Black graduates less satisfied with their careers, finds Hesa

New report shows significant ethnic differences in career satisfaction

Hesa research published today [22 September] has found that Black graduates are less likely to report being satisfied with their careers.

The data is based on the responses of 111,950 UK domiciled graduates from different ethnic backgrounds.

It comes from the Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (LDLHE) surveys conducted in winter 2014/15 and 2016/17, which surveyed graduates approximately three and a half years after they finished their studies (during the 2010/11 and 2012/13 academic years, respectively).

The research’s key findings

  • Black graduates who enter higher education aged 25 or under are 2.6 percentage points less likely to report being satisfied with their career than White peers in the same age group.
  • For older graduates, the difference was even greater at approximately 9 percentage points.

The research controlled for a range of factors correlated with both ethnicity and career satisfaction, including socioeconomic status, subject studied, degree attainment, activities after graduation, periods of unemployment and an individual’s experience of higher education.

“This study represents one of the first instances in which HESA have utilised a more disaggregated version of the ethnicity variable in conducting analysis,” said Hesa’s Tej Nathwani, who led the research.

“Where sample size allows, we will continue with this approach in forthcoming research we undertake (for example, using the Graduate Outcomes survey). Collectively, we will use our findings to assess how we can improve our Official Statistics publications, as well as the Graduate Outcomes questionnaire.”

‘Unexplained differences’

The report concludes: “Although our work allows us to control for a wide range of possible variables, unexplained differences remain in the career satisfaction experienced by graduates from different ethnic backgrounds three and a half years after course completion.

“We would recommend further research on this matter, which we believe should be of a qualitative nature in the first instance. This would enable a more detailed exploration into the determinants of graduate career satisfaction (including, for example, the role of careers services, family background, debt, etc.), thus advancing knowledge in this area. Such a study is likely to prove informative not only to organisations like ourselves in evaluating what quantitative data we need to collect, but also to those establishments involved in providing careers advice to students and graduates.”

The University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said the data were “yet another illustration of how structural racism entrenches inequality throughout black people’s lives”.

“UCU is ready to work with universities to tackle racism but we need real action, not just warm words, if institutions are to become truly inclusive and equitable.

The union said universities must address their own employment practices if they are serious about becoming inclusive workplaces and pointed to research that shows only 140 professional academic staff in the UK identify as black and a 26% race pay gap at Russell Group universities.


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