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Graduate Outcomes 2020/21: Summary Statistics - Notes

Summary statistics Graduate Outcomes 2020/21


Who produced this release?

This release has been produced by HESA in collaboration with statisticians from the Department for Education, the Office for Students, the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland. It has been released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Which graduates and HE providers are included?

This release contains information regarding graduates from providers who are publicly funded or regulated, and submit data to the HESA Student and Student Alternative records. In addition, this release includes data for graduates from HE level courses at further education (FE) colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This release excludes graduates from HE level courses at FE colleges in Scotland and also excludes other alternative providers in the sector. More information on the population of graduates included in the Graduate Outcomes survey is detailed in the coverage of the record. Please be aware that the coverage of providers differs to those used in the HESA student publications.

This publication excludes data about graduates from Ballet West. This HE provider located in Scotland chose to optionally return data to HESA for a number of years until 2018/19. Please note that data for this provider was included in the 2017/18 Graduate Outcomes data releases previously published by HESA.

What changes have there been to the data this year?

The field CONSTART (01,02 and 03) was removed from the 2020/21 survey onwards. As such, the breakdown of XACTIVITY regarding unemployed due to start an activity will not be possible using the same methodology. All breakdowns of unemployment in prior years have been grouped into 'Unemployed' to allow for consistency. Previous versions of the data for 2019/20 and prior with unemployed and due to start an activity breakdowns have been retained and are available to download as CSV files linked in footnotes below the relevant figures and tables/charts in the open data repository. Take caution when using this data due to changes in cuts to the data, notably student 2019/20. See Definitions below for details of these cuts.

Changes were made to the responses for the TYPEQUAL question to offer more detail. Where possible, the response options have been aligned, new options 'Foundation degree, HND or other undergraduate diploma (E.g. DipHE)', 'HNC, CertEd, or other undergraduate certificate (e.g. Higher Certificate)' and 'None of the above' have been added.

For the 2020/21 survey, a change was made in the question routing regarding the Graduate Voice questions. In previous years' surveys, the questions were based on the multiple-choice 'ALLACT' question responses. Respondents with multiple activity selections will have been asked about their 'activities' for the Graduate Voice questions, rather than being asked specifically about their work, or, their further study. From 2020/21, the questions are based on the respondent's chosen main activity (MIMPACT), as such, this change may have impacted the population of those choosing multiple activities, primarily those in employment and further study. Those respondents will have been asked the Graduate Voice questions on either their employment, or, their study, depending on their chosen main activity.

Are any changes expected for future releases?

From the 2022/23 academic year's publications, HESA intends to use the Data Futures 056 record as the source of the student data. Please see our Data Futures blog for more information.

This Graduate Outcomes release will be the last to feature participation measures based on POLAR4, as this metric is no longer updated and maintained by the OfS and there will be no POLAR5 replacement.

We are also reviewing the state school marker, which is created and maintained by HESA, and may be discontinued in future subject to the outcomes of the review of performance measures, as mentioned in What happened to UK Performance Indicators?.

Has data for earlier years been revised?

This release uses revised data returns (the 'fixed' database) for time series figures. The fixed data return facility provides HE providers with the opportunity to make post-collection amendments to their HESA return. The fixed database remains open for between 6 and 15 months following the closure of the corresponding live data collection and usually becomes available at least 18 months after the original dataset is delivered. Please refer to the definitions below for detail as to which versions have been used to produce this release and the impact of these changes.

Has COVID-19 had any impact on this release?

The 2018/19 Graduate Outcomes survey was sent to graduates who qualified from their higher education course between August 2018 and July 2019. Surveying commenced in December 2019 for the first of four cohorts. Shortly after surveying began for the second cohort, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. This meant that many graduates were completing the survey at various points during the pandemic. The Graduate Outcomes quality report details further information about survey alterations due to the pandemic.

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.

In 2019/20, The Open University underreported the number of qualifications awarded due to administrative delays as a result of changes to assessment timetabling. There was a reduction of around 8,225 qualifications awarded in the 2019/20 data return in comparison to 2018/19. Most of this drop was seen among part time undergraduate students. The reduction was reflected in a lower population of survey respondents for the Graduate Outcomes survey of an estimated 7,900 responses. These qualifications were returned in the 2020/21 student data. The number of respondents for the Open University in 2020/21 increased by around 10,600 from 2019/20. Relative to the first two years of the survey, this is around 2,800 more respondents on average. The Open University accounted for 2% of all survey respondents in 2020/21.

An insight briefing, The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Graduate Outcomes 2020/21 provides further detail on analysis undertaken to explore the impact of the pandemic, and the conclusions identified.

How to use the tables and charts

The tables and charts within this release are interactive. There are options immediately above the figures to filter by data field(s) such as by level of qualification or mode of former study. The figures refresh to display the option(s) chosen, updating the data accordingly. The 'Reset filters' link below each figure will clear all selected options.

In the figures, 0, 1, 2 are rounded to 0. All other numbers are rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of 5 in line with the HESA rounding strategy. Percentages are calculated on unrounded data and are rounded to the nearest whole number. This means percentages may not sum exactly to 100%.

It is a criminal offence under Section 171 of the Data Protection Act 2018 for a person knowingly or recklessly to re-identify information that is de-identified personal data without the consent of the controller responsible for de-identifying the personal data.

CSV files

The CSV files contain additional data for other academic years that are not represented in the interactive tables.

How can I get the data in a spreadsheet?

All the data is presented in interactive tables on the HESA website and will not be published in Excel spreadsheets. Below each table you will find a link to download the table as a *.csv.

If you are planning to open the *.csv files in Excel, you must ensure you import the *.csv data, rather than just opening the file directly. This will ensure the data is presented appropriately without corrupt characters appearing. We have published instructions on how to import *.csv files in earlier versions of Excel. If you are using Excel 2016, you should select 'Data' in the top ribbon and then choose 'From Text/csv'. In the options screen, select '65001: Unicode (UTF-8)' in the 'File Origin' box; click 'Edit' and ensure that all columns are formatted as 'Text'.

How to print this release

This release is designed primarily for on screen users. Each section of the release can be printed by hitting Ctrl+P from within a section.

How are Open University students counted?

Graduates who were registered at one of The Open University's (OU) national centres in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will contribute to the totals of those countries where statistics are shown by country of HE provider. Please note that all non-UK domiciled OU students, and those who study at postgraduate research level, are registered to the OU administrative centre in England.

Where can I find more detail on the outcomes of graduates?

More detailed information about the outcomes of graduates from higher education, including outcomes by HE provider, can be found in our Graduate Outcomes open data repository.


The data presented in this release is based on the 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 Graduate Outcomes survey and derived by HESA from data collected from all publicly funded HE providers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, both Approved (fee cap) and Approved HE providers in England, and further education colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Course and student characteristics have been taken from the 2017/18 - 2020/21 HESA Student and Student Alternative records for all graduates other than those who graduated from further education colleges in England and Northern Ireland. Characteristics of these graduates have been supplied by the Office for Students (OfS) and Department for the Economy Northern Ireland DfE(NI), respectively.

Graduate Outcomes data was prepared in April and May 2023 using the following versions of the datasets:

  Student Student Alternative Graduate Outcomes Survey Results
Academic year Dataset type Cut Dataset type Cut Dataset type Cut
2017/18 Fixed dataset February 2021 Fixed dataset January 2020 Original dataset May 2020


Original dataset November 2020 Original dataset November 2020 Original dataset March 2021


Original dataset September 2022 Original dataset November 2020 Original dataset March 2022


Original dataset December 2021 Original dataset December 2022 Original dataset March 2023

See definitions for more detail on the Graduate Outcomes data fields and concepts used within this release.

See data intelligence for specific notes about this year's Graduate Outcomes survey data.

HESA cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.

Press enquiries should be directed to the Press Office at HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ, +44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]. General enquiries about the data contained within this release should be addressed to Luke Perrott, Official Statistics Manager, HESA (at the same address), +44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected]

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].
Thank you for helping us to improve this publication.


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