Employment of Graduates

In last week’s Times Higher, we had one of our rare mentions. However, it wasn’t to publish good news. The most recent data on employment of graduates from the 2012-13 cohort have been published by HESA and these showed:

“According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 92.1 per cent of university leavers were in employment or further study six months after graduating in 2012-13, up from 90.8 per cent in the previous year.”


“Universities with the lowest employment and further study rates are London Metropolitan University (81.4 per cent), the University of Bolton (82.4 per cent) and Staffordshire University (84 per cent).”

This doesn’t look great as a headline statistic, particularly with all the work that colleagues have done on promoting the Staffordshire Graduate attributes, in particular the employability programme on a number of champion awards.

I decided to have a look at some of the numbers for the last few years (recognising that we are starting to see an improvement in graduate outcomes and employment as described in league tables) so there seems to be an anomaly, and consult with those who know more than me.

In league tables, the career prospects score relates to percentage in graduate level work and higher level PG while employment indicator in HESA data relates to percentage in (any) work or further study.  So it is possible for us to have a comparatively low employment indicator with an improving career prospects score.

So that starts to explain why scores in league tables are different.

Another really important factor, and one which is ignored in the Times Higher article, is that because institutions are not directly comparable, then results cannot be compared directly. The benchmarks for institutions also need to be taken into account, which allow for subject mix etc.

“if the benchmarks were ignored such comparisons would not take account of the effects of different subject profiles or the different entry qualifications of the students. In general, indicators from two institutions should only be compared if the institutions are similar. If the benchmarks are not similar, then this suggests that the subject / entry qualification profiles of the institutions are not the same, and so differences between the indicators could be due to these different profiles rather than to different performances by the two institutions.”

So what we could do is to look at our own performance is consider how our scores differ from our benchmark score. The table below shows this.

Employment indicator (including further study)
year Base
or studying
+/- total UK indicator missed benchmark? (%)
09-10 1310 1150 87.8 88.2 0.81   90.4 -0.4
10-11 1365 1145 83.8 88.1 0.84 90.3 -4.3
11-12 1455 1230 84.4 88.5 0.80 90.8 -4.1
12-13 1625 1365 84.0 90.0 0.75 92.1 -6.0

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Graduates in the UK labour market 2013

A new report this week from the Office of National Statistics suggests that when focusing on recent graduates who were employed, the percentage of them who were working in a non graduate role has risen from 37% in April to June 2001 to 47% in April to June 2013. Although this time series is variable, an upward trend is evident, particularly since the 2008/09 recession. This may reflect lower demand for graduate skills as well as an increased supply of graduates.

At the same time however, the report does highlight that graduates are more likely to be employed, less likely to be searching for work or less likely to be inactive.



As you would expect the headline about the number of gradates in non graduate jobs has led to the inevitable questioning of the value of a degree. It’s worth noting that “graduate” in the definition used by ONS is anyone with tertiary education. And for more on this story, you can listen to me talking about in to Perry Spiller on 20-11-13 on Radio Stoke (about 15 minutes into the programme on iPlayer, available until 26-11-13)

For our university, it is reminder to me of two things: firstly the imperative of pushing student attainment, so that more students are ale to graduate with good degrees, and be competitive in the jobs market, and secondly to ensure we continue our focus on the Staffordshire Graduate, to ensure that our graduates leave here work ready and employable.

Going to University is Good for You!

A new publication from BIS, “The Benefits of Higher Education Participation for Individuals and Society: key findings and reports “The Quadrants”” is reported on in the Higher which shows that  that “People who attend university are less likely to commit crime, drink heavily or smoke, according to a new database of evidence on the social benefits of higher education and are are also more likely to vote, volunteer, have higher levels of tolerance and educate their children better than non-graduates”.

The different benefits are divided into those which help the individual, the market and society, as well as those benefits classified as non-market, with many benefits fulfilling several such functions.

T he report is based on plenty of existing social science research, but provides a useful starting point for those who want a reference to the wider benefits of HE. There are ideas in here that we can be using as part of our marketing, and in particular when explaining the rationale for a university like ours and the diverse programmes that we offer.

It also lays bare the joke I use in one of my lectures – if HE participation  makes you less likely to be obese, less likely to smoke, drink or be divorced, I am clearly a statistical outlier.

The quadrants are reproduced below from the BIS document:


A couple of HEFCE and HESA news items

Firstly last week, it was announced that here would be further changes to regulation of higher education, with HEFCE taking on a regulatory oversight and coordination role.

HEFCE will be:

  • developing a register of higher education provision in England 
  • consulting on proposed revisions to HEFCE’s Financial Memorandum 
  • operating of a new system of specific-course designation for alternative providers
  • implementing further changes to student number controls, including extending them to alternative providers from 2014-15

In other news HESA released employability data for 2011-12 graduates, showing that “Overall, 90.8% of full-time first degree leavers were in employment and/or further study six months after graduating”. It’s pleasing to note an improvement in the value our employability indicator for this year, and we might expect that the implementation of Staffordshire Graduate could in future years, push this further up. Clearly this is an area that needs more work.

Also HESA provided information on indicators of annual research output. Interesting here is the number of PhDs we award compared to the amount of QR income we receive. As we know, QR is  low for this university, however, we do seem to use it extremely effectively when looking at the ratio of PhDs to QR income. Of course, other universities with significant QR will be using it for more than studentships and may have significant capital outlay as well, but this still looks like we are using this fund as efficiently as possible.