NewDLHE model close to full assembly

This morning HESA has launched the second and final consultation for the NewDLHE – fully equipped with a proposed new model for the survey based on a nearly year-long review.

Graduate employment and employability remain a top priority policy area for the sector, but the current Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey (DLHE) has been a controversial metric since its inception. Despite being the sector’s most misspelt acronym, outcomes from the DLHE play a significant role in higher education performance management and league tables, and the data will be a key metric in the TEF.

As we have covered on Wonkhe previously, criticism of the DLHE’s current methodology and the introduction of Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data have provided the impetus for review. HESA also hopes to take the opportunity to make the survey more efficient: the proposed new model should save around £1.5 million across the higher education sector.

New Model Survey

One of the biggest changes proposed by HESA, and one of the biggest cost-savings, is thee move to ‘open centralisation’ of the survey through a third party data collector. This means the administration of the survey would no longer be organised by higher education providers, many of whom conduct it in house. Concerns about institutions using this for ‘gaming’ the DLHE made centralisation a likely outcome of the review. Although HESA proposes continuing to allow higher education providers to still have input into the data collection process, such as advising contractors of the optimum time to phone their graduates and selecting optional questions, open centralisation will better ensure that the data is fair and robust. Still, spare a thought for the thousands of students who will no longer get a quick cash injection as DLHE phone operators.

With many unhappy about the use of employment metrics as a key metric in the TEF, the NewDLHE model proposes introducing broader measures of graduate success other than employment and income, snappily titled “graduate voice” measures. These include graduates views on the meaningfulness of their activity, how their skills are being used, and their progress towards future goals. The new survey will also gather information on creative portfolios, graduates starting their own businesses, and non-traditional careers paths, which will be a considerable addition for the creative arts sector in particular.

Crucially, HESA proposes that the new survey be conducted 15 months after a graduate leaves higher education, as opposed to the current 6 months and 18 months. The choice of 15 months is obviously a compromise between the two current survey dates, though in practice it is the 6 month survey that has garnered most attention in the media, league tables and TEF. Moving the ‘graduate snapshot’ further back should enable a more sophisticated picture of graduate outcomes to be recorded.

The NewDLHE will also be linked to existing student identifier data, and most interestingly, to DfE’s LEO data on salary outcomes. It is now more important than ever for the sector to pay significant attention to the spring release of LEO, which will breakdown graduate salaries by institutions and courses. Linking the NewDLHE to LEO will enable the latter to be better contextualised, though the concerns about salary data being used as a core metric in TEF are not going to go away anytime soon.

Today marks the launch of this final consultation on this new model, and closes on 7th April. Following this, the first NewDLHE survey will run in December 2018, with the first results published in January 2020, with LEO data to follow in May 2020. As it happens, that’ll be just in time for the proposed subject level TEF.

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