Graduate outcomes vary substantially between subjects and universities, new data shows

There are 44 providers where fewer than 55% of students find graduate employment or postgraduate places 15 months after completing a degree

New official statistics show that the chances of a graduate finding a professional job or pursuing postgraduate study the year after finishing a degree varies widely depending on where and what they study.

The higher education regulator in England – the Office for Students (OfS) – today published a new experimental measure that projects the graduate progression rates to professional employment or further study 15 months after finishing a degree.

OfS chief executive Nicola Dandridge said the data “brings into sharp focus the fact that there are profound differences in outcomes for students”.

The OfS has calculated a “proceed rate” for 131 universities and other higher education providers, projecting outcomes of approximately 350,000 students. It has no current plans to use this “proceed data” for regulatory purposes – but is pursuing a consultation on regulating degree quality and standards.

The statistics reveal “substantial differences” between universities and subjects, the regulator said. According to the OfS, 22 providers can boast that over three-quarters of entrants will find graduate jobs or postgraduate places 15 months after graduation but projects that students at 25 providers have less than a 50% chance of doing the same. There are 44 providers with progression rates below 55%, including several specialist centres, like art colleges, and providers that tend to recruit students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

In-demand vocational subjects often have the best postgraduate proceed rates, with 95.5% of medicine and dentistry entrants likely to find professional employment or further study. Six subjects – sociology, social policy and anthropology; agriculture, food and related studies; business and management; psychology; media, journalism and communications; and sport and exercise sciences – have a “proceed rate” below 55%.

Although the figures measure the percentage of students that find high-skilled employment or postgraduate study, the OfS modified its “positive outcomes” criteria to include activities such as caring responsibilities or travelling.

Dandridge said the figures provided “good independent information” for prospective applicants but added that “it is important to value all the wider benefits of higher education”.

She also caveated the data with the observation that “many of the financial benefits of higher education are not realised immediately after graduation”.

Read more: Improving access to degree apprenticeships for disadvantage students a priority, skills minister says

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