Nearly half of people in London have highest levels of qualifications – census

Nearly half of people in London hold a degree or a similar qualification, according to census data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed large regional differences across England and Wales in the proportion of residents who had the highest level of qualification.

A third (33.8%) of residents aged 16 and over – 16.4 million people – had Level 4 or above qualifications across England and Wales, the data from the 2021 census suggests.

Census 2021: people with qualifications at Level 4 or above
(PA Graphics)

The figures released by the ONS found that the region with the highest percentage of the population with Level 4 or above qualifications was London with 46.7% – 3.3 million people.

The percentage was “considerably higher” than all other regions, the ONS said.

Meanwhile, only 28.6% of residents in the North East said they held Level 4 or above qualifications – which include degrees, postgraduate qualifications, higher national certificates and diplomas.

Data from the 2021 census suggests that the region with the highest proportion of unqualified residents was the West Midlands, where 21.1% – one million people – reported having no qualifications.

In 2021, almost one in five (18.2%) –  8.8 million people – across England and Wales reported having no qualifications.

Census 2021: people with no qualifications
(PA Graphics)

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank, said: “The numbers are stark. While they show how amazingly well-educated Londoners are relative to other areas, they also highlight the importance of education in true levelling up.

“London does well partly because people move there but also because the education system in the capital is very good, thanks to conscious decisions by policymakers over many years.

“If other areas are to compete with London, they need similar levels of investment and commitment. The jury is out on whether that is likely to happen given recent political changes.”

Census deputy director Jon Wroth-Smith said: “Today’s Census 2021 data shows the region with the highest proportion of people with Level 4 or above qualifications was London, where nearly half of adults hold a qualification such as a Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma, Bachelors degree or post-graduate qualification.

“The percentage in London was considerably higher than all the other regions, led by the South East.

“The region with the lowest proportion of people with Level 4 or above qualifications was the North East, with the East Midlands at a similar level, while the region with the highest proportion of people with no qualifications was the West Midlands, around one in five adults.”