Census data on education released

Published: Wednesday, 11th January 2023

Oxford’s population is one of the best educated in the country, with 48.1% holding degree and high-level vocational qualifications, the latest census data shows.

A better educated population

The census data, released yesterday (10 Jan), shows the number of Oxford residents with no or low qualifications is falling, while the number with higher-level qualifications is increasing.

The data showed that 12.6% of usual residents in Oxford aged 16 or over had no qualifications – a one percentage point decrease compared to the 2011 Census. This is lower than the figure for Oxfordshire as a whole (13.5%) and national figures (18.1%).

Level 1 (fewer than 5 GCSEs at A*-C) and level 2 (5 or more GCSEs at A*-C, NVQ level 2 and equivalents) qualifications have both seen decreases of 2.2 percentage point (from 8.3% of residents to 6.1%) and 1.3 percentage points (from 8.9% to 7.6%) respectively compared to 2011.

Oxford’s level 1 and level 2 averages are lower than the Oxfordshire average (8.6% for Level 1 and 11.8% for Level 2) and England (9.7% and 13.3%) averages.

At the same time, level 3 (A-levels, NVQ level 3 and BTEC national level, and equivalents) and level 4 (degree, BTEC Higher and equivalents) have seen significant increases – of 2.8 percentage points for Level 3 (from 17.8% to 20.6%) and 5.5% for level 4 (from 42.6% to 48.1%).

And Oxford’s level 3 and level 4 averages are significantly higher than the averages for Oxfordshire (17.1% for level 3 and 42.0% for level 4) and England (16.% and 33.9%).

Oxford is ranked as fourth in the country outside London for percentage of population with a level 4 education. It is only beaten by Elmbridge (52.1%), St Albans (53.0%) and Cambridge (55.8%). South Cambridgeshire is ranked fifth (47.8%).

Growth of the knowledge economy

The data suggests that more graduates are staying in Oxford after university, or are moving to the city to work in ‘knowledge economy’ roles. These include education, research and healthcare, some of the largest sectors of the local economy.

Oxford City Council has set out its strategy for an inclusive economy that notes that our strengths lie in research and knowledge-based jobs, which are less vulnerable to automation. It also emphasises the need to support good quality jobs and training for local residents who may not have the same levels of further and higher education. The development of science and technology spaces, support for university spin-offs, and the health sector all provide knowledge-based roles while also increasing the demand for support services, from construction and maintenance to technology support, as well as day to day retail, hospitality and services for a growing workforce.

However, the City Council’s primary focus is on ensuring economic growth benefits everyone. The council has increased the number of organisations paying the Oxford Living Wage, set at 90% of the London Living Wage; it offers apprenticeships at the council and its subsidiary ODS; and has outlined in its procurement strategy how it will use its own spending to support an inclusive economy.

“Our local economy in Oxford is very strong in education and healthcare, both sectors that need a highly qualified workforce. The City Council works to make sure that the economic benefits of the research and innovation are shared by all of our local residents. We want everyone to be able to benefit from our strong economy. We have promoted the Oxford Living Wage and over 100 employers in Oxford are now signed up to pay it. We support local apprenticeships and we offer non-formal qualifications through our Youth Ambition work. We also encourage employers and developers to ensure more local people are developing skills, gaining qualifications and accessing high value, well paid jobs. We need to include opportunities for everyone as our knowledge-based economy grows.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council