Firstly, it is impossible to be sure that the rising overall total has not increased because of the inclusion of extra categories in the humanities section from 2002–2003 (there is a big jump from 2001–2002 (70505) to 2002–2003 (87630)).
Secondly, the categories used for history also change – and do not appear to map directly onto each other. Whereas previously there were categories for history, economic and social history, history of art and history and philosophy of science, from 2002–2003 the categories are history by period, history by area and history by topic.
For the first 4 years there is no significant change in the total number of students taking humanities – around 60,000.
In 2000–2001 the figure rises to nearly 65,000, and in 2001–2002 it rises again to just over 70,000.
For history as a sole subject, there is a similar pattern. The figure stays around 26–27,000 for the first four years, and then rises to nearly 29,000 in 2001–2002 and over 30,000 in 2002–2003.
It is interesting to note that the increase in humanities students is almost completely accounted for by a rise in part-time undergraduates. With history as a sole subject there is a small rise in the number of full-time undergraduates, but again the majority of extra students are part-time undergraduates.
For humanities in general there is a big jump from 2001–2002 to 2002–2003 (but whether this is due to category changes or not is impossible to tell from these figures).
Between 2002–2003 and 2003–2004 there is another sizeable leap, from 87,630 to over 100,000, and the figure remains at this level for the following 2 years.
If we conflate the figures for history by period, history by area and history by topic, we find that in 2002–2003 there are 50,745 students, in 2003–2004 54,560, in 2004–2005 53,290 and in 2005–2006 54,520. This is a smaller rise than the overall humanities rise.
Again, for the humanities in total, we can see that the majority of the increase comes from a rise in the number of part-time undergraduates, though the proportion of the increase accounted for by an increase in full-time undergraduates is higher in this period than in the period 1996–1997 to 2001–2002.
For history by period, history by area and history by topic the picture is slightly different. The number of full-time undergraduates in 2002–2003 is 30675, in 2003–2004 31715, in 2004–2005 32450 and in 2005–2006 34080. The number of part-time undergraduates in 2002–2003 is 11750, in 2003–2004 14090, in 2004–2005 12080 and in 2005–2006 11235. So the rise in history students is initially accounted for by a rise in part-time undergraduates, but then these return to their 2002–2003 levels and full-time undergraduate numbers rise instead.
Year | Total students | Total humanities | History (according to categories explained above) |
1996–1997 | 1756179 | 60656 | 26885 |
1997–1998 | 1800064 | 61288 | 27468 |
1998–1999 | 1845757 | 60566 | 26916 |
1999–2000 | 1856330 | 60100 | 26800 |
2000–2001 | 1990625 | 64590 | 28860 |
2001–2002 | 2086075 | 70505 | 30310 |
2002–2003 | 2175115 | 87630 | 50745 |
2003–2004 | 2247440 | 101975 | 54560 |
2004–2005 | 2287540 | 99245 | 53290 |
2005–2006 | 2336110 | 101445 | 54520 |
From 1996–1997 to 2001–2002 total student numbers rose 18.8%
From 1996–1997 to 2001–2002 total humanities numbers rose 16.2%
From 1996–1997 to 2001–2002 history numbers rose 12.7%
From 2002–2003 to 2005–2006 total student numbers rose 7.4%
From 2002–2003 to 2005–2006 total humanities numbers rose 15.8%
From 2002–2003 to 2005–2006 history numbers rose 7.4%.
So in the first period humanities numbers failed to keep up with the overall rise, whilst the increase in history numbers was even slower.
In the second period history numbers kept pace with the overall rise in student numbers, whilst humanities numbers increased more than twice as quickly.
It appears that whilst the 1967 and 1977 versions had breakdowns of figures for students studying history, the later issues (1987 and 1997) did not, and were therefore no use for comparative purposes. Also, we don't know what 'history' includes – that is, whether it is the same categories as above or not
At 31.12.1967 | At 31.12.1977 | 1997–1998 (from above) | |
FT UG History students | 5445 | 7489 | |
FT PG History Students | 992 | 975 | |
PT UG History students | 107 | 159 | |
PT PG History Students | 360 | 962 | |
Total History Students | 6904 | 9585 | 27468 |
FT UG students | 169610 | 227988 | |
FT PG Students | 35585 | 48871 | |
PT UG students | 4567 | 3846 | |
PT PG Students | 14354 | 23441 | |
Total Students | 224116 | 304146 | 1800064 |
Thus between 1967 and 1977 total numbers of students studying history rose 38.8%, whilst total student numbers rose 35.7%.
We can make a comparison with the figures 20 years later (bearing in mind that we have no idea whether they are strictly comparable). Assuming they are, then we can see that between 1977 and 1997 total numbers of students studying history rose 186%, whilst total student numbers rose 492%. This is a significant fall in the proportion of history students, unlikely to be explained by changes in category definitions, but more likely attributable to the rise of 'new' and vocational subjects (more likely to be available at the polytechnics which had previously not been classed as universities).