What HE achievement data would you like? 

Call for responses to the consultation on the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

The latest graduate destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) was released today in the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education  (DLHE) survey. Including an array of information on what graduates are doing six months after finishing their studies, it covers the academic year 2014/15.

The survey showed average earnings among all UK domiciled first degree leavers was up by £1,000 to £22,500 from 2013/14 (see Table 9), based on graduate salary data provided by 72% of respondents.

Rather than being obtained by student self-reporting, salary data may be linked in from HMRC records to raise accuracy and completeness, a change that has implications for user access to salary information.

Aconsultation on the future outlook of the DLHE survey is running until Thursday 14 July. All Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are urged to respond to this as changes will directly shape and impact on their data collection requirements and what information they are able to garner from the survey about how their graduates fare, which matters for the Teaching Excellence Framework among other aspects.

The National Centre is in the process of submitting evidence to the consultation, drawing on those issues our members and funders consider important as identified through our research and communications with them.

One key area the consultation covers for us is data on employment, in chapter 3. HESA wants to hear from all data users on how best to define placements and other types of work-based learning, so that the various forms can be better captured and classified.

The National Centre’s 2014 online report indicated that among HEIs there are a host of different definitions and interpretations of placements (see the second table). In subsequent reports in 2014 and in 2015, the National Centre has further noted wide disparity in what a “work placement” is for universities and for business.

This lack of common understanding was highlighted in the Wakeham Review (2016) as a limitation in improving records of different forms of work-based learning, including their comparability and consistency. The Review points towards the need for more consistent terminology on work experience types and recommends that the National Centre takes the lead on embedding this terminology across sectors. We will be following up on these recommendations and setting our course for future action as the next steps in the Wakeham Review unfold.

Our 2015 research also drew attention to the need for a more complete collection of information on work experience undertaken, including not just opportunities found with the help of the HEI, but also those that the student sources themselves. The National Centre’s recent report indicates the plethora of opportunities available to students and the varied channels through which students are found for work experience – including via speculative applications in particular, as well as through networks. Collecting data on these routes is complicated and primarily necessitates central HEI collection from enrolled students.

Looking ahead, student pathways to higher education and employment are changing. While our 2015 and 2016 research findings show that work experience acts as a recruitment tool for employers, with students hired into longer-term roles, more recent trends towards integrating apprenticeships into higher education offer clearer student-employer links from the outset. The National Centre is scheduling a programme of work on Degree Apprenticeships that will involve engagement across our university and business members to find out more and contribute to knowledge on this growing scheme as it affects university-business collaboration.

While new initiatives mature, the DLHE review offers an important chance for HEIs to reflect on how best to capture information on the student experience and outcomes, as a recent UUK report highlights. Though there are plenty of issues commanding attention at the moment, it is clear that an opportunity to influence the future course of evidence collection on graduate destinations should not be missed, and collectively the National Centre and UUK encourage all HEIs who have not already done so to submit a response to HESA’s DLHE consultation.