Most courses will fail KIS data demands over lack of salary information

Just one in seven full-time undergraduate courses and one in 50 part-time programmes will be able to present complete information for prospective students as part of the new standard datasets that universities must publish from next year.

June 16, 2011

The lack of specific coverage for every course, in large part down to limitations on salary data, means that only 40 per cent of the student body in England will be covered by full Key Information Sets (KIS), according to a report on the proposals. However, it is hoped that many more single-honours courses - 95 per cent of full-time and 35 per cent of part-time - will be covered by aggregating information and using graduate earnings figures over wider subject areas.

From September 2012, universities will have to publish a KIS for every undergraduate course showing information on graduate earnings, teaching and assessment methods, contact hours, tuition fees and student satisfaction.

The latest report, Provision of Information about Higher Education: Outcomes of Consultation and Next Steps, follows a consultation with the sector and includes a new mock-up for the KIS, which would feature fewer pie charts and more headline figures.

Contact hours would be expressed as a typical percentage across a course, but this would run alongside a more detailed breakdown of other learning and teaching methods by year of study, with universities able to provide web links to further information.

For graduate salaries, the average earned six months after leaving the course would be emphasised - with comparison data to enable students to look at earnings in the same subject across the sector at six months and 40 months. However, results of the consultation showed a "substantial minority" of institutions had questioned the use of the salary data, which comes from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.

The survey is run by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which itself does not routinely publish salary data by subject or course, and relies on graduates revealing salaries when asked. In 2008-09, just over half who were in employment provided earnings data.

The sector report, published jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, GuildHE and Universities UK, acknowledges that "strong concerns" had been raised about the DLHE survey and says Hesa is planning to enhance its research in time for the first round of the KIS.

It also says that Hefce is in discussions with the Student Loans Company about access to earnings data, to enable salary figures to be reported much later than six months after students graduate.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the Million+ group of new universities, said: "Six months is not a reliable indicator of graduate salaries, and a lot more work needs to be done on the jobs that are classified as a graduate employment.

"No one will benefit if information that needs a health warning is put into the public domain."

However, Janet Beer - chair of the steering group that has overseen development of the KIS, and vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University - said it was wrong to focus on the DLHE survey, which informed one small part of the KIS.

"Prospective students want salary data, so we are trying to use the best source we have got," she added.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com.

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