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The Intentions After Graduation Survey (IAGS) asks final year undergraduate students at English higher education institutions what they plan to do after university [Note 1]. HEFCE has analysed how the responses of those graduating in 2016 compare with previous years, and also how the intentions of those who graduated in 2015 matched what they actually did.

The key findings of these analyses are about the intention to go on to postgraduate study. These include the following:

  • Black and Asian graduates were less likely than white graduates to fulfil their intentions to go on to postgraduate study.
  • Fewer students from disadvantaged backgrounds who said they would do postgraduate study actually did. Among those who intended to go on, the proportion who did so was 9 percentage points lower than for the least disadvantaged graduates.
  • Over two-thirds of all respondents to IAGS in 2016 said that they would be likely or very likely to study at postgraduate level if a postgraduate loan of around £10,000 was introduced [Note 2].
  • The factors most likely to deter students from continuing to postgraduate study were course fees and the overall cost of living. These concerns were greatest among students from the most disadvantaged areas, and these students were especially likely to say that postgraduate loans would encourage them to study further.

Overall, there are few differences in intentions between students of different gender, social background and disability status, although there are large differences between ethnic groups. White students are the least likely to intend to do postgraduate study, and students of Chinese background are the most likely.

The survey responses from 2015 were linked to the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2016, to see how students’ intentions shortly before graduation matched their actual destinations. A large proportion of those who went on to postgraduate study did not have firm plans to do so just months earlier. Just over a third (36 per cent) of those who entered postgraduate study in 2015-16 had said they intended to do so. Conversely, of those who planned to go straight on to postgraduate study, about 67 per cent actually did so.

Graduates who had intended to go on to postgraduate study, but who got lower degree classifications, were more likely to revise their plans and go into work instead. Similarly, of those who had not intended to do postgraduate study, those getting firsts and upper seconds were most likely to change their minds. However, degree classification does not explain the differences between graduates of different ethnicities and social backgrounds.

The analyses are presented in two companion publications: ‘Breakdown of responses by questions and characteristics of students’ (HEFCE 2016/37) and ‘Investigating the actual destinations of respondents to the Intentions After Graduation Survey 2015’ (HEFCE 2016/38). An interactive data tool is also available on the HEFCE website.

Notes

1. All final-year undergraduate students at UK higher education institutions who respond to the National Student Survey are asked to complete the IAGS survey. 139,000 students answered it in 2016.

2. This question was based on consultation on a new postgraduate loan programme introduced in August 2016. The 2016 IAGS was answered between 11 January and 30 April, before the introduction of the postgraduate loans but following the initial announcement.

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