The live blog of the joint Wonkhe and HESA conference on the future of the DLHE. See the agenda in full here and stay up to date with the discussions below. #NewDLHE.
Our first panel discussion has begun, and we open with Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln.
Stuart begins with emphasising that success in the graduate labour market is a “dynamic situation” and cannot be evaluated in a fixed time-period. External factors affect graduates’ prospects as much as the education they receive, as shown by Charlie Ball’s presentation.
Stuart emphasises the geographical diversity in labour market prospects, pointing to Lincolnshire’s continued economic struggles: “people said we won’t feel the recession because we never had a boom”. Stuart makes the case for wider societal benefits of higher education and producing graduates: “we lost that argument but we need to go back to it”.
Stephen Isherwood of the Association of Graduate Recruiters begins by saying we make two mistakes when thinking about the UK labour market. Firstly, the UK labour market is completely different to many other countries. Companies are far more likely to employ graduates who did subjects not connected to their occupation, such as recruiting historians into accountancy. Secondly, the graduate labour market is really many different and distinct labour markets, but too often we generalise.
There is a mismatch in information for students and recent graduates about where skills shortages exist and what opportunities are available. Many graduates are unsure about what they want to do.
Isherwood concludes by suggesting that the apprenticeship levy could fundamentally change how employers approach recruitment. Demand for degree apprentices could be substantially increased.
We conclude with Sorana Vieru of NUS. She begins by arguing that the current debate over the TEF and the HE Bill may restrict the range of our thinking on such a wide-ranging question. The question goes to the heart of political debates within students and within NUS that have been taking place in recent years, and Vieru has argued that the student interest lies primarily in influencing the state of the labour market, which is becoming increasingly polarised. She suggests that economic issues are often being confused with educational issues.
NUS welcome the HESA consultation paper – “it’s rare that we praise new initiatives in the sector, so props to HESA”. It is most important to measure social and civic outcomes of higher education beyond graduate salaries.
“We lost a big argument a couple of weeks ago”, argues Charlie Ball. The non-graduate half of the population does not see the value for the whole of society brought by the graduate half of the sector. Outcomes data should demonstrate public value for higher education to prove its worth.
Charlie takes us through the separate shocks of Brexit: the uncertainty caused prior to the referendum, the uncertainty after the vote, and the likely shock that occurs once withdrawal from the EU is complete.
Prior to the vote, recruitment had already slowed. Recruitment decisions were paused in February, around the time Boris Johnson declared for the Leave campaign.
Looking at unemployment rates for graduates our time since the 1970s, we see that graduates tend to have similar unemployment shocks during recessions, as happened in the late 1970s, the early 1990s and the late 2000s. Expect 10,000 to 20,000 more graduates to suffer with either unemployment or non-professional employment as a result of the coming downturn.
The sectors most affected will be finance, industries reliant on research and development, and higher education itself. Sectors that employ postgraduates will be affected particularly badly.
Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Graduate Prospects, has begun his presentation on the past, present and future graduate labour markets. He begins by describing the pre-Brexit graduate labour market as ‘happy days’ that may now be lost. We shall see…
Charlie introduces us to the prime graduate skills-shortages vacancies: HR professionals, software developers, retails managers, primary teachers, secondary teachers, nurses, quantity surveyors and civil engineers. Brexit will probably exacerbate these gaps, though a downturn in construction may lead to less demand for the latter two occupations.
In the past eleven years, there has been a colossal increase in the number of graduates in the workforce, and the recession only accelerated this increase. The post-Brexit downturn will only increase this. In an economic downturn, people with lower-level qualifications are squeezed out of the labour market the most.
Over the past eleven years, 2.5 million new ‘graduate level’ jobs have been created. On the flipside, the highest paid non-graduate jobs have decreased substantially. The only major non-graduate sector to grow has been in the care sector. Graduates have been insulated from changes in the rest of the economy.
Attendees at today’s event might be interested in a new report from the Centre for Global Higher Education, coincidentally released just before today’s event.
The report is entitled “Should governments of OECD countries worry about graduate over-education?” – it can be read here. The abstract is below.
Dan Cook runs us through the four main aims of the Destinations and Outcomes Review:
- Future proofing the DLHE – Graduate outcomes data needs to be relevant to a rapidly shifting economy and a rapidly changing higher education sector.
- Improving efficiency – Because data collection is carried about by higher education institutions, we currently do not know how much it costs to run the DLHE. One question being considered is whether all or part of the data collection should be centralised with HESA. Linking datasets is also now possible due to the Enterprise Act, and should improve efficiency.
- Fit-for-purpose method – Many have critiqued aspects of the current DLHE methodology, including how graduates have to self-report their outcomes (particularly around salary) but also the timing of collection. Few in the sector are fans of collecting data 6 months after graduation. The Enterprise Act has
- Supporting legislation – The data collected will need to be used across all four UK nations, three of which have devolved governments.
Perhaps the biggest question being considered is whether new measures can be introduced to evaluate graduate outcomes that are not related to graduate salaries. HESA has suggested new measures such as student engagement, a net promoters score, subjective wellbeing, and skills acquired.
Dan Cook, Head of Collections Development at HESA, has begun by giving us an overview of HESA’s strategic objectives and the context in which the DLHE review is taking place.
The DLHE survey has been around for nearly fourteen years. Prior to the DLHE, a national survey collected data on graduate outcomes from the mid-90s onwards, but universities have been collecting information on their graduates’ destinations since at least the 1930s.
The DLHE was devised before many of the ways in which it is used, such as KIS, Unistats, and many league tables.
The current DLHE has much to commend it, but there are a number of criticisms that have given impetus for review.
Mark Leach opens today’s event with a thank you to HESA, our organising partners, and EMSI, today’s sponsors.
Mark reflects on how the past week’s events have often felt very much outside of the sector’s control, and why it is more important than ever to get to work on vital issues such as graduate destinations that will determine the future of the sector.
We have an exciting agenda for today’s event, packed with interesting speakers from across the higher education sector. To whet your appetite for some of the themes under discussion you can read our summary of the issues raised in the HESA consultation document.
9am – Mark Leach, Director and Editor in Chief of Wonkhe, will open proceedings with a welcome and introduction.
9.10am – Dan Cook, Head of Collections Development at HESA, will introduce us to HESA’s DLHE consultation document.
9.35am – Charlie Ball, Head of HE Intelligence at Graduate Prospects, will present an overview of the past, present and future of graduate labour market trends.
10am – Our first panel will discuss ‘What does success in the labour market look like?’ Our panelists are Sorana Vieru, Vice-President (HE) at NUS; Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln; and Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
11am – Our second panel will discuss more technical questions about data size and shape. Our panelists are James Evans, Senior Research Manager at CFE Research; Terry Dray, Director of Graduate Advancement at LJM University; and Liz Bromley, Registrar & Secretary at Goldsmiths.
12am – Our final panel will discuss the future of surveying graduate outcomes, including LEO and earnings data. Our panelists are Gary Sprules, Director of Planning at University of the Arts, London; Dan Cook, and Charlie Ball.
We will be getting underway in about 15 minutes.
The live blog will get underway as the event starts at 9am on Monday morning.