Graduate Outcomes Survey: fall in employment rate for Covid-impacted graduates

Hesa has published more of the open data behind its second Graduate Outcomes Survey, following the statistical bulletin released last week

A more detailed view of the second Graduate Outcomes Survey has been released today (Tue 27 July) by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

The larger suite of open data tables and charts puts substantial meat on the statistical bones published by Hesa last week.

More than 700,000 of the UK’s 2018/19 graduate cohort were questioned approximately 15 months after finishing their studies.

Subjects covered include breakdowns by HE provider, area of study, detailed occupational classification, subjective wellbeing, and salary levels by personal characteristics.

“The richness of the data cannot easily be captured in headline statistics, but will serve a broad range of users including current and future students,” said Hesa.

The data will be invaluable for policymakers working to restore the economy and researchers trying to understand the impacts of the last remarkable 18 months – Hesa

Moreover, like-for-like analysis comparing the latest survey with last year’s inaugural effort is partly clouded by the fact that most 2018/19 graduates were surveyed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

That said, the figures perhaps suggest a smaller impact on employment rates than had been feared. Eighty per cent of 2018/19 graduate respondents were either employed or undertaking unpaid work, a drop of only 3% on the previous year.

Similarly, there was little difference in the responses of the subjective wellbeing questions for 2018/19 graduates compared to those from 2017/18.

More stark, and entirely unsurprising, was the 50% drop in the proportion of graduates who took time out to travel, falling from 1.4% to 0.7%.

Other findings from the 2018/19 survey include:

  • The pay gap between male and female full-time first degree graduates in full-time paid employment was greatest among those in the high skilled group. More than 60% of females were earning salaries below £27,000, compared with less than half of males
  • Black graduates are even more likely to be unemployed 15 months after leaving university than white contemporaries. Of the 2018/19 cohort, 7% of UK-domiciled black graduates and 4% of white graduates were unemployed; in 2017/18 the respective figures were 5% and 3%
  • Graduates who studied part-time were less likely to say they “felt anxious yesterday” than their full-time peers
  • Science students were significantly more likely to reply to the survey than those studying non-science subject areas, with a response rate 6% greater

You may also like: New data shows graduate outcomes vary substantially between subjects and universities


The Graduate Outcomes Survey replaces the destinations of leavers from higher education (DLHE) survey, criticised for both its narrowness of questioning and for inquiring after graduates only six months after course completion.

Hesa stresses that it is marking this second set of statistics as experimental, because they are newly developed or innovative and undergoing evaluation.

“Data both on the activities and the subjective feelings of graduates this year will be invaluable for policymakers working to restore the economy and researchers trying to understand the impacts of the last remarkable 18 months,” said a Hesa spokesperson.

Click here to see the results of the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey in full.

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