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No detail too small: Defining the Graduate Outcomes collection

Graduates Graduate Outcomes Destinations of Leavers

Many of you will be familiar with our work over the last few years to design an improved model for the collection of data on the activities and views of graduates. In June, we published the final version of this model, and even gave it a name: Graduate Outcomes.

This marked the end of a lengthy process of consultation and design. It also heralded in the start of the next phase of the project: defining how this model would work in practice. In this blog, I want to update you on our progress over the last two months.

Capturing richer data: The survey specification

Our new survey will improve upon the current DLHE survey to capture more fruitful, robust and relevant data about graduates.

The Graduate Outcomes survey is a departure from what has come before. Although the survey is built from the foundations of our current Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, this re-invented model – with its new fields and structure – will improve upon the DLHE to capture more fruitful, robust and relevant data about graduates.

Constructing a logical structure for the record always seemed the most logical place to start (insert logical pun here). We have been defining the fields and their relationships in order to create what is fundamentally a data specification document for the survey contractor.

We are creating a data specification document defining the core fields for the survey, as well as the optional question banks.

This specification defines the core fields for the survey, as well as the optional question banks. For each question, we are determining:

  • The description and field name (some familiar – like ALLACT, MIMPACT – and some brand new, more cryptic but appropriate – such as BUSPORT, CARASP)
  • The possible valid responses (currently over 800 valid entries have been set)
  • The length, coverage, and minimum and maximum times the field can be returned
  • Whether the question must be answered to count as a valid response to the survey, and whether it should be asked of third parties.

We have made excellent progress with this work, and are currently putting the specifications through peer review.

Establishing robust and efficient processes: The contact details specification

We are developing processes and documentation which will allow us to gather accurate and comprehensive contact details, in an efficient manner.

A second strand of our recent work has been to define the collection of contact details in order to produce a coding manual for providers to use. There are two aspects to this: what information is needed, and when that information should be returned.

In approaching this, we have evaluated existing practice used in DLHE (and Longitudinal DLHE) – as well as external methods of best practice – to develop processes and documentation which will allow us to gather accurate and comprehensive contact details, in an efficient manner. We will be publishing the full specification as soon as it is finalised in late September, but we can confirm we will be expecting providers to return the following:

  • Telephone number – Mobile numbers are preferred, though we’d recommend providers capture a mobile and a home phone number.
  • Email - Providers will need to return a personal email address for graduates. Providers can optionally also return an institutional email address.
  • Postal address - A permanent home address should be returned (which could be a parental or guardian address).

Following discussion on Jiscmail, we are minded to provide the option of allowing providers to return a LinkedIn profile address. However, we are still undergoing further work on this option and the data protection implications that it may hold.

With the specification work progressing well, we are also exploring how the timings of the return of contact details data will work. We will publish high level information about return dates in September to support preparations in providers.

Securing engagement: The Graduate Outcomes survey brand

No matter how robust and comprehensive our data collection processes are, the Graduate Outcomes survey also requires high-quality communications and promotion.

The delivery of a Graduate Outcomes survey brand has been the third strand of our current work. No matter how robust and comprehensive our data collection processes are, the Graduate Outcomes survey also requires high-quality communications and promotion.

To help us understand the sector’s requirements, we have conducted an information-gathering survey. We received over 120 responses, and have today published an overview of the results. There are some key headlines:

  • Providers strongly support the ability to co-brand the survey (i.e. elements of a provider’s brand would sit alongside the Graduate Outcomes brand).
  • Providers require diversity and flexibility in the types of materials available
  • Emails provide the strongest levels of engagement, with emails from academics/tutors proving the most effective.
  • Providers would value digital resources most highly – with particular demand for email/newsletter templates.

We are very grateful to everyone who responded. The responses will play a vital role in informing our on-going work to develop a brand.

What’s next

We will be publishing the specification for contact details in late September. We will unveil the Graduate Outcomes brand in December,

The strands discussed above will feed into our procurement activity to appoint a contractor to run the survey. We will be issuing procurement documentation in early winter, and anticipate having appointed a survey contractor in early spring 2018.

But there are other milestones we need to meet:

  • We will publish the specification for contact details in late September, to allow providers to develop their systems ahead of the first return date (likely to be November 2018).
  • We will sign off the survey specification in October, so that it can be cognitively tested to ensure the questions capture meaningful and accurate information.
  • We will unveil the brand and provide a basic range of templates in December, to allow providers to do promotional work in the new year with their finalists.

For updates on the project, and to share queries and best practice with colleagues, join the Graduate Outcomes Jiscmail group.

No detail too small: HESA updates on recent work defining their newest collection - Graduate Outcomes

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Matt Barnard

Matt Barnard

Data Policy & Governance Analyst