25 June 2021
HESA's Data and Innovation team explain the reasons behind some of the questions in the Graduate Outcomes survey
By Tej Nathwani, Siobhan Donnelly, Stephanie McLean and Jerry Bond
HESA has just released a new suite of outputs relating to the Graduate Outcomes survey and we would like to express our thanks to all those who participated over the past year.
Whether you have received your invitation to take part or not, you may be wondering not only what the survey is about, but also why we ask certain questions and how we use that information.
Consequently, while we have previously highlighted why it is important to complete the survey, we want to take this opportunity to explain the reasons behind some of the questions that are included in two separate sections of the survey, which may not appear obvious at first glance.
As the survey is about outcomes, we ask for quite detailed information on your current employment, such as your job role, main duties and the employer you work for. Given the huge variety of jobs that graduates will find themselves in after completing their studies, it is essential for analysts and policymakers exploring the impact of higher education to consolidate this data in a useful way. Using the details you provide on your employment, we allocate you a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code, which indicates the type of occupation you are working in. We also use your employment information to identify the sector of the economy in which you are contributing your skills by assigning you with a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code. These SIC and SOC codes may then be aggregated further, depending on the type of analysis being conducted. For example, SOC codes may be used to group workers into one of nine categories, based on the level of skills and qualifications needed to perform the role.
Chart 1: The occupations in which graduates are working 15 months after completing their qualification in 2017/18
Chart 2: The industries in which graduates are working 15 months after completing their qualification in 2017/18
Having this information allows:
We recognise that the outcomes of higher education for graduates are not only financial or necessarily solely about employment. Many of you will have undertaken study to pursue your career ambitions or due to interest in a subject. This fact is also appreciated by policymakers across the UK, who want graduates to have the opportunity to achieve personal fulfilment in their lives, as well as to be equipped with skills that can boost productivity and economic growth. It is for this reason that we encourage survey participants to reflect on their activity and highlight the extent to which they agree with the below statements:
Achieving fulfilment is likely to require undertaking activities that provide a sense of purpose. Consequently, we not only ask you about whether your present activity aligns with your longer-term ambitions, but to also make a subjective judgement about the extent to which this activity is of personal significance and meaning to you.
Your answers to these questions can be used in a variety of ways, including in combination with your responses to the employment section of the survey. For example, it could be drawn upon by:
Chart 3: Graduate perceptions on their work, by occupation, 15 months after completing their qualification in 2017/18
Our mission at HESA is to collect and subsequently release data in a manner that can advance understanding within society about higher education. We do so to help present and future students and graduates make informed choices, but also assist our other users (such as government, education providers and employers) with their planning and decision making. Our ability to do this rests on graduates like yourselves not only participating in the survey, but also providing accurate information to the various questions we ask within it. It is this that enables us and others to produce the types of analysis displayed in the charts and improve our knowledge about the impact of study.
We hope this blog has provided an insight into the motivation behind some of the questions we pose. A more detailed version of this blog (with interactive charts and relevant links) can be found on the HESA website, where you can also find more statistics relating to the Graduate Outcomes survey. To find out more about the survey, please visit the Graduate Outcomes website.