Graduate Outcomes is a population survey (meaning we aim to survey the whole population of interest, rather than a sample) of almost all graduates of higher education in the UK, in a given academic year. For the first time, we will have the opportunity to measure and understand graduate destinations in their entirety, across all Higher Education Providers (HEPs) in the UK and Further Education Colleges (FECs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Given the uses of Graduate Outcomes, it is important to try and collect information about graduates of every single HEP in the UK (large and small), to high standards of detail, completeness, accuracy, and consistency. With more than 400 providers in the coverage, a centralised population survey of all graduates was deemed the most suitable option, as opposed to a distributed or sample survey.
Student data on demographic and course characteristics from all HEPs in the UK and FECs in Wales is collected by HESA. Similar data from FECs on their higher education provision are compiled by England and Northern Ireland by the Office for Students and Department for Education Northern Ireland, respectively (Scottish FECs are not in scope). The Graduate Outcomes target population contains all students reported to these organisations as obtaining relevant higher education qualifications during the reporting period 1 August to 31 July and whose study was full-time or part-time (including sandwich students and those writing-up theses). This overall target population is then broken down into four cohorts, depending on when a graduate completed their course. For example, a graduate who completed their course between the months of May-July 2018 were surveyed in the September 2019 cohort (circa. 15 months later). For each annual collection, the respective coverage definition is available on the HESA website.
As with any survey where there is no legal compulsion to respond, there will always be an element of non-response. We have described in later sections the steps we are undertaking to maximise response rates, reduce non-response bias and make the achieved sample as representative of the population as possible.