Understanding the limitations of graduate outcome measures in higher education – September 2018

Practice area:Economics of Education | Education and Labour Markets | Further education | Higher education | Labour market economics | Labour markets
Published: 8 October, 2018
Keywords: quantitative analysis

The structure and level of higher education student support funding continue to be key policy questions for the UK Government. Perceived as financially unstable, the current arrangements have recently been the subject of numerous Parliamentary reports on higher education fees and funding. In parallel to these reviews of the current structure of student support arrangements, and given the increasing stock of student loan debt in the National Accounts, the Office for Budget Responsibility has recently questioned current accounting practices in relation to student loans. As a result, the Office for National Statistics has been tasked with providing updated guidance on how student loans should be accounted for in the National Accounts.

In this policy environment, the development of new matched (Longitudinal Educational Outcomes) data covering graduates’ early scholastic record, higher education career, and post-graduation earnings/employment outcomes, has been perceived as crucial. Such data allows for the potential investigation of labour market outcomes at a very granular level, which has been suggested will provide the necessary evidence for the consideration of a range of policy alternatives with respect to higher education tuition fee and student support arrangements

However, the LEO data, although useful for a range of purposes, should not be used as the only measure of graduate success in the labour market. There are many critical gaps in the data. London Economics, commissioned by GuildHE, undertook a detailed assessment of the limitations associated with the LEO data, and identified many of the reasons why it should not be used as the only basis for assessing the economic value associated with higher education qualification attainment.