What have we learned from the Graduate Outcomes survey so far?

Let's take a look at the data...

26 August 2021

I would argue that Graduate Outcomes is more than just a standard survey. For starters, it is the largest annual social survey in the UK. It is run by a charitable organisation on behalf of the government and in collaboration with over 400 universities and colleges in the UK. It aims to contact over 750,000 people each year, worldwide. By shining a light on people’s journey beyond higher education, it offers a unique perspective on the relationship between academic, economic and interpersonal measures of success.

Using data we have collected over the last two years since we started surveying (and I’d like to thank you if you have contributed to this collection), I would like to share with you some of the emerging findings from the survey to demonstrate the significance of this research.

Who has responded to the survey so far?

We set out to contact most people who complete a higher education qualification each year. While we are not able to contact everyone, we think we’ve done a good job by obtaining responses from just under 800,000 graduates in the last two years. They come from all walks of life and represent all parts of our society. Here’s a little snapshot of how diverse the survey participants have been:

Bar chart showing number of graduates who responded and their characteristics for 2017/18 to 2018/19. Source data available below.

Source data for Number of Graduates who responded and their characteristics

What are the outcomes for the class of 2018/19 graduates, 15 months later?

Successful outcomes are often measured in terms of employment and salary. However, one should also recognise that success could mean different things to different individuals and there is no single measure of success that every individual might relate to.

Graduate Outcomes draws people’s attention towards a wide range of outcomes: traditional vs non-traditional and objective vs subjective. Presenting the data in this way enables policymakers, higher education providers and governments to take a more holistic view when making key decisions and launching new policies and initiatives.

Graphic showing percentages of traditional outcomes, non-traditional outcomes and subjective outcomes. Percentages available in the long description below this image.

* Based on estimates of average weekly pay in Great Britain, published by the Office for National Statistics

Source data for outcomes infographic

Impact of the pandemic on graduates and labour market – a case study

In my last blog I explained why it was so important for us to keep collecting this data and for graduates to take part in the survey, even as we were all dealing with the start of an unprecedented global crisis.

Comparison of the data collected in 2020 with the previous year has offered useful and sometimes unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on graduates and their experience of the labour market. The pandemic is still with us, and its impact will be felt for years to come. So, this is just the first iteration in a series of data-led investigations we will be undertaking as more people take part in the survey and we learn more about their experiences.

Here is a brief overview of some notable changes to graduates’ experiences during the first year of the pandemic:

Graphic showing overview of some notable changes to graduates' experiences during the first year of the pandemic. Long description available below image.

Source data for pandemic impact infographic

The importance and impact of Graduate Outcomes

For higher education providers, researchers and policy makers, Graduate Outcomes is an important piece of the puzzle on life after education.

The survey is only in its third year. It has a long way to go before all its benefits can be fully realised. Its long-term value will be revealed once responses from a much larger number of graduates have been collected over a number of years.

I hope I have convinced you to take part in Graduate Outcomes when it is your turn to do so. If you are reading this as someone who knows a student or a recent graduate then spread the word and do your bit in creating a society that is built on the foundations of knowledge gathered from real people about their lived experiences.

To find out more about the Graduate Outcomes survey, please explore the rest of the Graduate Outcomes site.

You can also discover plenty of other interesting facts about graduates and their outcomes based on results from last two years of the survey, including a detailed insight into the impact of the pandemic.

Neha Agarwal
Head of Research and Insight, HESA

HESA, part of Jisc