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The dawning of NewDLHE: An update on progress

For the last 18 months, we have been conducting a major review of the data we collect about the outcomes of graduates. We are pleased to announce that we will be publishing our final design on Monday 6 March.

We are pleased to announce that we will be publishing our final design on Monday 6 March

This will include a full, interactive model of the proposed new survey, as well as comprehensive information about the practicalities and management of NewDLHE. We will be running a public consultation on this model with the aim of securing a mandate to proceed to implementation.

In advance of this, we wanted to provide an update on the Official Statistics appraisal of DLHE and tackle one of the more controversial issues we’ve faced: the timing of the new survey.

Official statistics appraisal

We have designed NewDLHE to ensure that we are publishing the most robust data we can

As we alluded to in our blog last month, we’ve carried out an Official Statistics appraisal of the current Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey using the UK Statistics Authority’s toolkit.

This has found that the current DLHE methodology does not meet the necessary threshold for comprehensive assurance. The report, which can be read here, makes several recommendations for improvements. We have designed NewDLHE in light of these recommendations in order to ensure we retain National Statistics designation and that we are publishing the most robust data we can.

Survey timing: Looking beyond six months

It was obvious from the consultation that there was still a strong need to survey graduates. One of the most complex issues we have grappled with during the review is about when – and how often – this surveying should happen.

The NewDLHE will move away from surveying six months after graduation

Having analysed the information we gathered through the consultation, we have concluded that a single, universal survey of graduates would be most suitable. When this survey should happen proved trickier.

We know that changes to the graduate labour market mean that the current six-month survey point is often too early on a graduate’s career path to get a true reflection of their activities. Therefore, to meet the key aims of this review, including future-proofing the dataset, the NewDLHE will move away from surveying six months after graduation.

What’s the (survey) point?: Exploring the options

There are principled arguments for a range of survey points, and no single survey point would be ideal. The consultation respondents who preferred a single survey point delivered us a strong preference for a survey at either twelve months (65 people) or eighteen months (45 people).

Serious practical concerns were raised about twelve months – this would mean the contact period would fall during the summer months which would inhibit the ability to contact graduates. We evaluated 18 months and agreed that it would provide a richer picture of graduate outcomes. But we were conscious of concerns that proponents of twelve months had raised about delays to publishing the data and the distance from graduation.

We therefore agreed on a compromise between these two popular points: a single survey at fifteen months.

The implications of fifteen months

A fifteen-month survey point will provide a richer picture of graduate activity

While not flawless, a fifteen-month survey point offers a compromise between these positions and will provide a richer picture of graduate activity. Importantly, it establishes parity across graduates from different courses, for example arts graduates may spend time developing their portfolio before entering paid employment. This survey point also means we will be contacting graduates when we are likely to get an accurate reflection of their activity as they have the time to transition into their post-study activities.

A fifteen-month survey point does present practical challenges, particularly around securing high response rates. Later survey points have been proven to be successful in this area: the Australian Graduate Outcome Survey runs at twelve months post-graduation and still achieves around a 40 percent response rate despite only being online. Using additional telephone surveying will significantly improve this response rate. This, along with other steps we are taking to boost responses to NewDLHE, suggests that we will be able to achieve high response rates at fifteen months.

Our model for NewDLHE – published next week – will provide further discussion of the choice of 15 months, and the steps we are taking to ensure it is implemented effectively.

The dawning of #NewDLHE: Rachel Hewitt gives a last progress update before the consultation launch on 6 March

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Rachel Hewitt

Rachel Hewitt

Implementation Manager - Graduate Outcomes