Job prospects are key to extra funds

October 1, 1999

Universities must demonstrate a good employment record for past students if they want to attract cash for more undergraduates.

Funding chiefs are paying more attention to student employability in allocating extra places next academic year. The Higher Education Funding Council for England added "improving employability" to its "key objectives that will influence the allocation of additional higher education provision".

Some 17,000 of the 25,000 extra places for 2000-01 are for part-time students. The government has told HEFCE that it must produce performance indicators on student job destinations by next year, based on the Higher Education Statistics Agency's first destination survey of graduates who took a full-time course. The measure has been much criticised for omitting part-time students.

The invitation to bid, issued last week, said: "Until these performance indicators are more fully developed, the data available nationally from the survey provide only tentative information. Therefore we look to higher education institutions to supplement that information with their own evidence of their students' success in employment. Further education colleges should provide their own evidence in the same way. All institutions should state the extent to which their evidence has been quality assured."

Evidence could include surveys conducted more than six months after course completion. In terms of quality assurance, HEFCE would want to know how the information was collected and the survey response rate.

A feasibility study on reporting the employment of graduates who finished part-time courses, which was conducted on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment, is due to be completed in the next few weeks.

It is likely to recommend that universities survey part-time students when they enrol and again 18 months after course completion.

The survey would include questions on how a former part-time student's pattern of employment had changed as the result of higher education, including managerial status and the length of employment contract. Many part-time students are postgraduates.

It is recommended that the cost of any survey should be borne centrally in order not to discriminate against poorer institutions.

HEFCE will allocate 25,000 extra student places for 2000-01. Of these, 19,000 will be for places below degree level and 6,000 for places at degree level; 17,000 will be part-time, of which 12,000 will be for places below degree level, and 8,000 for full-time study.

Bids must be received by November 2 and the allocation of places will be announced in March 2000.

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