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HESA unveils biggest change in graduate outcomes data collection in 20 years

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The biggest overhaul of graduate employment data for more than 20 years will provide a more accurate picture of graduate careers, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has announced.

Graduates will be contacted online or by phone around 15 months after leaving university under the new Graduates Outcomes survey that will replace the current Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education  (DLHE) for all students graduating after August 2017. The DHLE survey contacts leavers six months after graduation and has been criticised for failing to capture the later careers of graduates who travel or take non-graduate jobs or work experience while they find a path to longer term employment.

HESA says the new survey “will revolutionise how we discuss and understand the value of higher education and the current graduate labour market”.  It will be run by a central survey contractor, overseen by a steering committee, with continuing input from universities that will be expected to maintain contact details for graduates for up to 15 months and pass the information to HESA.

It will also capture more precise information about the sort of work graduates are doing, such as whether they are starting up their own businesses or developing creative portfolios.  They will be asked for the name of the company they work for, their job titles and type of employment contract.

For the first time graduates will be asked for their opinions on their graduate employability and what success means for them through a graduate voice survey run in a census week.  The questions have yet to be finalised but are likely to include views on whether their job is in line with their future plans, whether it is important and meaningful for them, whether they are using the skills developed in their studies and whether a degree was a job requirement.

The development follows two years of consultation and the graduate outcomes survey will be promoted with a new logo designed to reflect “three core concepts: progress, voice and data”. HESA is providing promotional templates to help institutions raise awareness among students and graduates.

Announcing the change, Paul Clark, Chief Executive of HESA, said: “Employability is a critical issue for students, graduates, and policy-makers alike, and Graduate Outcomes will reflect this importance, while adapting to a rapidly-changing market. We are proud to deliver a survey that seeks to deliver robust data and realise efficiencies across the sector, while respecting the autonomy and diversity of HE providers.”