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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter invites all higher education institutions and directly funded further education colleges to publish an employability statement on the commentary section of the Unistats web-site (www.unistats.com) and through their own communication channels. For further education colleges, this statement would relate only to their higher education provision. It also provides an update about work under way to review employment data and performance indicators.

2.   Institutions should publish a statement by Tuesday 31 August 2010 to help prospective students make informed choices for entry in 2011-12. Guidance on producing employability statements is provided at Annex A. Additional web resources to help develop employability statements are provided.

3.   All institutions are required to respond.

Background

4.   The Government's Coalition Programme, published in May 2010see note 1, signalled its intent to publish more information about the costs, graduate earnings and student satisfaction of different university courses. Graduate employability has been highlighted as a key priority for business by the Confederation of British Industry, and for students by the National Student Forum which, in its recent report, emphasised the importance of opportunities for students to enhance their work-related skillssee note 2.

5.   We recognise that higher education (HE) prepares students for employment in many ways: through study and through the broader experiences that students have while on their course. In their lifetimes, graduates have varied careers; their HE experiences should prepare them with the capability to make a smooth transition to work, but equally give them the opportunity for intellectual and personal development, to be effective and adaptable within a rapidly changing economy and society.

6.   Many universities and colleges are already highly active in supporting the employability of their students on vocational and non-vocational programmes. They have developed distinctive approaches that reflect their ethos, their subject specialisms and links with employers, as well as their students’ needs. Within a diverse HE system, prospective students need good-quality information about the support and opportunities available to them in order to make decisions about their future. In a more competitive funding environment, in which students and employers may increasingly make a more substantial contribution to costs, institutions also need to ensure they present effectively the benefits of what they offer.

Information on employment and support for employability

7.   HEFCE is working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and key partners to help improve the presentation of information on employability support for students entering HE in 2011-12.

8.   This is part of a longer-term review of public information that is already under way. It is expected to consider employability and employment information including Teaching Quality Information (TQI) and the National Student Survey (NSS). The review is part of further development of the quality assurance system and will go out for consultation, jointly with Universities UK and GuildHE, in autumn 2010.

9.   Through the overall public information review we will identify what information students need and would find useful about employment and support for employability. Employment data are already published through the Unistats web-site. Working with the Higher Education Statistics Agency and other funding councils, we are also investigating how data on employment outcomes can be enhanced. The following long-term programme is under way:

  • reviews of the six-month and longitudinal Destination of Leavers from HE surveys
  • review of current classifications of employment outcomes to reflect labour market changes
  • the Performance Indicators Steering Group will consider developing measures based on the types of employment undertaken by graduates.

10.   To support the work of the Performance Indicators Steering Group we will develop a number of approaches to classifying employment outcomes. A HEFCE issues paper exploring various classifications of employment outcome at a sector-wide level will be published in summer 2010.

11.   An indicative timeline for the data review programme is outlined at Annex B.

Employability statements

12.   The public information and employment data reviews will inform our longer-term approach for entrants from 2012-13 onwards. As an interim step, we invite institutions to publish a short statement on the support they provide to students to enhance their employability. This will ensure that students entering in 2011-12 have greater clarity about what support will be available. This has been identified as a priority by the National Student Forum.

13.   The employability statement is intended to be a short summary of what universities and colleges offer to their students to support their employability and their transition into employment and beyond. Statements are not intended to duplicate existing information that many universities already provide through their web-sites, but to make this easily comparable and accessible to students and to strengthen its profile and visibility.

14.   Universities and colleges are asked to publish their statement in the commentary section of the Unistats web-site, and in their own communication channels (such as web-site and in future prospectuses). As we are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of employment data, statements should focus on the support available to students rather than outcomes data on employment. Data on employment outcomes are already available at detailed subject level on the Unistats web-site.

15.   This approach is designed to enable institutions to provide information in time to inform students applying for 2011 entry in a way that minimises the administrative burden on institutions. We believe the statements also provide an opportunity to promote more broadly the extent and breadth of what HE is already doing to support employability. We are working with the Higher Education Academy to identify how we can continue to support sharing of good practice in the longer term.

16.   Guidance notes to help institutions develop statements are at Annex A. Statements should address the four priority areas identified in the notes (careers, work experience, curriculum support and accreditation), but the examples given in the guidance are not prescriptive.

17.   Institutions that have distinctive or innovative approaches to supporting employability are encouraged to reflect these in their statements.

18.   HEFCE institutional teams will check the progress of the publication of the statements during the summer and we intend to review the statements in the autumn to inform development of the HEFCE/Universities UK/GuildHE consultation in autumn 2010.

19.   Should you have any queries about the contents of this letter, e-mail employabilitystatements@hefce.ac.uk.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive


Notes

  1. 'The Coalition: our programme for government' can be read in full at www.hmg.gov.uk under The Coalition: our programme for government.
  2. The National Student Forum report can be read in full at www.nationalstudentforum.com under Annual Report 2009.

Date: 10 June 2010

Ref: Circular letter 12/2010

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Enquiries should be directed to:

Katherine Swainson, tel 0117 931 7259, e-mail employabilitystatements@hefce.ac.uk