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Blog post on employability

Read the Careers Group blog

The Careers Group (University of London)

This project will evaluate data on careers registration. It will examine whether the data can be used to assess different employability initiatives within institutions. In particular it will consider whether this data can assess how far students are ready for work, predict their future area of employment, and other relevant outcomes.  

Partners: University College London, School of Oriental and African Studies, Goldsmiths, King’s College London, Queen Mary, University of London, St George’s, Royal Veterinary College, St Mary’s University, Liverpool John Moores University, Lancaster University, University of Exeter, University of Bristol

Project methodology: Surveys

Pilot case study

Insight for employability: the implementation and impact of Careers Registration

The aim of this study is to assess whether a small number of questions asked during student enrolment can track development of student employability during their time in higher education, predict employment outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of employability strategies and interventions.

Our case study is based on multiple institutions which are:

Aberystwyth University; City, University of London; Goldsmiths, University of London; King's College London; Lancaster University; Liverpool John Moores University; Queen Mary University of London; Royal Veterinary College; SOAS; University of London St George's; University of London St Mary's; University of Bristol; University of Edinburgh; University of Exeter; University College London; Ulster University

Aims and objectives

To assess whether a small number of questions in student enrolment can:

  • track development of student employability during their time in higher education (distance travelled)
  • evaluate the effectiveness of employability initiatives and intervenions. 

There are five HEFCE success criteria (as per our annual monitoring report submitted October 2016):

  • Analysis: cross-sectional and partial longitudinal analysis of Careers Registration (CR) data
  • Comparison: with existing measures of employability and outcomes e.g. DLHE, HEAR, self-efficacy survey, academic records, retention
  • Implementation – closely monitored roll-out of CR at six partner institutions
  • Application – targeted interventions, widening participation initiatives, engagement with CR data
  • Recommendations – for implementation, application, analysis and impact evaluation.

Experiences and outcomes

Now into the second year of this three-year HEFCE-funded learning gain project, to investigate the use of Careers Registration as a measure of learning gain in relation to work readiness, the project team has grown, welcoming our central data analyst, and increasing our project partners to 16 institutions, including eight careers group member services.   

The project has reached the meta-analytics phase, and as we analyse the 308,000 responses we have collected so far, we are drawing out key measures of career thinking including compete ratios, compete growth, and movement between career thinking categories, as well as investigating widening participation students career thinking journeys during the first phase of analytics.

The student perspective

Students have been involved in pilot focus groups to review the wording of statements, the order of statements and the categories defining progression with their career planning, along with the activities they think should be included as options for the employability enhancing experience question. 

Students said they were:

  • pleased that universities were putting effort into targeted employability support
  • satisfied to see the statements without the category framework we apply for analysis
  • happy not knowing how their career thinking compared with their peers!

The institutional perspective

Institutions have been using the data both strategically and operationally to:

  • engage with academic departments – drawing up partnership agreements
  • inform institutional policy making decisions
  • persuade new/existing employers of student interest in their sectors
  • promote relevant events and support to students from widening participation backgrounds
  • target event marketing to students based on interests expressed in the survey
  • support final year students who identified as not knowing where to begin with career planning.

New learning

We are developing unprecedented insight into student career planning and employability enhancing experience, from the largest employability-focused research project to date in UK higher education. 

43% of final year undergraduates in the sample analysed are in the ‘decide’ phase of their career planning.  

Quotes about the impact of the project

@CareersGroup Careers Registration providing the much needed data for HEIs to tailor careers support. Great conference today.” Rupinder Morrow

“We used the work experience questions to look for those WP students who stated that they had no work experience. We then contacted them to promote our programme which matches eligible students to an employer to give them a better understanding of working in an SME.” Partner institution

Impact for widening participation:
“Social mobility through higher education has to be about getting on and not just getting in. University careers services can play a pivotal role in levelling the playing field and helping students plan for the future.” Bob Gilworth, Director of the Careers Group

“We are looking at whether those students who dropped out of university have displayed any particular patterns in terms of their career-thinking responses and whether there’s anything we can do from a Careers perspective to help these students remain in university.” Partner institution

“Great to hear about the 16-service #careersreg #learninggain project we need to be 'data translators'.” Head of Careers, attending Careers registration learning gain event


  • Data sharing between partner institutions is full of complexities; it is important to plan how data which contains personal information can be shared between institutions and an appropriate agreement, as well as a secure data sharing system put in place.    
  • Institutions need to be aware of the upcoming changes to data protection coming into place in April 2018. Appropriate risk management plan should be in place for the management and storage and legacy of the data. 
  • ‘Compulsory’ responses work best, as this allows for full data capture and linking with administrative data sets for drawing further insight and understanding of employability journeys (e.g. with DLHE data and student academic record). 
  • Balance homogeneity and institutional specificity to achieve meaningful results.

(As per our presentation at the pilot projects meeting in April 2017)


Each of our 16 partner institutions has added or will be adding two to four career-focused questions to compulsory student registration across the timespan of the project. The two core Careers Registration (CR) questions focus on a subjective evaluation of career decidedness and a more objective measure of employability-enhancing experiences gained.

We are evaluating the compatibility of existing implementations of CR in our institutions and using focus groups to assess the impact of variations in question wording, etc.

We are also collecting case studies of the implementation of CR and monitoring the live roll-out of CR at four partner institutions in order to produce a best practice guide for implementing CR in HEIs.  

Cross-sectional and longitudinal meta data analysis is being used to determine any ‘typical/baseline’ trends in patterns of career decidedness and gained experiences across subject areas and disciplines and particular student groups (e.g. widening participation).

We are validity testing CR data by comparing with existing measures of work readiness or employability outcomes (including DLHE, Career Decision Making Self-Efficacy, and Employability Health Check). Initial analysis will compare raw Year 3 CR data with broad DLHE outcomes (e.g. obtained a graduate level job, registered for further study, salary, etc.). Subsequent analyses will compare variations from baseline trends with DLHE outcomes.

Investigating relationships between patterns in CR data and the level of engagement of academic departments with employability initiatives. We are developing and testing an engagement scale, and completed round 2 of testing at our Learning Gain event in May 2017. 

We are reviewing the use of CR data by careers staff for strategic planning, engagement with academics and tailoring/targeting support for students.

Evaluating the usefulness of CR as a predictor of other student outcomes by comparing with other data, e.g. NSS scores, retention and academic outcomes.

Publications and forums

We have given several presentations around Careers Registration more generally, but the examples here relate specifically to the HEFCE learning gain project. 

Insight for employability: the implementation and impact of Careers Registration, Senate House, University of London, 16 May 2017
One day conference dedicated to Careers Registration and Learning Gain

Event materials are available here:

Claim ID: tar8DTtd4whtVATT
Claim Passcode: YappP6oSmTGVZPzD

HEA Surveys Conference
Manchester Conference Centre, 11 May 2017. Where are you right now? Using careers registration to support employability in higher education

Speakers: Dr Bob Gilworth & Fiona Cobb

British Sociological Association Conference: Recovering the Social – Personal Troubles and Public Issues
Abstract ID: W0014810

Presenting Author: Fiona Cobb, Careers Registration Research Project Coordinator

Abstract Title: Careers Registration: An evidence based approach for targeted employability support in higher education.   

Stream Name: Sociology of Education

Session Details: 6 April 2017 at 1515-1645

LEGACY Learning Gain event
Speaker: Dr Bob Gilworth

Session: ‘Let’s start from where you are’: impact and implications of Careers Registration, 8 February 2017

Cobb, F. 'Careers Registration: An Evidence-Based Approach for Targeted Employability Support in Higher Education'

Recovering the Social: Personal Troubles and Public Issues. BSA Annual Conference 2017, University of Manchester, 4-6 April 2017
© 2017 BSA Publications Ltd. pg. 303. ISBN: 978-0-904569-49-0

Further information


Fiona Cobb, Careers Registration Research Project Coordinator, email, tel 020 7863 6063

Author of case study: Fiona Cobb

Find out more about The Careers Group's project

See all learning gain pilot projects


Page last updated 13 December 2017

For further information