Higher entrants in physics 2010-2016

What does this data show?

Entrants for Higher physics in 2016 are 9131. This is the lowest number of entrants to Higher physics since 2010, representing a fall of 6.6% fall compared to 2015 Higher entrants. Higher physics entrants had risen year on year between 2007 and 2014. In 2015 entrants fell by 4.2%, but this followed the second greatest year on year increase in numbers since 1986 (a 6% rise in 2014) and a comparable fall in National 5 entrants the previous year (from which the Higher cohort would largely have been drawn). The 6.6% drop in entrants in 2016 however, follows a much smaller fall in National 5 entrants in 2015.

Comparable subjects have experienced even greater falls in Higher entrants in 2016 – 24.3% in biology (though human biology has seen a similar rise), 7.5% in chemistry and 13.4% in maths. Each subject has seen a far greater fall in entrants when compared with overall entrants, which fell by only 1%.

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The 9131 physics entrants in 2016 account for 4.6% of all entrants to Highers. This is a fall of 0.3 percentage points compared to 2015. The proportion of Higher physics entrants has, since 2001, been largely comparable to both chemistry and biology. In 2016, like physics, Higher biology and chemistry also experienced a fall in entrants, and a fall in the proportion of entrants compared to all Higher entrants. In 2016, biology entrants made up 3.8% of all entrants and chemistry entrants 5.1%. Mathematics has had a consistently higher proportion of entrants, from a high of 12.9% of all entrants in 2001 to a low of 9.5% of all entrants in 2016. The average proportion of entrants in Higher physics between 2001 and 2016 has been 5.4%, compared to 5.4% in biology, 5.7% in chemistry and 11.6% in maths.

In both 2015 and 2016, all four subjects have suffered a fall in entrants and a fall in the proportion of entrants compared to all entrants, placing each year, progressively, as the lowest year for entrants, proportionally, since at least 1985. All four subjects have been on a slight proportionate downward trend since 2001 (but the trend can be traced back even as far as 1985). However, up until 2015, there was a level of stability in the proportionate number of entrants in each subject for most of the past decade or so. For example, the proportion of all entrants taking Higher physics had, between 2002 and 2014, ranged between and 5.1% (2010) and 5.8% (2002) – a range of 0.7% - with the proportion from 2011 – 2014 remaining stable at 5.3% of all entrants. The range in the same period for biology was 0.4%, chemistry 0.3% and maths 0.5%.

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