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Graduate Outcomes 2020/21: Summary Statistics - Summary

Summary statistics Graduate Outcomes 2020/21


An issue has been identified with the classification of significant interim study in the 2020/21 open data release.

625 graduates who studied for further undergraduate diplomas or certificates after graduation have been incorrectly recorded as undertaking "No significant interim further study" in the XINSTUDY derived field.

The PREVTYPEQUAL field was updated in 2020/21 to remove code 06 "Other undergraduate diploma or certificate not specified above" and replace it with the following two codes:

  •  09 - Foundation degree, HND or other undergraduate diploma (E.g. DipHE)
  • 10 - HNC, CertEd, or other undergraduate certificate (e.g. Higher Certificate)

This change was not reflected in the specification for the derived field XINTSTUDY which identifies interim further study. As a result, records that would have fallen into one of these two categories are mistakenly identified as "No significant interim further study".


In total, 625 graduates are affected in the dataset out of 383,575 total respondents from 153 providers. The highest number of records at a single provider is 45, accounting for 1.4% of its total Graduate Outcomes population.

No action required

As the impact on the population overall is small, we will not be reissuing the delivery or publication. The corrected specification will be used for the upcoming release of 2021/22 data. 

If providers wish to recalculate interim further study using their own data, please use the derived field specification for XINTSTUDY in C21072.

Note added 2024-02-29


Figure 1 - Graduate outcomes by activity

Academic years 2017/18 to 2020/21

  • Among 2020/21 graduates, 82% of respondents were in employment or unpaid work. The majority of these graduates were engaged in full-time employment (61%), with 10% of graduates being engaged in part-time employment and employment and further study.
  • There was a 4 percentage point increase in the proportion of 2020/21 graduates in full-time employment compared with 2019/20 graduates.
  • Unemployment accounted for 5% of responses among 2020/21 graduates. This was down 1 percentage point on 2019/20 and down 2 percentage points on 2018/19.
  • From the 2019/20 to the 2020/21 graduate cohort there was a 1 percentage point decrease (from 8% to 7%) in respondents engaged in full-time further study.
  • Graduates in part-time study decreased from 1% in 2019/20 to less than 1% in 2020/21.

Figure 2 - Weighted median salaries of full-time graduates who obtained first degree qualifications and entered full-time paid employment in the UK

Academic year 2020/21

  • When considering all skill levels combined, male full-time, first degree graduates in full-time paid employment in the UK have a greater median salary than females. The median salary of females has remained the same as 2019/20, whereas the median salary of male graduates has increased from £25,000 to £27,000.
  • When considering skill level, the pay gap between male and female graduates at the time of the 2020/21 survey was greatest among those in the high skilled employment.
  • For both males and females, there was a larger gap between the median pay of medium and high skilled workers compared with the gap between pay of low and medium skilled workers.
What is a weighted median?

Weighted median salary is a way of calculating the middle salary (50th percentile) when there are different groups or categories involved. This method accounts for groups of different sizes, giving more weight to groups with more people. This means the salaries of graduates from smaller groups are not over-represented and don't have a disproportionate effect on the overall median.

To find the weighted median salary, we first arrange the salaries from lowest to highest. Then, we calculate the cumulative proportion of people in each group as we go along. The weighted median is the salary where the cumulative proportion or total weight to the left of the median salary equals half of the total weight. When there is no such value, linear interpolation is performed. If the weights are equal, then the weighted median is equivalent to the arithmetic median.

About this release

This release is the annual first release of Graduate Outcomes survey data and covers UK higher education providers (HEPs) and further education colleges (FECs) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Data is collected approximately 15 months after HE course completion.

Graduate Outcomes is a survey, which first commenced with the 2017/18 academic year's graduate population. It is conducted differently from previous surveys and produces different information. These new statistics are not directly comparable with the results of the earlier Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.

The 2020/21 Graduate Outcomes cohort finished their qualifications in the second academic year affected by COVID-19. While Cohort A finished their qualifications during late summer and early autumn 2020, in a period of relatively loose restrictions, restrictions began to increase over the course of the academic year. Cohort B graduated into a period of short national lockdowns, followed by the start of the second national lockdown in January 2021. Cohort C likewise graduated in lockdown, but the progress of the vaccination programme led to a gradual easing of restrictions as spring progressed; by the time Cohort D, the largest Graduate Outcomes cohort, began to finish their qualifications in May 2021, most adults had been offered a first vaccine dose, and restrictions were gradually being phased out across the UK.

The circumstances under which 2020/21 graduates were surveyed were quite different. As surveying for Cohort A opened in December 2021, Omicron variant cases were rising and new guidance was being issued requiring masks in indoor spaces and encouraging people to work from home where possible, the new restrictions were considerably more lenient than those which were introduced a year previously. By the time the Cohort B survey period opened in March 2022, all legal restrictions had been lifted in England, and remaining restrictions were phased out in other nations over the next few months. Although COVID cases rose from the start of June to a summer peak in early July, no legal restrictions were in place during the survey periods for Cohorts C and D. An insight briefing provides further detail on analysis undertaken to explore the impact of the pandemic, and the conclusions identified.

Accompanying this release is more detailed information about the outcomes of graduates from higher education, including outcomes by HE provider, this can be found in our Graduate Outcomes open data repository. A suite of supporting information for the Graduate Outcomes publications can be found in the form of a user guide. This contains the Graduate Outcomes quality report providing the most comprehensive assessment currently available on the quality of the data, including on uses and users of the data. A history and background to the survey and information about the survey design is available in the methodology statement and further detail on approaches and standards for dissemination is available in the dissemination section of the methodology statement.

Please see the definitions for further explanations of the terms used in this release.

Figure 3 - Response rates to the Graduate Outcomes survey by domicile and mode of former study

Academic years 2017/18 to 2020/21

  • There were 355,050 graduates who responded to the 2020/21 Graduate Outcomes survey from the target population of 826,610, a rate of 43% complete responses. When including graduates who partially completed the survey, this response rate rises to 46%, increasing the number of usable responses to 383,575.
  • The response rate (including survey partial completed response rate) of non-European Union domiciled graduates has halved from 36% in 2019/20 to 18% in 2020/21. This follows the decision to cease calling non-EU international graduates, as covered in Our approach to surveying non-EU international graduates. These graduates are surveyed online exclusively. 
  • The response rate of both UK and European Union domiciled graduates has also decreased by 2 percentage points relative to 2019/20.

Data used in this release is based on both complete and partially completed responses.

What are partial responses?

Where graduates answer the minimum number of core questions relevant to their circumstances, this is known as a complete response. Sometimes graduates don’t answer enough core questions but they may still start the survey. Where they do not answer a sufficient number of core questions but they do at least answer the first two questions, specifying their current activities and most important activity, this is known as a partially completed response. Further detail on this can be found in the Dissemination section of the Methodology statement.

Release date

31 May 2023, 9:30



Release frequency



Children, education and skills

Issued by

HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]

Public enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected]


Luke Perrott

Pre-release access

View pre-release access list for this release

Graduate Outcomes open data repository

View detailed information by provider

User guide

View the Graduate Outcomes user guide

Please email questions or comments to [email protected].
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