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Key principles of Graduate Outcomes

Graduate Outcomes is a new model for the collection of graduate destinations data. This model allows us to capture rich and robust data, and will ensure the information we collect reflects recent changes in the HE sector and in the graduate labour market.

The survey design

We have developed a survey which will gather insightful and comprehensive information about graduate outcomes.

New features

In addition to familiar questions from our current destinations survey, the Graduate Outcomes survey asks new questions to provide a richer picture of the diversity of graduate outcomes. These new ‘graduate voice’ measures capture three areas:

  • How meaningful or important they feel their activity to be
  • Whether they are using the skills they gained from their qualification in their current activity
  • How they are progressing towards their future goals.

The Graduate Outcomes survey will also allow us to gather deeper insights into graduates pursuing non-traditional career paths, such as those developing creative portfolios or setting up a business.

Core, opt-in and bespoke questions

The survey will include a core bank of questions as well questions that HE providers can set. There will be two supplementary questions types:

  • Opt-in question banks approved (via the Graduate Outcomes steering group).
  • Provider questions. These can only be asked at the end of the survey, and will be distinguished from the core question set. HE providers would discuss set up for the delivery of these questions directly with the survey contractor. (Note: We have postponed the implementation of provider questions for the forseeable future and will let providers know when we review this decision.)

We needed to develop a methodology which allowed HE providers to remain close to their graduate outcomes data while also ensuring the data we gather is perceived as objectively impartial and of a high standard. We are meeting this need through our model of ‘open centralisation’.

Open centralisation means the survey will be administered centrally, with HE providers having near real-time access to dashboards containing survey data and a significant stake in the survey's governance through the Graduate Outcomes steering group.

Contact methods and survey timing

Graduates will be surveyed by telephone or online approximately 15 months after completing their studies. This is a significant change from the current DLHE survey, which contacts graduates after six months. 15 months has been chosen as it gives graduates a meaningful opportunity to progress in their post-graduation activities, while still being close enough to the point of completing studies that high response rates should be achievable. Learn more about survey timings and contact methods.

Survey administration

Our model of open centralisation means that the Graduates Outcomes survey will be administered in a central survey operation overseen by HESA. This operation will be responsible for contacting graduates, quality checking responses, completing additional coding and returning the data to HESA. The steering group will monitor the performance of the Graduate Outcomes survey.

HE providers will be required to maintain and supply comprehensive and accurate contact details for their graduates to this contractor. We anticipate exceeding a response rate of 70% for the survey to enable publishing of data at course level.

As part of our approach, we have appointed a number of third parties. These suppliers will play a critical role in the overall delivery of the survey, and the selection process we have completed has been appropriately robust.


The Graduate Outcomes survey will be governed by a steering group. This group will implement and maintain robust governance procedures to steer the development of Graduate Outcomes and monitor its effectiveness.

The steering group will be made up of representatives from HESA, the funding councils, HE providers, and other sector bodies in order to reflect the diversity of the UK HE sector. The steering group’s role is to advise HESA through the implementation phase of the Graduate Outcomes survey, and into business as usual.

Linked data

We will use linked study and salary data to build up a broader picture of graduate outcomes and realise further efficiencies.

This linked data will include:

  • Study data from the HESA Student record
  • Salary data from the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset.

Student record data will be provided alongside the first publication of Graduate Outcomes survey responses in Spring 2020; LEO data will follow later in the year.

Data outputs and supply

We are committed to making available timely, high quality and impactful data about graduate outcomes.

Data for HE providers

A key feature of the open centralisation model is that we will make data available to HE providers via a near real-time stream of raw survey responses.

Public data outputs and uses

We will also produce the following outputs:

  • A National Statistics statistical first release
  • UK Performance Indicators on employment of leavers
  • A complete publication of survey responses and linked data
  • Experimental statistics presenting the new measures of graduate outcomes.

Information will be made available in Heidi Plus, and via our bespoke data and analysis services.

We anticipate this data will be put to a number of high-profile uses, as the current Destinations of Leavers data is. This is likely to include league tables, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), policy documents, and media commentary. We will work to increase the profile of the survey and the new 'graduate voice' measures to heighten understanding and application of the data.