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Higher Education Graduate Outcomes Statistics: UK, 2017/18 - Graduate activities and characteristics

Statistical Bulletin Experimental SB257


Experimental statistics

What were the activities of graduates?

Of graduates who responded to the survey 90% were in some form of work or further study. The remaining 10% were unemployed or doing an other activity such as travelling, caring for someone, or, retired. 

Figure 4 shows:

  • Of all respondents, 59% of those who qualified from higher education providers (HEPs) went into full time employment (excluding anyone who was also in study). For those who qualified from further education colleges (FECs) this figure was 48%.
  • For all postgraduates 79,475 or 66% went on to full-time employment, 149,010 or 56% of undergraduates went on to full-time employment.
  • Unemployment accounts for 4% of the respondent population. When including those due to start work or study, this increases to 5% (noting that this includes graduates who reported to be in significant interim study). 
  • Unemployment statistics on the general UK population are published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However differences in data definitions mean that no direct comparison should be made.
  • Graduates from providers in Scotland were more likely to be in full time employment (60%) than graduates from providers in other UK countries. Graduates from providers in Wales were least likely to be in full time employment (55%) but most likely to be in full time further study (10%).
What are confidence intervals?

Given that we are reporting on a subset of graduates from the total target population in this survey (i.e. those who responded to the survey – the sample), we cannot be completely certain that any statistics we create from that sample are exactly the same as the statistics we could have created if every single graduate in our target population had responded. A confidence interval gives us a statistical way to indicate a range of values within which we can be reasonably confident the ‘true’ (i.e. total population) value would fall. For Graduate Outcomes data, 95% confidence intervals are used which means that there is a 95% chance that the interval calculated from the sample covers the true value. The width of the confidence interval gives some idea about how precise an estimated value is: the wider the range from the stated percentage, the less the precision. More information on confidence intervals and survey weighting is available in the methodology statement.

What is interim study?

The census point of the survey is at 15 months after graduation which means that many graduates may have undertaken other qualifications such as Master’s degrees during this period. At the point of the survey some may only just be completing those further qualifications. The interim study filter allows you to include or exclude graduates who are likely to have spent most of the 15 month period in full-time study from tables and charts. Whether you choose to include or exclude these graduates will depend on your intended use for the statistics. For example, if you are assessing the rates of unemployment of graduates it may not be fair to compare graduates who are likely to have spent most of the 15 months in the labour market with those who have only recently entered the labour market. In this example it may be more sensible to exclude graduates who have spent most of the 15 months in full-time study.

Figure 4 - Graduate outcomes by activity and domicile

Academic year 2017/18


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Figure 5 shows:

Sex of graduates

  • A higher proportion of females who studied part-time in 2017/18 went on to part-time employment than females who studied full-time. This trend is reversed among male graduates.
  • The proportion of graduates who studied full-time who were unemployed at the point of survey was higher for males than females.

Age of graduates

  • A higher percentage of graduates aged between 25 and 29 were in full time employment compared to other age groups. 
  • Undergraduates aged 25 and over have a slightly lower rate of unemployment than those aged below 25, particularly when including those who undertook significant interim study. 

Graduate disability status

  • A lower proportion of graduates with a known disability go on to full-time employment than those with no known disability. Graduates with a known disability were more likely to be in part-time employment or voluntary work than graduates with no known disability.

Graduate ethnicity

  • Of White graduates domiciled in the UK, 62% were in full-time employment. This is 8 percentage points higher than UK domiciled graduates in BME groups.
  • Graduates of Black, Asian or Other ethnicity were more likely to be unemployed than White graduates.
What is ‘BME’ and why is ethnicity only available for UK domiciled graduates?

The HESA student record includes ethnicity information collected from HE providers (see ethnicity definition).

BME stands for ‘Black and minority ethnic’ and is a combination of the Black, Asian, Mixed and Other ethnicity categories. Graduate Outcomes survey results are linked to the HESA Student record. Ethnicity data in the HESA Student record is only collected for UK domicile students. To view ethnicity data in Figure 5 use the domicile filter to select 'All UK' or one of the UK nations.

Figure 5 - Graduate outcomes by activity and personal characteristics

Academic year 2017/18


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Figure 6 shows:

  • UK domiciled graduates from full-time undergraduate courses were more likely to be in further study if they had attended a privately funded school than if they had attended a state-funded school or college.
  • Similarly, those whose parents have higher education qualifications were more likely to go on to full-time further study than those whose parents had not received higher education qualifications.
  • A higher proportion of graduates from state-funded school or colleges went in to part-time employment than those from privately funded schools.
  • Among graduates domiciled from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, those from low participation neighbourhoods were less likely to go in to full-time employment and more likely to go in to part-time employment than those from other participation neighbourhoods.

Low participation neighbourhood information comes from the participation of local areas (POLAR) classification, which is maintained by the Office for Students.

Figure 6 - Outcomes of undergraduate UK domiciled full-time graduates by participation characteristics

Academic year 2017/18



Figure 7 shows:

  • Overall, graduates who studied part-time were more likely to be employed on a permanent/open ended contract than those who studied full-time.
  • Postgraduates (research) were less likely than other levels to be on a permanent/open ended contract, but were over twice as likely to be on a fixed-term contract lasting 12 months or longer.
  • There were 6,910 graduates on zero hours contracts, this represents 3% of graduates whose most important activity was working for an employer in the UK.
What is the work type marker?

The 'work type marker' allows you to filter the data by the type of work the graduate reported as being their most important activity.

Figure 7 - Employment basis of graduates working for an employer in the UK by level of qualification obtained

Academic year 2017/18



Figure 8 shows:

  • Of those running their own business at the time of the survey, 34% were non-UK domiciled graduates. When restricting the work population to those who stated a most important activity of running their own business, this figure increases further to 37%.
  • Among graduates of masters taught courses, half of those reporting running their own business as their most important activity were domiciled from outside of the EU.
What is the work population marker?

The ‘work population marker’ allows you to view data either based on all graduates who report one or more work-based activities, or alternatively to focus on those graduates who state that one of these activities is their most important activity. Whether you choose to use data for graduates where work is an activity or focus on just those where work is a most important activity will depend on your intended use for the statistics.

Figure 8 - Graduates running own business, self-employed/freelancing or developing a portfolio by domicile

Academic year 2017/18



Release date

18 June 2020, 9:30



Release frequency



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Rebecca Mantle

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