HEA publishes Graduate Outcomes and Socio-Economic Status Report

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 16 February, 2023

Students with their arms around each others shoulders looking into the sun wearing graduation gowns and caps

The HEA today published a report on the findings of Graduate Outcomes for Various Socio-Economic Groups.  A range of groups have been illustrated in the group such as those designated affluent and disadvantaged. These are defined by attaching a Deprivation Index Score which is outlined below. These have been linked to the Graduate Outcomes Survey report to track their progress post-graduation.


The analysis in this report is obtained by linking the HEA Graduate Outcomes Survey Class of 2020 data with graduate Deprivation Index Scores (DIS). (See notes)

The main findings in this report are as follows:

  1. Overall, almost one in five graduates from the class of 2020 were from affluent backgrounds while fewer than one in 10 were from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  2. The overall average deprivation index score was 2.3. Across degree levels, those graduating with an undergraduate degree were from less affluent areas (1.8) than those graduating with a postgraduate degree (3.7).
  3. On average female graduates were less affluent than males, albeit the gap was relatively small between the two groups (2.1 versus 2.5). This holds true for those graduating with an undergraduate and a postgraduate degree.
  4. One in four Social Sciences, Journalism & Information graduates were from affluent backgrounds, while the average DIS was 3.6. In contrast, there was an equal proportion of Services graduates from disadvantaged/marginally below average backgrounds as there was from affluent/marginally above average backgrounds. At 14%, Services had the highest share of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  5. Overall, 67% of graduates were in full-time employment nine months after graduation with a further 6% in part-time employment. Little variation between DIS groups in terms of employment levels is observed. At 17%, affluent graduates have the highest proportion pursuing further studies, compared to 15% across all DIS groups and just 13% for disadvantaged graduates. Disadvantaged graduates report the largest share of unemployed graduates (9%), while affluent graduates report the lowest share (6%).
  6. Human Health and Social Work Activities was the largest sector of employment (17%) followed by Education (16%) and Financial, Insurance and Real Estate Activities (13%). A relatively large proportion of affluent graduate’s work in Financial, Insurance and Real Estate Activities (17%) and ICT (9%) compared to the overall average.
  7. 56% of working graduates reported working in Professional occupations. The share of affluent graduates working in Professional occupations was largest at 60% and lowest for disadvantaged graduates at 51%. This difference is largely explained by the fact that a larger share of disadvantaged graduates work in Sales and Customer Service (10%) and Caring, Leisure and Other Service occupations (7%) than the overall average.


Chairperson of the HEA, Michael Horgan, said:

I welcome today’s announcement of the release of the Graduate Outcomes Survey and Socio-Economic report. This report adds to the evidence base of tracking the post-graduation progress of various socio-economic groups as per the National Access Plan, 2022 – 2028. We look forward to tracking these groups over the coming years and to seeing increasingly stronger outcomes for all our graduates’.




The analysis in this report is obtained by linking the HEA Graduate Outcomes Survey Class of 2020 data with graduate Deprivation Index Scores (DIS).


Deprivation Index Scores measure the relative affluence or deprivation of a particular geographical area. This uses data from the 2016 Census, and is measured right down to street level, based on small-area statistics (on average, 80-100 households). Ten key indicators are included in the calculation of this measure (e.g., proportion of skilled professionals, employment levels, education levels).


The Graduate Outcomes Survey is a national survey, conducted annually, and distributed to graduates of higher education institutions (HEIs), nine months after graduation.  The response rate to the 2020 survey was approximately 50%, with just under 30,000 graduates providing detailed information on their main graduate destination nine months after graduation.


This analysis is limited to Irish domiciled graduates only, as DIS information is not available for graduates with a home address outside of Ireland. Removing non-Irish domiciled graduates reduced the sample to 25,531. Of the remaining sample, DIS coverage stood at just over 88%, providing a final analytical sample of 22,401 graduates.


The analytical sample may vary throughout the chapters in the report depending on the response rate to specific questions. For example, while 22,401 graduates provided information on their main graduate destination (Chapter 3 & 4), only 11,463 provided information on their salary (chapter 5). While salary will not be relevant for some graduates that are pursuing further education, or those who are unemployed, some that are in employment may respond “prefer not to say”.


Structure of Report

The report is available in the form of an interactive, digital report, published on the HEA website. This includes the use of interactive tables facilitating more detailed analyses.

Link to interactive, digital report: https://hea.ie/statistics/graduate-outcomes-data-and-reports/graduate-outcomes-for-access-groups/2-foreword-gosdis-2020/


Readers can browse and explore data under the following chapter headings:

  1. Foreword
    • This chapter provides the policy context for the report.



    • This chapter explains the methodology of the report and gives key findings.


3. Graduate Profile

    • This chapter sets out the socio-economic profile of graduates.


4. Main Graduate Destination

    • This chapter provides high-level findings on the main graduate destinations, nine months after graduation (employment, further study, other activity, unemployment) for different socio-economic groups.


4. Employment details

    • This chapter provides more detailed findings on the sectors of employment, occupations, and contract types of graduates in different socio-economic groups.


5. Earnings Analysis

    • This chapter examines graduate salaries for undergraduates and postgraduates for different socio-economic groups.


6. Further information

  • This chapter gives contact details for those seeking further information.


This report will be released on 16 February 2023.  Please address any queries to statistics@hea.ie and access@hea.ie.

More: graduate outcomes, socio economic

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