numbers from East Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia. These three regions combined made up 35% of graduates in 2016, up from 25% in 2010.

Table 5.6. Number of non-Irish graduates by region and year
United Kingdom550590610670680640640
Europe Excluding Ireland and UK1,1001,2401,2301,4801,5601,5901,680
North America320350370400460430560
Central and South America20303030404050
Middle East50110100170230200230
Australia and South Pacific20202020202020
Central Asia20102010102020
South Asia160130150260310360430
South-East Asia160170190290360430570
East Asia590800650870890790890
Total Non-Irish3,6203,8503,6704,5104,8604,8205,380

Missing PPSN

Rates of missing or invalid PPSN across a number of parameters are shown in table 5.7. The group with the highest rate of missing PPSN is non-Irish category, in which only 36.9% of graduates had an associated PPSN. 

Table 5.7. Proportion of graduates with missing or invalid PPSN,
by analysis parameter (all graduates, 2010-2016)
 Percentage of graduates (%)
NFQ 611.2
NFQ 79.0
NFQ 87.5
NFQ 926.7
NFQ 1026.9
Institute of Technology7.9
Arts & Humanities8.8
Social Sciences, Journalism & Information12.5
Business, Administration & Law14.6
Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics9.0
Information & Communication Technologies18.5
Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction9.6
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries & Veterinary7.5
Health & Welfare16.6

Go to next Chapter: Background Notes