Statistical sources for languages, linguistics and area studies

A variety of agencies collect statistics concerning UK education, mostly on an annual basis. This page provides a short overview on the statistics available and outlines some of the advantages and limitations in using them.

Agencies collecting information of languages, linguistics and area studies in higher education and schools
Data Collected/published by: Examples of data being used
Applications to study LLAS subjects in Higher Education Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
Qualifications (tariff) of applicants to LLAS subjects Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
Numbers of students studying LLAS subject in higher education Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
CILT, The National Centre for Languages
Degree classes Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (First Destination 6 months after graduation) Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (longitudinal survey—3.5 years after graduation). This survey includes income data Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

Graduate employment and earnings:
Are universities meeting student
expectations? (1994 Group)
(Research Report, Adobe Acrobat, 536Kb)


National Student Survey

The National Student Survey

Unistats from universities and colleges in the UK

In progress (Higher Education Academy)
Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)

Research Assessment Exercise

The Higher Education Funding Council for England
The Scottish Funding Council
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
Department of Employment and Learning Northern Ireland

The Times Higher Education, Research Assessment Exercise 2008 results
Numbers studying GCSE, AS and A levels Joint Council for Qualifications

CILT, the National Centre for Languages

Subject Centre publication: Five years on: The language landscape in 2007 by J. Canning (2008)

Numbers studying Standard Grades and Highers (Scotland) Scottish Qualifications Authority
CILT, The National Centre for Languages

Agencies collecting information of languages, linguistics and area studies in higher education and schools

Issues in using statistics (general)

The raw data from these different sources can generally be downloaded from each agency’s website. Most of the data is available of free of charge, but a charge maybe made for other datasets, especially if manipulation is required.

Statistics can be useful for identifying longer term trends and identifying possible areas of strength and weaknesses across the sector. However, it is useful to consider the following issues when examining these statistics:

  • We need to understand what data is actually being collected. For example the National Student Survey is not a survey of teaching quality, though it is often presented as such by the media.
  • When looking at specific subjects, it is important to look at how the disciplinary area is defined. UCAS publishes statistics for individual languages and area studies, but the graduate destinations survey publishes data for ‘languages’.   
  • It is important to examine LLAS subjects in the context of other subjects. For example, 61.6% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand”. Comparison with other subjects can help us understand whether this is good or bad.
  • The types of institution in which subjects are studied can have a confounding effect on the data which may lead to erroneous or unsubstantiated conclusions. Jim Coleman writes, “The oft repeated argument that language graduates are highly employable may have nothing whatever to do with their choice of degree subject. Put bluntly, if you come from a good family, a good school and a good university, you will get a good job whether or not you choose a language degree (Coleman 2004, p.21).
  • Organisations and individuals which present and analyse the data will have specific aims and objectives which may not match your own.

Issues in using statistics (practical)

Most of the data are available for download as an excel spreadsheet, so some basic knowledge of excel is useful. Knowledge of using pivot tables can also be very helpful. The data are usually in the form of raw numbers and not percentages. It will usually be necessary to convert data into percentages to be able to make any reasonable comparison with other subjects.

Statistics and the LLAS Subject Centre

The Subject Centre may be able to answer basic statistical enquiries. Colleagues in languages are advised to follow the links to CILT, the National Centre for Languages for extensive analysis and interpretation of data relating to student numbers. We are currently working with colleagues across the Higher Education Academy on making the National Student Survey statistics available. If you have any specific enquiries please contact John Canning and we will see what we can do to help.

University and discipline league tables

These data are widely used by national newspapers and other publications to create league tables of institutions and subject areas. Compliers of league tables make value judgements about which of these statistics should or should not be included. They also use weights to reflect their views about which variables are the most important.

Other data sources

Subject associations and professional bodies sometimes collect their own data. For example, the Association for University Language Centres (AULC) collects data on the numbers of students studying on Institution Wide Language Programmes (see presentation by Nick Byrne 2008) ( The same issues apply to these datasets as above.

Links (statistical sources)

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)

National Student Survey

Research Assessment Exercise

Links (using statistics)

A website which helps students with both basic and advanced mathematics


Coleman, J., 2004. Languages and careers. In: Coleman, J., and Klapper, J., eds. Effective learning and teaching in modern languages. London: Routledge, 17-22.