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Understanding the outcomes and destinations of students in higher education

There is a longstanding requirement from Higher Education Providers (HEPs), the Government, and wider civil society, to understand the outcomes and destinations of students in Higher Education. This was previously managed through the Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) population survey at six months following graduation and its longitudinal follow-up sample survey (Longitudinal DLHE or LDHLE).

The results of the surveys are used for a number of high-profile purposes. These include the following, which we gathered evidence for:

Economically important activities: this data is used in commercial, journalistic and public information products that ‘rank’ or ‘sort’ universities by userdefined criteria and thereby seek to inform consumer choice. Examples include league tables, the Prospects website and the Discover Uni service. HE sector responses to these indicate that this data shapes the market.

There are frequent questions from policymakers regarding graduate destinations in each of the UK’s democratic legislative bodies and HESA data is the most commonly used source that government departments use in answering these questions.

Data is used by Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and city regions to understand their access to graduate-level skills and to shape local economic and social policies.

Graduate employers and their associations use this data to determine and support the graduate talent pipeline.

Collection of graduate outcomes data is required by HE funding and regulatory bodies to discharge their responsibilities. The requirement to collect the data is backed by legislation and forms a condition of accountability and assurance for regulation and government-backed student funding in all parts of the UK. The TEF (Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework) is an example of a high profile regulatory tool that uses data derived from this source.

Rankings drawn from HESA data are used by some overseas governments to direct student funding, and these decisions affect the UK market structure and education exports, in one of the UK’s high-performing export industries.

The annual release of statistics on graduate outcomes generates substantial coverage across the popular and specialist press, including television and online media outlets.

Researchers use graduate outcomes data to understand and evaluate aspects of higher education.

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