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Review of Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (Early DLHE ) Survey - update following sector consultation (Ref C11018)

Dear Colleague

This circular is for information only.


Colleagues will be aware of the fundamental review of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (Early DLHE) Survey which has been taking place over the last year, and of the sector-wide consultation on proposals for change which took place in September 2010. The sector was consulted on a number of proposals for change, with particular reference to the content of the questionnaires, methodology, coverage, functionality of the DLHE Online Survey, possible technical update and the interaction between the Early and Longitudinal DLHE surveys.

104 responses were received to the consultation. A majority of the responses were received from institutional colleagues from a range of institution types, although a small number of other organisations and groups including software suppliers, Vitae, AGCAS, GLAM and BIS also submitted responses.

Analysis of the responses revealed significant support for most of the proposals for change and many of the responses were detailed and informative. Many colleagues provided great detail of their experiences and, based on these experiences, took time to suggest how some of the proposals could be improved.

Work on the review continues and the Review Group (including HESA's Statutory Customers, institutional representatives and technical experts) has been working with HESA to agree final recommendations for change. All recommendations for change will have taken into consideration the responses to the consultation, the findings from a number of relevant external research exercises which have taken place over the last year, namely studies funded by BIS and HEFCE, and internal impact assessment undertaken at HESA.

This circular sets out changes that have now been agreed and those which are still under discussion. The item numbers in this circular follow those used in the consultation document for ease of reference.

1) Timing of the Early DLHE Survey

The six month timing of the Early DLHE Survey will be retained. However, HESA Board stipulated that the six month survey should be complemented by the later Longitudinal DLHE Survey in order to allow for career progression information to be captured and communicated. Although it is not yet possible to determine if there will be future funding for the Longitudinal DLHE Survey, the Early DLHE Survey will continue to take place at six months. Should the Longitudinal DLHE Survey not continue, the timing of the Early DLHE Survey will need to be reconsidered.

2) Coverage

2.1 Qualification awarded

The Early DLHE Survey population will be extended to include all HE qualification types apart from credits. Post circular note: please note that some qualifications have been removed from DLHE coverage - please refer to the coverage section of the coding manual at

2.2 Mode of study

For 2011/12 onwards, all qualifying postgraduate research students (including those who qualify from dormant status) will be included in the Early DLHE Survey population.

2.3 Domicile

Colleagues were invited to consider two proposed changes to the domicile criteria for the Early DLHE Survey population.

2.3.1 Non-EU international leavers

Colleagues were informed that having considered the recommendations from the BIS-commissioned International Student Tracking Survey, the Review Group concluded that it would be feasible to include non-EU international leavers in the Early DLHE Survey. As part of further investigation into the practicalities of this, colleagues were invited to indicate whether or not their institution currently surveys these leavers and the implications of this becoming compulsory.

For 2011/12 onwards it will be a requirement to survey non-EU international leavers. It will only be a requirement to survey these leavers electronically; contacting these leavers by post or by telephone is optional.

For 2011/12 and 2012/13, surveying these leavers will be seen as a pilot with clear distinction that the information collected should not be published until carefully reviewed and then only at a summary level and should not be used in such a way that could be identified as a performance indicator. 

A target response will not be set for the first two years of surveying these leavers given the range of response rates achieved by institutions which already survey their non-EU international leavers. An assessment of surveying these leavers will be undertaken after two years in order to inform the decision about whether or not to continue including them in the Early DLHE Survey population and an appropriate target response rate.

2.3.2 Incoming exchange students

All incoming exchange and visiting students will be removed from the survey population.

3) Questionnaire 3.1 Proposed new content

Work to finalise the content of the questionnaire is ongoing. As part of the development of the content a cognitive testing exercise was undertaken with a group of students and the feedback has been incorporated into further revisions. The content will be finalised in time for the release of the 2011/12 Early DLHE Survey coding manual at the end of April.

As part of the consultation, colleagues were invited to comment on a number of significant changes to the content which can now be confirmed:

a) Section A

Section A will in future use an approach similar to that used for the Longitudinal DLHE Survey where the leaver is asked select all the activities that they are undertaking on the census date and then indicate which one of them they consider to be most important to them. The questionnaire will then go on to explore the main employment and further study activities that leavers are engaged in and it will also ask leavers to indicate how many other employment and further study activities they are engaged in. This approach has been adopted in order to capture more information about the range of activities leavers are involved in.

b) Salary

A number of changes for collecting salary information were proposed: making the question mandatory, removing the information refusal box, adding pay periods and the introduction of a separate question about total earnings for the year.

From 2011/12, salary information will be collected through three questions instead of a single question. The first question is very similar to the current salary question, but it will now include a tick box to indicate that the work is unpaid. The next question will capture information about the number of hours worked per week if the leaver is employed part-time in their main job. The third question will ask for total annual earnings if the leaver is undertaking more than one job. Analysis of the consultation responses and use of pay periods in the Longitudinal DLHE Survey concluded that these are not required and that in fact leavers are content to return an annual amount to the nearest thousand pounds.

Colleagues will be aware that from 2010/11 onwards it is compulsory to ask for salary information when speaking with the leaver over the telephone. While the 'I do not wish to give this information' box will remain on the telephone version of the questionnaire, no mention should be made of it to the leaver. This box should be ticked however if a leaver does refuse to provide their salary.

In order to further encourage salary data to be returned across all methods, the 'I do not wish to give this information' box has been removed from the online and paper versions of the questionnaire. If this information is not provided by a leaver completing the survey online, they will be able to proceed with the survey. A response will be counted as valid should a leaver completing a paper questionnaire decline to give this information, so long as all other relevant fields are complete.

For 2011/12 onwards these rules will remain in place but all three salary questions should be asked.

c) Use of JACS for coding subject of study, training or research

JACS 3.0 will be used for subject coding of any further study, training or research in the Early DLHE Survey from 2011/12. Colleagues are reminded that although JACS 3.0 will not be used for the HESA Student Record and HESA Staff Record until 2012/13,  JACS 3.0 will be used a year earlier for Early DLHE so that a subsequent change does not need to be made after only one year. Coding to four digits should take place when it is possible to do so.

d) Section E

The trio of questions which form the current Section E will be removed from the questionnaire but the data about motivation for undertaking the original course will be considered for collection as part of the HESA Student Record during the next review.

e) Employability

Inclusion, or otherwise, of the employability questions is still being discussed and will be resolved before the Early DLHE Survey coding manual is published in April.

3.2 Methodology

From 2011/12, institutions will be allowed to choose the data capture methodology which enables them to achieve the best level of response from their leavers. The relaxed approach will necessitate a single version of the questionnaire for use at any stage during the data capture period. There will be no reduced set of questions for use when telephoning leavers.

HESA's Statutory Customers are currently working towards agreeing a minimum set of questions which should be answered in order for a response to be counted. They are also identifying a set of questions that should be asked to third party respondents, recognising that there are in the questionnaire a number of questions which are not appropriate for a third party to answer on behalf of a leaver.

3.3 Format

The new single version of the Early DLHE Survey questionnaire will retain the four-side format of the current paper questionnaire. An increased font size will also be possible. It is likely that a separate version of the questionnaire will be produced for use when telephoning leavers and which will include space to record the data source, date(s) of calls and notes/change of address boxes.

HESA colleagues are currently working with the Review Group to enhance the design of the questionnaire, taking on board guidance from a range of organisations offering advice on accessibility.

3.4 Use of coding boxes

The coding boxes currently included on the paper questionnaire and telephone script will not be included on the new single version of the questionnaire. A majority of institutional colleagues responding to the consultation were content for the coding boxes to be removed, recognising that this would enable the continuation of a four side format along with an increased font size. 

4) SOC 2010

Following the consultation it was concluded that it will be necessary to expand SOC 2010 in some areas in order to allow graduate jobs to be identified at the required level of detail. A '5th digit' will be developed where needed, although this will be kept to a minimum, with use instead made of accompanying SIC information where this is appropriate. Development work is currently in progress and it is likely that the final version of SOC for use from 2011/12 will be released later this year. HESA is exploring options for coding tools to assist institutions: coding of SOC will remain an institutional responsibility.  

5) Centralising SIC and SOC

Following the consultation and recommendation to HESA Board, the decision has been taken to centralise the coding of SIC. Over the coming months, HESA colleagues will be exploring options for how this will work. 

Acknowledging that SOC coding will remain an institutional responsibility, HESA will be working with a number of institutional colleagues in order to gather good practice for SOC coding and to provide guidance on known coding issues.

6) XML 

The 2011/12 Early DLHE Survey collection will be returned in XML and this will be reflected in changes to the coding manual. As part of the DLHE 2011/12 implementation seminars later in the year (dates yet to be confirmed) an introduction to XML will be provided.

7) Input-only version of the DLHE Online Survey

While there is clearly some interest in the development of an input-only version of the online system, there is not sufficient interest for HESA to invest in development of such a system at this point. Institutions can continue to use the current system (for leavers) for inputting postal and telephone responses. Over the next few months HESA and institutional members of the Review Group will be considering possible minor adjustments to the current system so that it works better as an input tool.

8) Changes for 2010/11

Colleagues were consulted on two proposed changes for implementation 2010/11.

8.1 Salary question

From 2010/11 it will be compulsory to ask all leavers when speaking to them on the telephone to provide an annual salary figure. The leaver can still refuse to provide the information but institutions should not encourage this by informing the leaver that they can refuse to declare their annual salary. If the leaver refuses, unprompted, then the box should be ticked. It is not compulsory to ask a third party for this information.

To further encourage salary data to be returned the information declined box has been removed from the centrally-hosted online questionnaire and the paper questionnaire. If a leaver does not provide a salary figure then the response will still be counted.  

8.2 Country codes

The National Statistics Country Classifications 2006 (NSCC) has been adopted for the Early DLHE Survey from 2010/11.

For information

DLHE Good practice

Colleagues will be aware of the DLHE Good practice manual which was issued to institutions in autumn last year. The Good practice guide will be revised so that it refects the changes detailed above and reissued to institutions ahead of the 2011/12 collection. Next steps

The Early DLHE Survey coding manual for 2011/12 will be published on the HESA website in April this year, one year ahead of implementation. A finalised version of the questionnaire will also be available at that time.

As detailed above, work will continue throughout the year on a number of DLHE-related processes which will be in place ready for the 2011/12 survey.


If you have any queries about the content of this circular, please contact HESA's Liaison team at [email protected].



Contact Liaison by email or on +44 (0)1242 388 531.