From education to employment

Focus on graduate employment has fundamentally changed the way universities operate

A new report by @Rachel_Hewitt_ from the Higher Education Policy Institute, Getting on: graduate employment and its influence on UK higher education (HEPI Report 126), explores the recent focus by policymakers, students and employers on getting graduates into professional jobs. 

The paper digs into the related policy changes, including the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework, the new Graduate Outcomes survey and the tracking of graduate salaries through the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes dataset and how these have changed the way universities operate.

The report includes analysis of a new survey of Heads of Careers Services, conducted by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, which finds:

  • Three quarters (76%) of careers services have seen a change in student engagement with careers in the last three years, compared to 24% who have seen no change.
  • 93% of careers services see the increased policy focus on graduate outcomes as positive, compared to 2% who see it as negative and 5% who see it as neither positive nor negative.
  • The new Graduate Outcomes survey and the Office for Students Access and Participation plans are having the greatest impact on how careers services operate, rather than graduate salary data. 69% of respondents list Graduate Outcomes as having the most impact, followed by 19% who stated Access and Participation plans had the most impact. Only 2% say the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data is having the greatest impact.
  • Just under half (45%) of careers services have seen an increase in funding to cover the additional demand, compared to 55% who have not.

The report also contains qualitative analysis of the views of careers services, including how they, their university and students classify a successful outcome from university. 

Rachel Hewitt, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute and author of the report, said: 

Policy changes in recent years have led to employability being a mainstream activity across all universities, rather than the specialism of a few. While some may rail against the ‘employability agenda’, it is clear that universities are now better serving the interests of their students by supporting them through their transition into the workplace.

In the Foreword to the report, Dr Bob Gilworth, President of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) writes:

This report is timely, as so many of these policy initiatives have come into play in a relatively short time. As President of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, I warmly welcome the logic behind this piece of work. The premise is that higher education careers services provide a window into understanding institutional responses to the focus on employment outcomes, because they are likely to be at the heart of it. In general, the survey responses outlined here tend to illustrate this is the case.

Methodology: HEPI and AGCAS conducted the survey of heads of university careers services in November 2019. The survey received responses from 48 universities. Responses were only sought from universities who are AGCAS members. The survey of heads of careers services was kindly conducted by AGCAS but editorial control was retained by HEPI. 

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