What’s in a name? Arriving at Graduate Outcomes

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The NewDLHE review marks a significant new stage in the collection of data on graduate outcomes.  The new model will enable us to provide high-quality data that meets current and anticipated future needs, while also realising efficiencies in the collection process. The data that will be available, including new graduate voice measures, will expand our understanding of what graduate success means.

Developing this new model has given us the challenge of finding a new name for the dataset. We knew this was important, as the name is crucial in encouraging engagement with the survey, and in ensuring the data we publish communicates authority and rigour. I am very pleased to announce that the name we arrived at to meet these aims is ‘Graduate Outcomes’.

We thought this name may prompt comment (and Twitter didn’t disappoint when we announced this earlier today), and so I want to provide an overview of how we got to it, and how we hope it will be used.

What about DLHE?

Our first challenge was deciding whether we should maintain the current name in whole or in part. As the outcome of the NewDLHE review is an entirely new model of collecting data on graduates, we decided it would require a new name. We also felt that the current name, the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, did not encourage the engagement we required. It is overly wordy, with an unhelpful acronym (those who know me will know one of my pet peeves is the misspelling of the acronym – I’ve seen DHLE, DELHE, delhi, DELI among others)

The terms within the name are also becoming outdated. A graduate’s position at fifteen months is no longer likely to be seen as their ‘destination’. The graduate labour market is changing with more flexibility, meaning a graduate is likely to switch jobs a number of times within the first few years of leaving university. Equally, while ‘leavers’ is technically accurate, I don’t know of any former student who would naturally think of themselves as a ‘leaver from higher education’.

While the DLHE dataset is still widely used and highly influential, in designing the replacement we needed to develop a name more suited to the current and future HE sector and graduate labour market.

The naming process

Our next step was to source potential names. These were then sifted to remove the more creative ideas: DLHE McDLHEface, Grads R Us and Destiny’s Children had to go (unfortunately). This left us with a shortlist of eight which were taken to an internal focus group and assessed against a number of criteria (eagle eyed followers of #NewDLHE on Twitter, will have seen Dan Cook tweet a photo of this session back in April).

The focus group included open discussion and some strictly confidential scoring. Calculations were done and Graduate Outcomes came out on top. We proposed this name to the NewDLHE strategic and working groups to ensure we had the sector’s insight and expertise. These groups have a diverse make up, including NUS, higher education providers, and data users.

Introducing Graduate Outcomes

The name ‘Graduate Outcomes’ is meaningful and descriptive to a range of audiences, from graduates completing the survey, to the data users analysing the numbers. Its simplicity and clarity will help to encourage engagement, while communicating authority. There is also potential for cobranding; it could become the Fibchester University Graduate Outcomes survey. This would help graduates to clearly see a link with their provider.

Another advantage is that the name has some international comparability. The equivalent surveys in Australia and the Republic of Ireland are also named the Graduate Outcome survey, meaning it is a name which is already well established.

A new name requires a shared understanding of how it will be used. We have published brand guidelines, the headline of which is probably our hope that Graduate Outcomes will be used in full, without the need for the higher education sector to cope with another unhelpful acronym (sorry Paul Greatrix). This didn’t stop the inevitable Twitter discussion – GO? GOS? GOD? GradOut? GrOut? GrOS? We also recognise that these guidelines will evolve as the Graduate Outcomes survey becomes embedded in the sector. But we wanted to begin by offering our recommendations for how we think we can maintain this name (and the data itself) as authoritative and compelling for our audiences.

The name is only one factor in a much larger project to implement the new model. But the choice of name exemplifies some of the key challenges we’re facing – about implementing a model that needs to: be future-proof; appeal to a wide selection of society; and retain a close connection with the graduate’s university or college. You can find out more about the other strands of the project on the HESA website, or sign-up to our Jiscmail list to keep updated on developments

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