The article by an anonymous former employee of an English university will concern anyone with an interest in the quality of higher education data and the broader reputation of the sector (“Bar work? You must be a barrister!”, Features, 12 March). Individuals use data provided by the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey to help to make choices about what and where to study. They rightly expect them to be robust and trustworthy.
We expect all institutions to manage the DLHE survey in a way that complies with the requirements of the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which were strengthened last year.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England can and will take action if we find evidence of data fraud. For example, we can insist that an independent third party conducts the survey at the institution’s cost. We would, of course, remove the unreliable data from published sources so as to prevent students from being misled and the institution from gaining any benefit. There are further sanctions available to us under the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability.
Governing bodies are responsible for the provision of accurate and transparent information as part of their overall accountability for institutional activities. They receive an annual opinion from their audit committee on the adequacy and effectiveness of arrangements for the management and quality assurance of data. Institutions are required to provide Hefce with a copy of this report.
We are not able to respond to anonymous disclosures about unnamed institutions. But if anyone has concerns about improper practices of this kind at particular institutions, we would urge them to notify us. Our public interest disclosure process is on our website.
Higher Education Funding Council for England
At the risk of disappearing under a mountain of “you should see what happens at…” correspondence, higher education managers and academics who are genuinely concerned about their graduates’ employability are well equipped to scrutinise their institution’s DLHE research data with professional objectivity. Without such attention, universities’ search for truth about graduate outcomes must be guided by commercial ambitions, with interventions such as student “skills awards” developed for manageability and open day sales; their impact visible but unread, let alone reported, from the DLHE data. On average, the cost of producing each graduate who works in a graduate role seems to be £216,000. The sector needs to take a long hard look at its outcomes, intentions and how university works.