Data on the UK Historical Discipline and Profession

This page provides links to external, publicly accessible resources with information on the present state of the historical discipline and profession in UK higher education. The Society updates this page as new data are released. Many of the external providers also offer data for previous years, enabling the mapping of trends for at least the past decade.

In each case, the Society is not responsible for the quality or comprehensiveness of data provided by these external providers. In addition to the selected information below, we hope this page provides links and context for others to search these results for themselves. This page was last updated in February 2024.

For further resources and publications that may be of interest to historians in support of their discipline, at local and national level, please see also the Society’s Toolkit for Historians.

We welcome further suggestions for data sources relating to the discipline and profession. To let us know, please contact the Society’s Academic Director: philip.carter@royalhistsoc.org.


1. History Academic Staff in UK Higher Education

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) collects, assures and disseminates data about UK higher education in three main areas: staff, students and outcomes after graduation. HESA data on academic staff relate to a range of professional attributes, including: profile, nationality, gender, professional activity, contractual status, grade, allocation by HEI, and salary.

HESA Staff data for ‘History’ is available as by filtering by ‘Cost Centre’ (History is Cost Centre 139) which is part of the larger Cost Centre Group: ‘Humanities and Language-base studies and Archaeology’.

How many people are teaching History in UK Higher Education? HESA provides annual data on the number of History academic staff working in UK Higher Education, for which its latest release (covering 2022-23) was published in February 2024. This latest release records 3,700 History staff within ‘Humanities and language based studies’. Data from the AY 2014-15 also allows for mapping of trends in staff numbers.

HESA data for History staff also enables selection by specific criteria, including gender.

Who is teaching History in UK Higher Education? There is no current listing of ‘Teachers of History in UK Higher Education’ following the ending, in 2016, of an annual project to record this information by the Institute of Historical Research. Legacy data from this project are available in print though not online.

The Royal Historical Society offers a listing of its membership (currently to November 2024), which includes many academic historians, working at HEIs, in the UK (and overseas), as well as historians active in other sectors.


2. History Students Enrolled in UK Higher Education

HESA provides data on the number of History students currently enrolled at institutions in UK Higher Education, as well as degree completions. In both cases, data are available for Undergraduate degrees, and Postgraduate degrees (Taught) and (Research). HESA reporting currently provides public data for History enrolments and completions for the years 2019/20 to 2021/22, with the most recent release, covering 2021-22, published in January 2023. Historical data for student enrolments and completions is also available up to the AY 2015/16.

For Student data, ‘History’ is described in HESA’s terminology as a Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) ‘Level 3’ subject category and is coded 20-01-01. Not all Student attributes are accessible at this search level, with some (for example, subject studied and gender of students) available as part of a larger disciplinary category (CAH Level 1), ‘Humanities, Philosophical and Religious Studies’ (code: 20), which includes History.

The January 2023 release offers a ready comparison of student numbers, by degree type, from 2019-20. The next update of HESA student data, for the AY 2022/23, is expected in April 2024.

HESA data for History student numbers (2019/20 to 2021/22) may be further segmented by UK region, UK or non-UK fee paying, and by individual HEIs. Data relating to the gender of History students enrolled at UK universities is only available as part of the larger category of ‘Historical, philosophical and religious studies’. For listings, see here.

Previous HESA updates provide data charting student numbers for History between 2013/14 and 2021/22. The 2021/22 figure of 42,415 students at all degree levels is a 7.2% decline on that for 2013-14. This is compared with a 21% increase in student numbers (2013/14 to 2021/22) for all humanities subjects and a 24% increase in student numbers for all subjects, including STEM.


3. Graduate Qualifications in History

HESA provides data on annual numbers of degrees awarded in History by degree type. These include first degree, all undergraduate degrees, PGR taught and PGR research degrees. The latest release, covering 2021-22, was published in January 2023.

This records the award in ‘Historical, philosophical and religious studies’ (2021-22) of:

  • 13,910 all undergraduate degrees
  • 3,195 PGR taught degrees
  • 605 PGR research degrees

Data from 2019-20 are available for comparison.

Figures for 2021/22 (compared with those for 2029/20) show a 2.3% decline for undergraduate History degrees completed; a 7.3% increase for PGR taught; and a 6.2% decline for PGR research degrees. A dip of 10.8% for History PGR (Research degrees) completed between 2019/20 and 2020/21 against a 1.6% increase in History PGR (Research) enrolments for the same period indicates the effect of the pandemic on PhD completion rates.

PhDs awarded in History: the British Library’s EThOS (e-Theses Online Service) provides a rolling listing of recently completed PhD theses from UK universities, including those in historical studies. A useful starting search is by date of completion and ‘History’ as a keyword, but many other search categories are available. Listings provide thesis abstracts and links to institutional repositories and full texts, where made available. NB: this resource is currently unavailable (February 2024) following the cyber-attach on the British Library in October 2023.

Listings of History PhDs were previously gathered by the Institute of Historical Research up to 2014. This work is now available (for 1970-2014) on the IHR’s British History Online. Where a match is possible, BHO records link to EThOS pages for an individual thesis.


4. Outcomes for History Students on Graduation

HESA provides data on outcomes for students in UK HE, including those graduating from undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in ‘Historical, philosophical and religious studies’.

Data for those graduating in 2020-21 are the most recently available, published in May 2023, and based on those responding to the annual Graduate Outcomes Survey (c.55% of the total eligible). Figures for 2020-21 show for all History graduates:

  • 47% in full-time employment (compared to 43% in 2019-20)
  • 11% in part-time employment (against 12% in 2019-20)
  • 12% in employment and study (against 13% in 2019-20)
  • 13% in full-time study (against 17% in 2019-20)
  • 6% to be unemployed (against 8% in 2019-20)

The UK Government’s LEO (Longitudinal Educational Outcomes) data provides information on graduate outcomes in terms of those in paid employment and the level of salary for graduates 1, 3 and 5 years on from graduation. The LEO dataset measures graduate outcomes only in terms of whether graduates are in paid employment and, if so, how much they are earning in what industry, while the Graduate Outcomes survey (used by HESA, see above) collects a broader range of information about what graduates are doing and their personal experience of employment.

History is measured in the LEO data set as ‘History and Archaeology’, one of 34 subject areas for which graduate outcomes are measures. The latest release (July 2023) covers graduate outcomes for the tax year 2020-21. The LEO dataset measures a range of possible graduate outcomes, including (below) the percentage of History and Archaeology graduates who, in 2020-21, had achieved ‘sustained employment only’ having graduated five years earlier. History is marked in red; selected Arts, Humanities and Social Science (AHSS) subjects are highlighted in green; with the average of All Subjects in yellow

LEO data also measures the lower and upper rages of incomes of those in sustained employment, and the median income, by subject area. The following chart records median income, for 2020-21, for those graduating 5 years previously.

For the US, the American Historical Association provides a survey of professional outcomes for History PhD graduates. The latest release (October 2022) charts outcomes for History PhDs awarded up to 2017.


5. History Students at GSCE, A-Level and Scottish Highers

Introduced in January 2023, the British Academy’s SHAPE Indicators survey offers annual statistics on the number of students taking History at GCSE and A-Level (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Level 5, Highers and Advanced Highers (Scotland). The latest update provides data between 2012 and 2023 for History. The BA’s Indicators survey is one representation of data published annually by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The JCQ provides separate listings for student numbers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

5.1. A-Levels

After a demographic dip between 2019 and 2020 for all subjects, the number of students taking History at A-Level has risen in 2023 to 48,378 (a 7.75% increase on 2020). This is against an increase (2020-23) of 11.5% for all A-Level subjects in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), and of 11.0% for all A-Level subjects.

The following chart plots History enrolments (red) against seven other arts, humanities and social science A-Levels with enrolments higher than 35,000 students in 2023. (Figures for English Literature begin in 2017 due to curriculum changes.)

For more on enrolments in History A-Level, following the 2023 results, see the Society’s post: Student Numbers for History A-Levels and Scottish Highers, 2023 (August 2023).

5.2 Scottish Highers

In 2023, the number of students taking History Highers rose 2.53% on 2022 (compared with a 2.44% increase for Highers in all subjects in the AHSS, and a 1.91% increase for all Highers subjects). The number of students taking History Highers in 2023 is a 1.99% increase on 2020. In the same timeframe, Highers entries in all AHSS subjects rose by 2.9%. Highers entries for all subjects rose by 3.6% between 2020 and 2023.

For more on enrolments in History Highers, following the 2023 results, see the Society’s post: Student Numbers for History A-Levels and Scottish Highers, 2023 (August 2023).

5.3 GCSE

History entries at GCSE for 2023 rose by 6.5% against the 2022 figure. Uptake in 2023 showed continued significant growth over the past decade, at 311,146 students (contrast with 222,983 in 2016), an increase of 39.5%. This is compared, for the same timeframe, with a 20.6% increase in student numbers for arts, humanities and social science subjects, and a 12.6% increase for all subjects at GCSE.

The following chart plots History enrolments (red) against six other arts and humanities GCSEs with annual enrolments higher than 50,000 students since 2012, excluding English Language and Literature.


6. Resources and Funding Options for Historians

In 2020, the Royal Historical Society published the following listings for historians at all career stages:

Additional weekly listings of grants and funding opportunities in historical studies are available via ResearchProfessional (subscription needed), with selected opportunities also listed on jobs.ac.uk. An extensive listing of online and free access resources for historians is also available from the Institute of Historical Research (compiled 2020).

The American Historical Association provides an annual jobs report, reporting on annual trends in the profession for the US. The latest update is from September 2023.