Posted on 13 May '24

Discipline Deep Dive - UK Computer Science PGT

Computer Science is one of the most dynamic and exciting areas of academic study. It increasingly shapes the way we communicate and travel, the way we work and access entertainment. Developments in this field have been coming thick and fast in recent years and this is particularly visible at Masters level.

In fact, Computer Science is currently the fastest growing discipline area for UK PGT.

Total interest in Computer Science specialisms is up almost 8% compared to last year – that’s almost double the growth rate of the next fastest growing discipline area (Science & Engineering). And, whilst much of the recent overall growth in UK PGT has been international, Computer Science has seen a nearly 14% rise in domestic interest.

That said, Computer Science is also the fastest growing international discipline, with interest having risen 5.34%.

Rise of the Machines (Artificial Intelligence)

Over the course of 2023, no specialism saw growth as strong as Artificial Intelligence (+72.52%), regardless of the discipline area. During that time, AI rose from outside the top 10 to now become the 3rd most popular subject area for UK PGT. As with Computer Science as a whole, growth here was actually strongest for domestic audiences in 2023, with interest up 105% vs 59% for internationals.

Growth slowed a little during Q1 2024 (as the year-on-year trend catches up with itself) but interest is still up 16% domestically and 11% internationally.

That being said, AI is only the 6th most popular subject for our domestic audience, while being the 2nd most popular for prospective international students. The international audiences with the largest Share of Search are mostly South Asian (India and Pakistan), North American (USA) and European (Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland). It’s worth noting that Artificial Intelligence is the most popular subject for prospective Spanish and Italian students.

The announcement of UK visa changes last year has had a particularly negative effect on South Asian audiences but a less pronounced impact on those from North America and Europe, which would suggest that the makeup of the Artificial Intelligence international audience is potentially subject to some change in the coming months.

Who’s interested in Computer Science?

Age Ranges

Our Pulse data allows us an insight into the thoughts and demographics of prospective PGT students, and it reveals some notable differences when we compare the Computer Science audience to overall audiences.

To begin with, the Computer Science audience is significantly younger than the average prospective PGT student. 78% of prospective Computer Science students are under 35, while only 7% are aged 45+. When compared to the audience for all PGT discipline areas, these figures are 69% and 14% respectively.

This difference is slightly more pronounced domestically, where the Computer Science audience is 13% more likely to be under 35. While, internationally, they are 9% more likely to be under 35.

Gender Splits

Our data also reveals that the Computer Science audience is more male dominated than the average PGT course. In fact, 59% of our respondents interested in Computer Science courses identified as male, compared to only 41% of all respondents.

However, the most recent HESA enrolment data (from 19/20 to 21/22) shows a gender split of 69% male to 31% female, which would suggest that the demand for Computer Science is slightly more balanced than the enrolment figures we currently have.

This correlates with a trend in the HESA data, which shows the percentage of female enrolments rising from 29% in 19/20 to 32% in 21/22.

Course Preferences, Motivations and Concerns

In terms of course delivery, the domestic Computer Science audience is around 8% more likely to seek both full-time and on campus courses. Whereas, internationally, they are about 5% more likely to seek on campus study and there is little difference for full-time.

When compared to the average UK PGT course seeker, the Computer Science audience is more likely to choose career based motivations (earnings +8%, CV +3%) than vocational motivations (subject -3%). They are also generally less concerned by cost (-6%) and more concerned by value (+5%).

International Breakdown

Europe (21%) and Asia (52%) account for almost three-quarters of the international audience alone. Africa is around 13% and North America 10%. When we drill down to countries, it should come as no surprise that India, the USA, Pakistan and Germany have the largest Share of Search.

Other European countries that had notable interest in Artificial Intelligence (Spain, Italy and Ireland) do not feature as highly when looking at Computer Science overall, suggesting that their interest in Computer Science is mostly AI focused.

As noted earlier, international audiences for UK PGT have been in a state of flux recently. So, how does Computer Science compare to the overall trend?

When we look at all UK PGT, the largest swings come from Africa (-26.43%) and Asia, most notably South Asia (-45.55%). This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed HE news since the PGT dependant visa was scrapped in January this year.

Fortunately, those drastic swings away from UK institutions are much less pronounced for Computer Science courses. Only in Europe is the fall larger in Computer Science than for the overall. In all other regions, international Computer Science audiences appear to be relatively robust compared to general PGT trends. That bodes well for continued growth in AI and Computer Science overall.

Key Takeaways

  • Computer Science is the fastest growing PGT discipline area.
  • Artificial Intelligence saw the largest growth in interest of any subject in 2023 and is now the 3rd most popular subject in searches for UK PGT.
  • The audience is young and majority male, but interest is growing from prospective female students.
  • International audiences appear to be relatively stable.

Anything Missing?

This page is intended to be a snapshot of the current size and shape of UK PGT Computer Science audiences based on thousands of data points drawn from actively searching audiences across our platforms. If there's something else you think it should cover, something that isn't clear or something you have a question about, please let us know.

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