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Reflecting on the Graduate Outcomes conferences

Graduate Outcomes

We were delighted to see over 300 colleagues at the inaugural Graduate Outcomes conferences in London and Manchester. We had a packed agenda, which both gave us the opportunity to talk about the work HESA have been doing on Graduate Outcomes, but also provided an opportunity for sharing experiences about the provider approaches being taken to prepare for Graduate Outcomes.  

All presentations from the conferences are now available as PDFs

We opened with a session from Dan Cook, reflecting on the transition from DLHE to Graduate Outcomes; despite having been heavily involved in steering the review it was a startling reminder to remember just how much work was undertaken throughout the NewDLHE review to engage as widely as possible across the sector and to engage experts in the graduate labour market and the levels of participation we had in the review. 

This was followed up by a session from Doug Sparrow, HESA’s project sponsor for Graduate Outcomes, stepping through the approach taken to taking Graduate Outcomes from a set of review outcomes to an operational implementation project, ready to go live in December. I talked through the survey design and how we’d come to the final survey design. 

We were also delighted to have a wide range of non-HESA speakers at the conference – with sessions from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services(AGCAS) and the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA), the Department for Education talking all things LEO, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) giving us an insight into the weighting of data, and colleagues at Confirmit giving a brief overview of the system. We also got to dig into destinations data itself with a session from Jisc on the community dashboards they are developing.  

We did take some learning away; the agenda was so packed meant we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked for questions. To ensure we could address all the existing questions we had question boxes at the back of the room. A big thanks to everyone who submitted a question, we had over 150 in the end. We’ve been writing up answers to these and have now published the Q&A responses. Thanks also to all those who completed the feedback survey, we’ll be reviewing this to help us to build and adapt future Graduate Outcomes conferences and training. 

HESA is currently building plans for the onward use of all the data collected through Graduate Outcomes

One area which was raised with me more than once was the inclusion of subjective wellbeing measures in the survey, which I wanted to reflect on a bit further.  

Subjective wellbeing

As referenced in my last blog we’ve recently published the final survey design, which includes as part of core the subjective wellbeing measures. This is a recent change, agreed with HESA’s statutory customers and supported by the ONS. Since we’ve announced this change, I’ve been asked questions in two main areas on this: plans for onward use of the data and support to graduates.  

HESA is currently building plans for the onward use of all the data collected through Graduate Outcomes, including the onward use of subjective wellbeing measures. Bringing these measures into the Graduate Outcomes survey adds another dimension to the type of data we have on graduates' outcomes from HE, and the topic of student mental health has never been more pertinent.

Including these well-tested measures, which are included in many ONS surveys (see the full list), we will have national comparability between graduates and non-graduates. It’s not just HESA who will be using these measures, the Office for Students (OfS) have provided the following text on their intended uses:  

'We are committed in our business plan (O2.1) to developing indicators that measure the value of higher education beyond work and further study. Work published by HEFCE shows the value in comparing graduates and non-graduates on these measures (see https://blog.hefce.ac.uk/2017/12/13/graduate-wellbeing-measuring-more-of-what-matters/). We will use the data collected in the first year of Graduate Outcomes to see the extent to which these measures might vary by subject and provider and therefore might indicate the contribution that providers make to students beyond employment and salary data. As with all data collected to support the OfS these will be kept under review and if they are not delivering value then they will be removed. One feature of Graduate Outcomes is that it can be more nimble as changes to the survey do not need to be implemented by several hundred providers allowing questions to be added, removed or tweaked much more easily'. 

Supporting graduates who have low levels of subjective wellbeing is something we take seriously in the surveying. We are carefully considering how we introduce these questions to graduates, particularly in the telephone script for the call centre. We will ensure that training on the questionnaire for call centre operatives includes a focus on this area. We’re also working with the ONS to establish how they handle the issue of support in the survey and the OfS to develop an appropriate approach for Graduate Outcomes.  

For anyone who wasn’t aware we have already collected this data from graduates once before, through the final LongDLHE survey. If you’re interested in how graduates respond to these questions, it might be worth looking back over the data collected in this survey. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Graduate Outcomes conferences, it was great to have participation from such an engaged audience. Keep an eye out for future training opportunities, and if you have any queries in the meantime, the Liaison team are always available to help.  

Further reading

Sector agency Prospects Luminate have also written an article sharing their Graduate Outcomes Conference experiences, including highlights and lessons learned.

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Rachel Hewitt

Rachel Hewitt

Implementation Manager - Graduate Outcomes