Tracking graduate outcomes is crucial to improving the quality of education for students, and outcomes for graduates. In assessing relevance of studies, gender pay gaps and employment outcomes (amongst many other factors), policymakers can bring the voice of graduates to the forefront of evidence-based decisions.
Currently, there are two main approaches to tracking graduate outcomes, detailed below.
1. Graduate Outcomes Survey (HEA)
The Graduate Outcomes Survey is a national survey distributed to all graduates of HEA higher education institutions (HEIs), 9 months after graduation. From the most recent publication (Class of 2021), 75.8% of honours degree graduates were working or due to start work 9 months after graduation. The outputs of this nationwide study highlight the current opportunities and challenges for new graduates. Moreover, in-depth analyses are provided for international graduates and postgraduates, demonstrating the scope and representativeness of this study and more importantly, the far-reaching implications of this study.
Factors explored in the report include employment outcomes, source of employment, location of employment, graduate salaries, relevance of studies to employment, enrolment in further studies, and much more. These factors are further broken down by factors such as gender, field of study, institute type and level of study.
The introduction of a new survey followed extensive collaboration between the HEA, HEIs and all relevant stakeholders. A review of international practice was also carried out.
2. Higher Education Outcomes (CSO)
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) utilizes administrative datasets to form a longitudinal view of graduates’ outcomes. This involves collating data from various relevant public bodies, such as salary data from Revenue, benefits data from the Department of Social Protection, and graduate data from the HEA. Therefore, this approach enables the tracking of graduates longitudinally up to 10 years after graduation.
For the most recent report, see here.
At present, there is limited tracking of graduates who move abroad. The EU Graduate Tracking Initiative aims to unite all European countries in producing standardized graduate tracking, to build stronger and more connected education systems. Moreover, aiding the development of a European Education Area (2025) that focuses on enhancing recognized and transferable qualifications across borders, digitalization, and inclusivity – supporting the needs of all students. The first wave of this initiative is planned for Autumn 2022, with participation from 50% of all member states, further increasing to 80% of all member states by 2025.