‘Delusional’ to compare universities using graduate employment

Simon Marginson tells SRHE conference that multiplicity of factors affect graduate outcomes

December 11, 2015
Simon Marginson, UCL Institute of Education, University College London
Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the IoE

It is “delusional” to attempt to measure the success of higher education institutions using data on graduate employment, a leading academic has warned.

Employment data are set to be used to compare English universities in the teaching excellence framework, but Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the UCL Institute of Education, used his keynote address to the annual conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education to highlight the multiplicity of factors that affect the careers and earnings of graduates.

Professor Marginson said these factors go beyond the regularly discussed links between graduate earnings and family background, type of school attended, type of university attended and field of study.

Students, he said, frequently do not make their educational choices on the basis of future earnings, but instead are motivated by building social networks, accumulating cultural capital or immersing themselves in fields of knowledge.

In addition, Professor Marginson said, qualifications are only one factor in employers’ selection of candidates, with issues such as time and place also affecting the available pool.

Therefore, there is no “closed system” allowing for causal relationships to be identified, Professor Marginson said.

“It is delusional to measure or compare the quantity, quality or productivity of education programmes, institutions or systems, on the basis of the private rates of return to, or the rate of employment of, those graduates,” he said.

“Statistical methods designed to eliminate the effects of all factors other than higher education flounder given the number of variables, the interdependency between them, and the impossibility of isolating each separate causal factor from all the others.”


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Print headline: Graduate data: no way to measure degree quality?

Reader's comments (1)

DOE has done the same . It seems UK is following USA . See collegescorecard 2099 4-year colleges+ 1.488 2-year colleges with their graduates salary after 10 years from the start of college. MIT has done $ 91.600, salaries go down all the way to $ 25.000 and even lower . I am an employer I also say we, the employers, are the best quality controllers of the colleges. We employ them and we decide if they are good or bad and pay them accordingly . Please do not mix up the research universities . Research is something else . Report is too detailed. So I made a spread sheet showing all 20 parameters with each colleges . One can sort according to any parameter . Please send your email to mgozaydin@hotmail.com if you want the spread sheet .

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