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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Some HESA Statistics

One of the joys of working in an organisation that is public sector (actually that’s a definitional can of worms that I’m not going to open in this post) is that plenty of data exists which is publicly available for anyone to read, both about the sector, and about individual institutions. Even without creating your own detailed reports, a quick view of the sector can be gained from the statistics that appear on the front page of the HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) website and in their iPhone app (yes, really!). a simple cut and paste into Excel and we can produce some simple headlines and compare individual institutions to either the overall sector to to a range of comparators or competitors.

Anyway, the most recent student and staff records have been added for the 2012-13 academic year, and we could use these to identify how we compare, and with a little bit of work, how we might perform in the next round of league tables.

Student Population

Over the last 5 years we’ve seen dramatic changes to the funding of HE, the shift in burden of fees and loans to the individual rather than the state, and changes to visas for overseas students.

The overall population has changed as follows:

sector student pop

showing a slight dip in the last year, although UCAS data would imply this may rise this year.

For us we see a decline in numbers overall:

su student pop

Looking in more detail at the undergraduate population for the sector as a whole:

sector student mode

We see that full tine numbers have an overall upward trend, but as has been highlighted many times by the sector’s mission groups, part time numbers are decreasing, and the policies for funding part time students have not been updated or considered to the same degree as those for full time students. There is untapped human potential here – and untapped markets for the universities that can get the right kind of part time offer.

For us the picture is not dissimilar, although we had previously significant growth in part time which was not replicated across the sector

su student mode

Academic Staffing

If we look at the staffing in higher education, across the sector the main change is the decrease in the number of non academic roles compared to academic. The overall number of academic posts has grown, with little change in number of part time roles.

sector staff popsector staff mode


Looking at our own institution, we see a similar trend in the balance of academic and non academic roles, but a noticeable difference in the balance between part time and full time academic posts.

su staff popsu staff mode


In conclusion, we can get an overview of any institution from this very publicly available data. To make more sense of it, and to go behind the headlines and reach a deeper meaning involves looking at what sits beyond the front page of the HESA website.

Those of us with HEIDI accounts can easily start to look in detail at all sorts of things – how subject areas are growing or declining compared with other universities or the sector as a whole; how well students achieve in different institutions; how well subject areas in individual institution compare in recruiting students locally, nationally or internationally.

I’m already linking this kind of information to very detailed internal portfolio performance data (which would only be available internal to an organisation since it contains materials protected under the Data Protection Act) for one of our faculties to develop some sophisticated pointers of how to develop their academic award portfolio.




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.