Changes to Graduate Outcomes fees for providers

Graduate outcomes is all over the latest OfS regulatory proposals. And guess who is paying for it?

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Running Graduate Outcomes is an expensive business. The replacement for the old Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) collection is conducted centrally by HESA and IFF research, and involves – respectively – emailing and calling graduates around 15 months after graduation based on data supplied by providers.

In the old DLHE model all of the cost of chasing up graduates to respond to surveys was borne by providers, but the Graduate Outcomes cost savings there need to be offset against the amount charged by HESA to providers. Even though Graduate Outcomes is mandatory – providers registered with OfS, for instance, are required to take part – the fees are charged over and above the statutory HESA subscription.

From February 2022 each provider in England will pay £425 as a fixed fee (which seems reasonable) plus £6.51 per UK or EU graduate and £4.36 per non-EU international graduate involved (which will soon add up) for Graduate Outcomes.  This is a fall in the fixed fee and international graduate components, but a rise for UK and EU graduate related fees. Costs to providers in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland take a few pence of each per-student fees. HESA notes that a rise in the number of graduate interviews that need to be conducted by phone compared to existing expectations is behind the rise in fees.

The announcement of these changes today comes alongside a series of OfS consultations that cement the place of Graduate Outcomes survey responses within regulation. Based on my back-of-an-envelope calculations (HESA doesn’t publish data on qualifiers by provider and domicile) most providers will end up paying more.

It has long been questionable why HESA (and, for that matter, QAA) needs to charge fees direct to providers for statutory services where the design and scope (and thus the overall cost of delivery) of these services is defined by each of the UK’s regulators. Surely it would make more sense to charge regulators directly?

In England section 67 of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 sets out the ability for the Designated Data Body to charge subscription fees to providers. It does not, as is often claimed, mandate this model of funding – the only thing stopping OfS from funding HESA directly is a desire to keep OfS fees down.

Quite why the sector has to pay fees to the regulator when it still gets a chunk of funding direct from DfE is another matter entirely.

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