How many film students are there in the UK?

11 November '13 5 Comments on How many film students are there in the UK?

Film studentsLast week I published figures for the huge growth in the UK Film sector in the last decade. This sparked a number of people to contact me and ask about if this boom is mirrored in the number of people studying film in higher education. The short answer is, kinda. There has certainly been a massive increase in film students in the last eight years, however its growth curve is largely uncorrelated to that of jobs within the film industry. I found that…

  • The number of UK film students grew by 240% between 2004 and 2012
  • Of 2012 film students, 17% were studying ‘Film Production’ and 83% ‘Film Studies’
  • Between 2004-12, ‘Film Production’ students grew by 589%
  • More and more ‘media students’ are focusing on film
  • 12.5% of film students end up working in the ‘Arts, Design & Culture’ sector
  • 34% of ex-film students work in ‘Retail / Catering’

More film students and more practical courses

Between 2004 and 2012, the number of UK film students grew from 1,625 to 5,530 – that’s a 240% increase in just eight years. If we look deeper at those numbers we can see that the majority of students studying ‘film’ in higher education are on ‘Film Studies’ courses. In 2004 there were just 135 students studying on ‘Film Production’ courses (of which I was one) whereas by 2012 this number had ballooned to 930 (a 589% increase!)

More media students are studying film topics

Film is forming an increasingly large share of overall media studies. Of the students studying media-related topics in higher education in 2004, 6.8% were reading ‘Film studies’ and only 0.6% were studying ‘Film Production’. By 2012, the percentage of media studies courses focusing on ‘Film Studies’ had grown to 18.2% with ‘Film Production’ courses increasing to 3.7%. This means that in 2004, one in every thirteen media students was reading film, whereas in 2012 this became one in four.

What Happens After Graduation?

Of the film students who graduated in 2009, 70% were employed six months later.

However, amongst those 2009 film graduates, only 12.5% were working in the ‘Arts, Design & Culture’ sector.


Today’s data came from Prospects, the Guardian, the BFI, Higher Education Statistics Agency and Higher Education Careers Services Unit. A couple of years ago Chris Jones and I took part in a panel discussion at a film festival.  The topic was something along the lines of ‘Do You Need A Film Degree To Work In Film?’  Chris and I were labelled ‘the filmmakers’ and there were a couple of film education professionals who sat opposite us, labeled ‘the film schools’.  During the course of the discussion we all ended up arguing against our personal experiences – Chris and I have both studied film at university and felt it wasn’t needed whereas the two teachers hadn’t, and wished they had!



  1. Really interesting stuff. I do remember a big jump (almost doubling) of first year students in 2004.

    The other difficulty is the employment figures. Film production is very largely a freelance profession, so students are unlikely to go straight into full time work. The successful ones would often have spent a year or so working part time or for free in film production whilst paying the bills through bar, catering or temp office work. This would allow them the flexibility to take film work as and when it came up.

    So they wouldn’t show up on the initial film production employment figures.

    1. Yes, I agree Phil, the link between film education and film employment is always tricky. For some other professions, like say Law, it should be more straight forward to draw correlations between students graduating and people being employed. However, in film there might be little to no link as there are no barriers to entry (like requires qualifications), not everyone in film trained in film, “film education” is hard to define precisely and jobs can be short term and unpredictable. What a lovely statistical mess!

  2. When I was a film educator, I think if I had believed the official figures I couldn’t have justified my existence. But I realised though personally tracking my ex students, (though it took a number of years), that many did succeed in the industry. Of course then the harsh working conditions caused a number to leave. I wonder whether there is any info on numbers working in the industry, who came from courses or direct entry. I think BECTU may have done some research on this.

    (copied from facebook thread)

  3. Hi There,

    Hope all is well with you. My name is Dino and i live in the Nottingham city area. I work with / in the arts. I am busy putting a podcast cast together and I am looking for someone who studies media or radio. to help me produce the podcast. Do you know of any student groups or contacts for media that can possibly help me out ?
    Looking forward to hearing you and Thank you in advance for your help.

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