21 Posts to date | Which have been Adams favourites?

Team #VisualisingHE have had a lot of fun and learned a lot over the last 21 months and I thought I would kick off my reflective post covering some of my favourite bits.

We kicked off the project in March 2017, to-date we have created some 21 posts, we have challenged ourselves to numerous new charts including; Sankey’s (Apr 18), radial charts (Nov 17), and even a chord diagram (Apr 18), to name just a few. Explored many open HE datasets, I have learned a ton about remote communication and working together, peer editing and critique, not to mention furthering my Tableau skills and bettering my fairly poor writing skills.

So what have been my favourite bits?

  1. Overall favourite blog post
  2. Favourite Viz – Elena
  3. Favourite Viz – Dave
  4. Favourite Viz – Adam
  5. Favourite solo blog post

Overall favourite blog post

Having written this paragraph a few times whilst in draft, it became obvious to me I have a few blog posts that I have really enjoyed (for various different reasons).

However I have settled on one standout post for me, of which I wasn’t personally involved, but admire a lot, it is the NSS 2017 – one dataset many dataviz approaches post, where Dave and Elena opened up the concept of #VisualisingHE to the #MidlandsTUG,  the result was a fantastic post showcasing the TUG’s many and varying vizzes.


My favourite viz – Elena

Elena’s contribution to the project has been invaluable. Her style is also unmistakable and has earned her quite a few Tableau public ‘viz of the day‘ accolades! My favourite is without doubt her solo post ‘destination Europe‘ a topic that really sang with her and it showed in her viz and really came over in her superb blog post.

Inflow & Outflow (6)

Interactive viz

My Favourite Viz – Dave

Dave consistently knocks out meaningful and insightful dashboards with care and thought. I love his style, ever clean and simple, which is, as we know often more difficult to achieve than the most complicated and intricate of vizzes.

I think my favourite viz of his is found in our September 18 post ‘A looksie at UCAS‘. It’s clean, simple and effective, uses a minimal colour palette but packs a punch.

UCAS subjects 2009 to 2018 (1)

Interactive viz

My Favourite Viz – created by me

For me, my favourite viz is probably one also featured in our latest post (Sept18). I have tried to develop my concept of #Coffeetableviz over the last couple of years, and this ‘looksie at UCAS viz’ gets close to the effect I have been trying to create. It isn’t totally finished and has a few elements I should tweak, however I think it packs a punch, gets the BANS over to the viewer, has a playful side, provides a takeaway but also encourages the user to take a deeper look at the interactive viz (and that’s what I wanted to achieve).

A looksie @ UCAS placed Applicants

Interactive viz

Given this post is about ‘my favourite bits’, I feel it justified to dwell on another post to which I enjoyed vizzing AND writing (I don’t always enjoy the writing bit as much as the vizzing if I’m honest!).

My favourite post and viz was my post on LEO – #Realtableau to funviz .

Why? Well I took a viz I crunched for my Exec team and Employability directorate and had a little fun with it over a few evenings at home. I really enjoyed documenting my journey of exploration, my battle with creating the radial chart and the iterative nature the viz took whilst working remotely with Dave and Elena. They have both always been on hand to comment on my viz outputs, suggest improvements and laugh with me, whilst I bash out expletives during the struggle to get a viz to behave!

The main viz for the post finished up looking like this:


Interactive viz

Thanks Dave and Elena, I have really learned a lot over the last 21 months.

Can’t wait for the next tranche of open HE data sets to emerge.

Thanks for reading.



A Looksie at UCAS placed Applicants 2018

So this month we decided to take looksie at UCAS again. This time focusing on the recently released ‘Placed Applicant’ data as at 31/08/2018, which is part of the daily clearing analysis 2018 statistical releases.

There has been a lot of talk around the demographic dip which will give Universities fewer 18 year olds, so we wanted to see where it has had an impact.  We also wanted to see to what extent International students felt welcome and the impact on areas, such as nursing, which had a change in funding arrangements.

International Interest

A looksie @ UCAS placed Applicants.png

A looksie at UCAS placed Applicants

Interactive viz

In the last year there has been a slight positive shift to both International student groups (Non EU and EU, excluding UK).  Both areas have increased in numbers as well which is a positive sign that International students still regard England as a place to come and study.  This has also offset some of the decline in the number of Home placed applicants.

Subject split

We started out by looking at how things have changed over three separate time periods (1 year, 5 years and the full 9 years in the data set).  What this showed was that despite the decline in the last year over the time period of the data set there has been an increase in nearly all the subjects with only one big subject seeing a decline.

UCAS subjects 2009 to 2018 (1)

Interactive viz

We then started looking at grouping up the subjects which showed that the majority of the placed applicants reside in the science and social science groups and these are also where the biggest increases over the time period are observed.  There has been a downward shift from Arts & Humanities over the last 9 years.

UCAS placed applicants by subject2.png

Placed Applicants by subject group

Interactive Viz


Nursing has changed shape in the HE setting quite a lot over the time of the data set.  There has been a shift to it being only accessible via a funded degree then they have moved to remove the funding.  It has always been a challenge for HE providers as there needs to be placement in place but ultimately it does lead to employment in most cases.  Looking at the data there looks to be a shift with 18 year olds over taking 20-24 year olds for the first time.  They still lag behind the 25-and-over, though, who make up the vast majority of the placed applicants for nursing.

B7 nursing placed applicants2

Placed Applicants – B7 Nursing only

Interactive Viz

So hopefully that was an interesting window into the latest UCAS placed applicants data.  Do let us know what you think.

Adam and Dave

The curvy side of UCAS

Our HE dataset in focus this month is the recently published 2018 entry – March deadline UCAS applicant figures.

Spring has put a coil in our tails and we have left best practice chart types tucked in the winter coat pockets and all gone a little bit curvy! Why? Well we thought we would flex our Tableau muscles and have a go at a few chart types we haven’t yet had a bash at to see if we can make ’em work for this project.

Adam took a liking to a Chord chart, Dave some circles and Elena got sooper curvy with a lovely no data prep Swankey Sankey!

The Data

UCAS publish a set of statistical pdfs and csv files full of all sorts of delicious figures describing applicants and applications from the 2018 UCAS cycle as at the March 24th deadline. Why? March the 24th is the deadline for some Art and Design courses, and here at #VisusualisingHE towers, we didn’t want to forget these creative types missed in the UCAS Jan deadline data releases (most known in the publication calendar). Hence, we waited especially for this release to capture them as well.

The tables published include applicant numbers by age, sex, country of domicile, ethnic group, POLAR3, POLAR4, SIMD 2016, country of institution applied to, and institution type (higher, medium, and lower tariff), as well as the number of applications (choices) by subject group.

Key takeaways from the main UCAS domicile headlines:

  • Applicants by domicile – Non UK applicants up 8% compared to previous cycle, EU (excluding UK) up a lesser amount of 2%, UK down by 3%, overall all domicile down by 2%.
  • Applicants by UK domicile – Northern Ireland displaying the largest percent change in applicants (-5%), England (-4%), Wales (-3%), overall UK down – 3% on previous cycle.
  • Applicants by English region of domicile – The North East showing greatest volatility with -8% applicants, however the North East do form the smallest population of English domiciled applicants (2018- 15,820).
  • Applicants by declared country of domicile – China remain the stand out country of domicile applying to study in the UK, accounting for 20% of all non EU applications (13,070 / 65,440).

Our Vizzes

Adam has been wanting to have a bash at a chord chart for a while, so headed straight to a fantastic instructional post by Noah Salvaterra called DIY chord diagrams in tableau that has been saved in his favourites for sometime.

In his blog post Noah basically guides you through how to prep your data and helpfully and very generously shows you how to clone his tableau file and replace it with your own source data.  From then on it’s up to you to get creative with the look and feel of the viz.

It is fairly rare in HE data that you get a dataset pop up that is perfect for this chart type, given that you need matching dimensions to show a ‘to and from’ (country of domicile of applicant and country of provider). All I had to do was add some blank rows to help scaffold the non UK applicant data (because I didn’t want to exclude them).

Adam settled on vizzing Table 7 contained in the UCAS overview which takes a look at the country of domicile of applicants and the UK country location of the provider.

UCAS 2018 March deadline_Domicile of Applicants

Interactive viz: UCAS 2018 Entry | Domicile

Dave, well he got creative with circles, and came up with a novel way of presenting the data set, in a FT style. He also opted for the big picture vs. high level of precision, so where Adam and Elena spent time in getting those numbers in the visible space or the trendy #VizInTooltips, Dave kept it simple – no numbers as values are encoded in the relative colour and size of the circles.

Dave’s viz definitely grew on us quite quickly even though it’s kinda a bubble chart… which is generally a big ‘no no’ in the #Dataviz community. But here, it just works because it is simply not trying to say too much.

Dave focused on the country location of both the applicants and the the HE providers. His method elegantly shows whether applicants chose to apply to providers based locally, and if they choose the go elsewhere in the UK, whereabouts they chose to go.

So what are the key insights? The largest proportion of each group of applicants, based on their location, apply to institutions in their own country. Not many students outside of Northern Ireland choose to apply to NI providers but NI applicants don’t necessarily choose to stay locally as they also apply to study in HEPs in England and Scotland, too.  It was also interesting that the majority of applicants to Welsh HEPs by volume were actually English.


Interactive Viz: UCAS 2018 Entry | Location of Applicant vs Location of HEI

Elena took on a Sankey, tried it many different ways: old school, hard way… the data prep way… several times… Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work, so she then took a punt at the Information Lab’s no data prep method. After a battle involving an undisclosed number of attempts, a few choice expletives and a delicate navigation of the nested table calcs, she struck gold and mastered the Sankey build in a record time of 7 mins (this still includes following the steps outlined in the blog post religiously)!

One word of advice: Ian Baldwins blog post is fantastic – it is written very clearly and has extremely useful screenshots of what your table calcs should look like. Just remember, when ha syas ‘make sure your calculations look exactly the same’, then make sure they are EXACTLY the same!

So what’s so special about the Sankey diagram? Well, Sankeys can show movement, a flow. It is frequently used to show poll data to show the proportion of voters parties loose or gain between two elections.

In this case, Elena chose to show what proportion of the total applicants chose each subject and how that differs between the gender and country region of the applicants. The best insight is seen when hovering over the right arm of the Sankey on either chart, or on the subject titles in the table at the top. This will reveal how popular this subject was for each group of applicants.

UCAS 2018.png

Interactive viz: UCAS 2018 Entry | Gender & Subject Comparison

The minute it was published it got Viz of The Day! 

As usual thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed exploring our vizzez!

Dave, Adam and Elena

Team #VizualisingHE

An analysis of UCAS subject trends 2007-2016

For those that do not know UCAS is the main admissions service for entry to UK Universities.  Each year they produce an end of cycle report with associated data resources.

We have dug into these lovely resources and looked at the trends around Subject Groups.

For this blog we each looked at the same data but from slightly different angles and different chart types.

Is the UCAS application market evenly spread?

The first question we had was to what degree the UCAS applications are spread across the subject areas.  Are there a small group of subjects that have the majority of demand?

In order to answer this question Adam turned to the Pareto chart.  For those that have not come across this before it follows the Pareto 80/20 rule where by 80% is owned by 20% of the people.  This is a good way of visualising if an area is dominated by the few.

UCAS end of cycle report 2016Click on link to access the interactive viz: UCAS End of Cycle Report 2016: Pareto Analysis

As you can see from Adam’s viz, it is not quite fitting the Pareto rule but the sector is skewed towards 5 main subject areas which take up to 50% of all applications in 2016.

How has the demand changed over time?

For this question we wanted to look at the trends over time and to see the change we decided on a Bump chart.  Dave’s viz uses a bump chart which creates a rank then shows how the subjects change over time.  We have added in the number of applications as the size of the bubbles so you can see which are the larger and smaller subject areas.

UCAS Subject Popularity (1)Click on link to access the interactive viz: The Popularity of UCAS Subjects 2007-2016

As you can see at the top, there is not too much movement but the subject areas in the middle have seen some dramatic drops as well as some dramatic climbs over the last 9 years.

Which subject areas are on the rise, which – on the decline and which providers are the most popular ones? 

The third approach to analysing the UCAS data gives an extra dimension to the subject trend analysis. Elena used a scatter plot to compare the short term with the long term demand on the subject area groups and added an action filter to allow users to see the top [N] providers that attracted the highest amount of undergraduate applications.

UCAS Subjects vs. Top Providers (Highlight Kings College)

Click on the link to visit the interactive viz: UCAS Undergraduate Subjects and Providers: 2007-16

In the scatter plot above you can see that the bigger subject areas are experiencing a steady growth in demand. Looking at the 20 most popular providers shown in the rank chart, there isn’t much change in the top 5 institutions but King’s College London (highlighted) shows a steady increase over the 10-year period to move from 15th position in 2007 to 7th position in 2016 for the overall number of UG applications received.

So there you have it three different questions with three different solutions from three authors.

I hope you found it useful and of interest.  We would love to hear what you think.


Dave, Adam, Elena and Stephen