Future employability statistics now play a major role in prospective students’ decision-making, feeding into, amongst other things, league tables, Key Information Sets and HEI promotional materials.
As HEIs prepare to undertake DLHE surveys to substantiate their employment outcomes, we thought it would be timely to look at how well universities are getting their message across on future employability. We found a very variable picture. Some universities do a great job at selling their successes. Others don’t!
Over the past six years the economic downturn has lowered students’ expectations of finding a graduate level career job after finishing university. Figure 1 shows that perceptions of graduate employability declined from 2008/09 to 2011/12, reflecting the reality. During this period students at modern universities were particularly pessimistic.
However, in 2012/13 according to our Higher Expectationsdata there was a significant bounce back in perceptions; students started feeling more positive about getting a job. This year’s study is currently in field - we’ll report back on overall results next Spring (and if you subscribe to the study you’ll be able to scrutinize the data at the level of your – and every – institution too).
What proportion of graduates do you think get 'graduate level jobs' within the first six months of graduation from your university?
|Students at 'traditional' HEIs||65%||64%||63%||63%||62%||64%|
|Students at 'modern' HEIs||57%||57%||54%||54%||52%||56%|
How do perceptions of employability map to actual employability?
But how do perceptions of employability map to actual employability outcomes at individual universities? We looked at the results of the latest published DLHE survey (via The Times and Sunday Times League Table) for each institution. We then looked at perceptions of employability at each institution in our Higher Expectations 2012/13 study. Although we recognise that these aren’t, strictly speaking, ‘like-for-like’ comparisons1 , we feel these provide a useful indication of how perceptions compare to the reality.
Figure 2: Perceived graduate employment vs. actual graduate prospects
Y-Axis: Higher Expectations 2012/13 EMP3c - What proportion of graduates do you think get 'graduate level jobs' within the first six months of graduation? - From your university
Figure 2 above shows a positive correlation (see line of best fit) which, quite reasonably, suggests that in general expectations are higher amongst students at universities with stronger employment outcomes. However, if we take a closer look and compare individual institutions, there are very many outliers, where strong real employment outcomes have not been recognised by the institution’s own new students. For example, University A and University B have similar actual employment rates, yet new first year students at University A believe that around 80% of their institution’s leavers achieve a graduate level job within six months, far higher than the proportion amongst University B’s new first year students where the average was 57% - a vast difference in perceptions at two universities with very similar real outcomes.
Perceptions of employability amongst students across the UK were clearly affected by the economic downturn, but starting last year there have been significant signs of improvement pointing to more up-beat expectations.
In reality there are big differences in graduate employability outcomes at different universities – this is shown by the DLHE survey. And our Higher Expectations data also measures big differences in perceptions of employability at different universities. In general these map to each other quite well. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the reality of excellent graduate employment prospects isn’t feeding in to student perceptions.
With the increasing importance of future employability in decision making institutions that do well in terms of employability outcomes, yet fail to communicate this effectively, could be squandering a great competitive advantage.
Higher Expectations will continue to monitor perceptions of future employability year-on-year. For information on how your institution measures up, contact the HE team on 020 7374 0997 for more information, or send us an enquiry.