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10 reasons why LEO data shouldn’t be relied on in policy and funding decisions

10 reasons why Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data shouldn’t be relied on in policy and funding decisions – Universities UK report ‘The uses and limits of Longitudinal Education Outcomes data’

Since its introduction, LEO – information on how much UK graduates of different courses and universities earn either one, three, five or ten years after graduation – has created real value as a tool to help students understand the economic returns of going to university, for universities to see the labour market outcomes of its graduates, and for government to understand the value of the public investments it makes.

But while recognising the importance of this data to informing the conversation about the value of a university education, Universities UK is pushing for greater recognition of its limitations.

In response to the latest outcomes data published by the Department for Education, UUK is today setting out 10 reasons why a real risk exists in using historical or projected salary data to directly inform government funding and policy decisions, and in defining a graduate’s success and contribution to our country and economy.

Arguing that earnings alone do not recognise the positive impact on our culture and society of sectors with lower-than-average earnings, such as the arts and creative sector or public professions such as nursing or teaching, UUK points out in its report that basing government funding decisions directly on LEO data would potentially limit opportunity and choice for students and the supply of skilled people in important parts of the labour market.

The issues highlighted in the analysis include concerns on some of the methodology and data collection, a reminder of the external factors which can heavily influence long term salary, and the important social and cultural nuance which risks being overlooked by this approach alone. What counts as a good graduate salary is also dependent on regional average earnings, something LEO does not account for.

As a result, Universities UK strongly argues against LEO data being relied on by government or other industry leaders when making important policy or funding decisions. Instead, it calls for the government to step forward to the challenge of considering new approaches to answer the broader questions on the value and wider societal and cultural impact of a university education.

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