Graduate employment

Every year the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in the UK releases data on graduate employment and unemployment. More specifically, it shows how many graduates are employed or engaged in further study six months after completing their studies. Leaving aside the position of graduates of smaller specialist institutions, the 20 universities with the best performance in the table published on Friday are as follows, in this order (figure in brackets is the percentage of graduates in work or study after six months):

The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen (95.7%)
Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln (95.5%)
The University of Surrey (94.8%)
The University of Edinburgh (94.5%)
Trinity University College (94.4%)
The University of Aberdeen (94.4%)
Canterbury Christ Church University (94.3%)
The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (94.3%)
University of Glamorgan (94.2%)
Cardiff University (94.1%)
Harper Adams University College (93.8%)
The University of Keele (93.8%)
The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (93.8%)
The University of Huddersfield (93.7%)
The Nottingham Trent University (93.7%)
The University of Cambridge (93.6%)
Edge Hill University (93.6%)
Leeds Trinity University College (93.6%)
The University of Bristol (93.4%)
Newman University College (93.3%)

At the bottom of the table are the following:

London South Bank University (82.4%)
The University of Wales, Lampeter (81.1%)
The University of Bolton (79.9%)
UHI Millenium Institute (78.3%)
The University of East London (78.0%)

It is an interesting table. Two newspapers (the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail) have suggested that it shows that graduates of post-1992 universities fare less well in securing employment than old universities; this is not borne out by the table, which in fact suggests that at least at the top end old and new universities are not easily distinguishable. Actually, Oxford does not make it into the top 20, and Cambridge is at number 16. More generally the Russell Group universities do not perform particularly well. Scottish universities are, on average, better than English universities. And in that context, I am of course delighted that my own university, Robert Gordon University, leads the field.

Also interesting is the information about subject areas of study. The best post-study employment rates are in medicine and related subjects, followed by education, law, agriculture and biology. Mass communications and computer science fare worst.

Overall, even with the uneven performance between institutions and subjects noted here, a university degree still looks a good bet: 90 per cent of graduates across the UK as a whole are in employment or further study after six months. We do not have entirely up to date statistics for Ireland, but in 2006 the equivalent figure appears to have been 92%; it is likely that in current economic conditions this will have been eroded.

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29 Comments on “Graduate employment”

  1. cormac Says:

    I find those lists a bit silly.
    First, what is the annual variation for a given college? Probably larger than the tiny variations between the top 20. Second, the differences between the top are too small to conclude anything (what is the error in thes measurements? – probably larger than 1%).
    Third, why are the resuts so high and the differences so small? Because they are measuring *any* employment – whether it is a two week stint at MacDonald’s, a year’s contract in industry or a tenured position at Oxbridge.
    In sum, the list is a good example of meangliess figues that look important and tells us almost nothing

    • Eddie Says:

      Cormac

      I agree with you completely. The universities, particularly those at the bottom of the top 20 in the UK, use a list like this to advertise how wonderful they are! I would not consider this list seriously at all.

      • Eddie Says:

        “Scottish universities are, on average, better than English universities. And in that context, I am of course delighted that my own university, Robert Gordon University, leads the field…”

        Is this any thing to do with Scottish Higher results coming in about 2 week’s time? Also, not unconected with the fact that Scotland has received 5000 less applications from England this year(Scotsman) and to put a marker for next year’s applications from English students when they find Scottish universities are the most expensive in the UK, factoring in maintenance and 4 years long courses? Scottish universities want these students to fill their funding gap. The modern universities want them more than the 2 top universities.

        I would like to see further break up of data, the positions graduates secured, where and when, and how long and the nature of the data collection and follow up. All statistics can be made to look good. In my younger days, we used to read Soviet Union’s five year plan achievements and their production rates of tractors for example were impressive. I know a few modern universities in that list- Glamorgan and Nottingham Trent, and the academics I know there do not trust their figures, as the jobs are being axed and departments are being merged or shrunk. . Anyway. the senior management in these two universities have collected their performance bonuses.

        • Eddie Says:

          Should be “4 year”


        • Eddie, you wrote: ‘Is this any thing to do with Scottish Higher results coming in about 2 week’s time? Also, not unconected with the fact that Scotland has received 5000 less applications from England this year(Scotsman) and to put a marker for next year’s applications from English students when they find Scottish universities are the most expensive in the UK, factoring in maintenance and 4 years long courses?’

          What on earth has that got to do with graduate employment?

          • Eddie Says:

            “What on earth has that got to do with graduate employment?”

            It has everything to do with the spin that goes with it, that is “Scottish universities are, on average, better than English universities. And in that context, I am of course delighted that my own university, Robert Gordon University, leads the field”

            One has to read through the bits. that joins your post.


      • Eddie, you can afford to conclude in that way as you’re not running a university. I recently sat next to a senior officer of a UK Russell Group university who was taking a very different – and somewhat concerned – view. Students are increasingly noting this league table, and this is reflected in the prominence it has been given in media reports over the last few days.

        • Eddie Says:

          It is precisely the fact that I am not running a university makes me to look at issues in more objective way, unhindered by my closeness with any university, More often the VCs of universities ( particularly modern ones)do not know what is happening at the trenches from first hand experience as layers of management separates them from the trenches. One VC found out to his dismay that the statistics supplied to him for years which went to the HEFCE was wrong ( despite keeping a watch all those years) but like a leader he took the responsibility for it and resigned. He is pilloried even now by the academic community who should know better.

          I also hear through my contacts at various universities in Scotland where they are worried about future funding linked to getting English students and are anxious to present their universities in a positive way as the length of a degree course in Scottish university is 4 years, and the total loan accrued for an English student over thst time is substantially higher. Ever since the attempt to shrink the binary divide began when former polytechnics became modern universities, the divide has widened , and there has been this argument mainly by the VCs of these modern universities to project theirs in all kinds of ways vis-a-vis the old universities. Comparisons are a part of this exercise.

          As for Russell Group, I am not sure who you talked to. Ofcourse there is concern in England as the hike in the tuition fee is substantial albeit, it is a loan. But then I would have been been surprised if there is no concern at all. Russell Group takes the top tier of students, and it is expected that these students do not end up stacking shelves in Tesco or take up a job which pays the minimum wage. There is no evidence that the top tier ( destined for Russell Group) and tier2 ( destined for Group94) students are noting this league table, and want to go to these modern universities, but some tier3 students (who go to modern universities) might. In a couple of days, I am meeting the VC of a large Russell Group university which has multi-faculties including medicine and I am sure he is not going to say anything different.


          • Eddie, with all due respect, that’s a load of tosh. First, and just by the way, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Russell Group universities get better students than those heading for 1994 Group universities, and indeed some outside any of the mission groups (like RGU).

            Secondly, when you say there is no evidence that students are noting this league table, what do you base that on? There’s actually evidence by the truckload that they do. It’s used by guidance counsellors and teachers. Of course other factors also play a part, and I’m not suggesting this is the *only* yardstick students use, but anyone working in student admissions in any university knows that it’s a factor.

            You also wrote: ‘More often the VCs of universities ( particularly modern ones)do not know what is happening at the trenches from first hand experience as layers of management separates them from the trenches.’

            Really? I’m not a spokesperson for ‘modern’ universities, but I’d have thought that their VCs are much *more* likely to be in touch with the trenches; VCs from older institutions are usually much more detached.

    • Eddie Says:

      Cormac.

      As an Astrophysicist (?), you might like to link with this blog:
      telescoper.wordpress.com/ . This Cardiff academic is versatile, and covers quite number of topic areas.


    • No, Cormac, they are not measuring ‘any’ employment. Casual employment doesn’t count. Also, the variations between the institutions, though they look small, are big when set against unemployment rates. If you compare with last year’s table, you’ll see there are very few annual variations except those that work sector-wide; these are very consistent tables, and they are carefully compiled.

  2. Vincent Says:

    These numbers will get increasingly important once the condenser of the £9k a year hits the psyche.
    Congrats BTW.

  3. Eddie Says:

    “Eddie, with all due respect, that’s a load of tosh. First, and just by the way, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Russell Group universities get better students than those heading for 1994 Group universities, and indeed some outside any of the mission groups (like RGU).”

    Sorry to disagree with you. I have more experience about RG, Group 94 and the admissions than you have, being at the trenches, middle management, and part of senior management and being spent my last decade in this set up. Hence I regret to comment respectfully that what you say is really a load of tosh, and you seem to believe the headlines thrust at you.

    “Secondly, when you say there is no evidence that students are noting this league table, what do you base that on? There’s actually evidence by the truckload that they ,..”

    Coming from some one who does not believe in any league table!!
    Sounds well with some governors and some senior management members of these universities, but nothing beyond that I am afraid.

    “but I’d have thought that their VCs are much *more* likely to be in touch with the trenches”

    Who said? In my experience modern universities have more managerial layers at the department and faculty levels, which really masks the VCs knowing realities at the trenches. In many of these universities, the faculty groups in the department have administration groups and firewalls between them are not uncommon. I could give examples, but then I could accused of hacking in these days of hacking frenzy!


    • Hi Eddie – I won’t get involved in an argument with you on this, and in any case, you’re entitled to believe whatever makes you happy. But when you say ‘I have more experience about RG’ (and I assume ‘RG’ means ‘Russell Group’), you may want to spell out your credentials, since you are operating under a pseudonym here, and as a result we’re all allowed to be a tad sceptical about your experience.

      You also describe me as ‘some one who does not believe in any league table!!’ Just for the record, where did you get that from? I’ve never said that, ever.

  4. Eddie Says:

    Scotsman on 17 July 2011
    English fees set to price out Scots students:
    http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scotland/English-fees-set-to-price.6802802.jp
    The report says:
    “Around 8,500 Scots domiciled students are thought to study in England, with 600 winning places at Oxbridge”
    “A Scottish Government spokesman said last night: “Our main priority has to be to protect opportunities for Scottish students to study at Scottish institutions. Scottish students studying in England will continue to receive financial support in the form of bursaries and loans.””
    Why do these many Scottish students go to English universities, by paying tuition fees to English universities, and if they are not eligible why not pay lower tuition fees in Scotland(about 50% less now)?

  5. cormac Says:

    Ferdinand – thanks for that, it sounds like they have a more sophisticated system over there. All the same, I wonder how the demarcation between ‘casual’ and more longterm jobs is decided, given that six months is the stated timeline of measurement.
    If these are all career jobs, then figures of over 90% seem very high.
    For example, presumably postgrads and postdocs are counted as employed. But, as you know, for this community, the crunch comes at the end of the postgrad/postdoc cycle for many aspirants – this is the real interface with the job market for these guys,a sizeable portion of the student population.
    So I still wonder if the the ‘employment’ in those lists is a bit misleading

    • Wendymr Says:

      Well, it does say “employed or engaged in further study six months after completing their studies.” So, yes, it definitely includes those continuing on to postgraduate programmes of various forms.

      As someone who now works in the field of helping people to find employment, I am familiar with measurements of this type and the way organisations need to achieve particular outcomes. As a result, much as we may not want to, we may find ourselves recording outcomes such as part-time or casual employment in fields other than the client’s desired job goal as a ‘success’. Private career colleges do exactly the same in order to achieve their mandated 85% success-rates: even if a graduate of a programme in IT or medical laboratory assistance ends up going back to their previous job working part-time in fast food, that gets counted as a success. How can we be sure that at least some of these outcomes are not survival jobs? In the current economic climate, I would certainly expect to see more graduates ending up unemployed or underemployed for a longer period after graduation.

  6. Eddie Says:

    Oh, God, that dreadful person must have done something very dreadful, a hanging offence perhaps!
    So many person-directed innuendos. All because some one holds a different opinion on matters. No wonder academics are held in low low esteem.


    • For anyone who might be wondering about this exchange, the author of this (and a good few other) comments here called ‘Eddie’ writes from the same IP address as the author of very similar sounding comments last year, who went by the pen name of ‘Copernicus’. The two may of course be completely different people, but they use the same computer.

      • Eddie Says:

        You might find this IP address different! I could say a few things about IP addresses, but won’t as it just causes another irritation. What a comment coming from a VC of a university? But you have not said what the crime committed is or was? Oh, I guess it, I had the temerity to disagree with you, and another person called Notaro, who tried to set an exam paper for me! I can see personal attacks from her have gone not noticed like calling my posts” right wing ran”t. That is the quality of the argument I see here. Best for you to declare somewhere that you operate a cabal, more like a street gang, and that any one who thinks or says otherwise is going to be lynched! Anyway, I have better things to do for a few days now. I guess this will not be published!!
        Just as a postscript, if you strongly believed that the two persons are the same, why did you allow the first post from whoever?
        I do not see all this enlightening at all. Either you discuss the issues looking at all angles or you do not. Anyway, I have to go to do better things and discuss issues that matter for us in England.

  7. Fred Says:

    Interesting but the uni of Aberdeen is well placed in this table. I may be wrong but I thought that traditionally the distance between RGU and U of Abedeen was bigger in this specific kind of tables. So, does the city plays its part?

  8. Iphigeneia Mariou Says:

    RGU is well placed indeed: rating 27, Guardian score 65.7, satisfied overall 84 and… job after 6 mths 82.


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