The nationwide survey that tracks the progress of university leavers could be replaced with a cheaper and more “sophisticated” alternative.
The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey is designed to provide data on graduates’ progress into work and further study six months after they complete their courses, and allows for the performance of universities to be compared, but concerns have been raised that the process is being manipulated by institutions.
Paul Clark, chief executive of the Higher Education Statistics Agency, said it was “time to take a high-level view of what information we need to produce on the post-study destinations of those leaving higher education”.
“Survey and data-gathering technology have improved in recent years, while the graduate jobs market has been changing rapidly,” Mr Clark said. “Universities have adapted to support students in meeting the challenges they face, with increasingly sophisticated approaches, and now data collection on life outcomes needs to undergo a similar step change.”
A steering group, made up of individuals representing data providers and users, will be announced in the near future. It is expected to meet for the first time in September, with the aim of completing the review by spring 2016.
This year’s survey found that 89 per cent of graduates who completed a full-time first degree in 2014 were in work or further study six months later, compared with 88 per cent in 2013.
The unemployment rate dropped slightly over the same period, from 8 per cent to 7 per cent, and some universities reported significant improvements in their performance.
But while the survey is governed by Hesa, it is conducted in-house by universities, and one former university employee told Times Higher Education earlier this year that institutions targeted graduates from courses that were likely to have positive employment outcomes to take part in the exercise.
The former employee also alleged that staff were pressured to illicitly “upgrade” or disregard results that were not considered to be helpful to a university’s profile.
Hesa said that one of the aims of the review was to reduce the “burden of data collection”.
Mr Clark added: “Our aim is to keep pace with the changing context for graduate employment and information provision for students by developing a plan for delivering better data at a lower cost. Hesa will work with a range of stakeholders to ensure that this review delivers an improved service for the benefit of students and the sector as a whole.”