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Higher Education Leavers Statistics: UK, 2016/17 - Leaver activities and characteristics

Statistical First Release SFR250

Note: An update to The University of Buckingham’s student data for 2014/15 was processed incorrectly by HESA. This resulted in The University of Buckingham being excluded from the 2014/15 destinations data published in Figures 1, 2, 4 ,7, 8, 9, 11, 14 and 16 of this release. Previous years’ releases, and other years’ data in this release are not affected. The affected tables and charts were updated on 2 August 2018 with corrected data for 2014/15.

What activities are HE leavers doing?

The total number of UK and other EU domiciled leavers stood at 542,535 in 2016/17. Due to non-responses and explicit refusals to the DLHE survey, 400,920 had a known destination. Of these leavers, 91% were in work or further study. The remaining 9% were unemployed or doing an other activity such as looking after a home or family, or retirement.

Figure 4 shows that between 2012/13 and 2016/17 there has been an overall increase in the percentage of leavers in work or further study. From 2012/13 to 2013/14 this increase was driven by an increase in the percentage of leavers in UK work. Between 2014/15 and 2015/16, the percentage in UK work dropped but the total in work or further study was driven higher due to an increased percentage in further study. This increase coincided with the introduction of postgraduate loans for students domiciled in England in 2016/17. Amongst full-time first degree leavers, the percentage in further study increased from 14% in 2013/14 to 18% in 2016/17.

Figure 4 - Destinations of leavers by activity

2012/13 to 2016/17



The percentage of leavers in unemployment has been gradually decreasing and remains at 5% in 2016/17. UK unemployment rates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in May 2018 also show a downward trend in unemployment over the last 5 years. For the economically active population (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) in the UK aged 16 and over, the unemployment rate for January to March 2018, was 4.2%, the joint lowest since 1975. (Source: ONS).

Figure 5 shows details of those leavers with a known destination who enter employment in the UK. This includes leavers working full and part-time and those combining work with further study. Regardless of the level of qualification achieved, in 2016/17 the employment basis where the highest percentage of leavers were categorised, was on a permanent or open-ended contract. For those leavers who studied part-time, 79% were on a permanent or open-ended contract, compared with 60% of full-time leavers.

A higher percentage of first degree and other undergraduate leavers were on a zero hours contract for their main job, compared with postgraduate leavers. Data published by the ONS in April 2018, uses results from the Labour Force Survey to highlight the types of people in the UK who report themselves to be on a zero hours contract. Their findings show that among other characteristics, people who report being on a zero hours contract are more likely to be aged 16 to 24 and combining work with studies (source: ONS).

Figure 5 - Employment basis of leavers entering employment in the UK





How do HE leavers' activities vary by person characteristics?

Figure 6 shows variances in the activities of leavers by personal characteristics in 2016/17. A higher percentage of females were in UK work than males, but a higher percentage of males were in further study than females. Amongst full-time first degree leavers, 7% of males were unemployed compared with 4% of females. A higher percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) UK domiciled leavers were unemployed compared with the sector average of 5%.

Figure 6 - Destinations of leavers by activity and personal characteristics





Figure 7 shows the destinations of leavers by widening participation characteristics. Participation data is only returned to HESA for students who apply through UCAS, so to align with the cohort who typically enter through this route, the table has been restricted to undergraduate UK domiciled full-time leavers. Please note that POLAR low participation data has not been produced for leavers from HE providers in Scotland, to align with the HESA Performance Indicators. As such, destinations data by low participation neighbourhood for all countries, will not sum to totals represented at the bottom of the table.

Parental education data within figure 7 shows that among UK domiciled full-time undergraduate leavers in 2016/17, the percentage in work or further study was the same regardless of whether the leavers have parents with higher education qualifications or not. Those with parents who have higher education qualifications had a higher percentage in further study, but those with parents without higher education qualifications had a higher percentage in UK work.

Figure 7 - Destinations of undergraduate UK domiciled full-time leavers by participation characteristics

2012/13 to 2016/17



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National Statistic


28 June 2018, 9:30



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