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Graduate Outcomes Survey


New Graduate Outcomes Survey for Irish Higher Education (in development 2015-2017)


The Higher Education Authority’s First Destinations Survey was first carried out by the institutions in 1982 and the results of this survey continue to benefit policy makers, students, guidance counsellors, teachers and all with an interest in education. Graduate destinations data reflects higher education’s contribution to the economy through the provision of graduate labour from undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and gathering and communicating graduate destinations data is particularly relevant in the current economic climate in Ireland. More generally, the HEA strives to produce high-quality, consistent, relevant and timely statistical information on higher education to underpin the development of policy and services to meet the needs of the learner, education providers and other users. A strong evidence-base allows for the enhancement of accountability and transparency in the education sector, and for better informed decision-making.


The report of the most recent survey on the first destinations of gradates, What Do Graduates Do 2013, gives outputs of the 2013 HEA survey.  It shows the employment and further studies outcomes of graduates nine months after graduation.  It breaks these figures down by field of study, salary and gender.  It also considers the relevance of the graduate’s area of study to their sector of employment.


As noted above, the current graduate survey has been in place since the 1980s and is in need of updating and improvement.  Fundamentally, the HEA wishes to extend the participation of institutions not currently taking part in the survey, and situate the survey data within a new relational database that will allow for greater data accuracy and linking of survey data across its systems.  The incorporation of a longitudinal element to the survey is also desirable to allow the tracking of graduates through their career. 

It is expected that the new database will provide the following:

  • Data on graduate qualifications and employment both within Ireland and overseas
  • Relevance of employment to area of study
  • Data on graduate further study
  • Data on graduate unemployment and unavailability for work
  • Career progression of graduates through longitudinal data
  • Consistent data across institutions
  • Graduate perceptions of the quality and relevance of their higher education experience


This information will be of use to higher education institutions, government departments and state agencies, researchers, career guidance counsellors and teachers.




The project is being carried out by the HEA, which operates with the guidance of a Steering Group, made up of representatives from the higher education institutions, state and government bodies, and student and employer groups.

There are two subgroups to the Steering Group:

  • The survey design subgroup: to decide on the survey content, both annual and longitudinal, taking account of current graduate surveys in place, new information requirements, and international best practice.
  • The technical subgroup: to establish the data requirements of the new database system through which the survey data will be uploaded to the HEA. 


Both of these committees report directly to the Steering Group and include representation from members of the Steering Group.


Progress to date

The Steering Group will have met three times in 2015, and has considered a review of international practice carried out by the HEA.  The Survey Design Subgroup has begun work on the drafting of a new survey, taking account of guidance provided by the Steering Group.  The survey will be finalised in late 2015/early 2016 and implementation of the technical requirements associated with carrying out the new survey will take place in 2016, based on the work of the Technical Subgroup.  It is intended that the new survey should be ready for its first iteration by March 2017.

Graduate Outcomes Survey - Review of International Practice

This is a review of international practice, carried out by the HEA in 2015.  It was used to inform the development of a new graduate outcomes survey for Irish higher education.

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