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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Public information and graduate salary data

1.   This letter outlines our plans to include subject-level graduate salary information on the Unistats web-site from summer 2011. We welcome comments on these plans, by Friday 4 February 2011.

Background

2.   The provision of information on higher education is a key priority for the Government, and its importance has been acknowledged by the higher education (HE) sector through the current consultation published by HEFCE with Universities UK and GuildHE ('Public information about higher education: Consultation on changes to information published by institutions', HEFCE 2010/31).

3.   As outlined in 'Employability statements' (HEFCE Circular letter 12/2010) we have initiated a long-term programme to improve information about employment outcomes. This includes providing more information about the support institutions provide to enhance their students' employability, reviewing graduate destinations surveys and developing more up-to-date measures of graduate employment.

4.   We have been able to report good progress to date with this programme to Government:

  • all universities and HE colleges, and the majority of large further education colleges, have now published an employability statement on the Unistats web-site
  • we expect to publish a discussion paper on measuring employment outcomes early in 2011
  • the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has completed its review of the six-month Destinations of Leavers from HE (DLHE) survey, and the revised DLHE specification is scheduled for publication in 2011.

5.   Within the context of this programme we have been asked by the Minister for Universities and Science to ensure that prospective students have information on the salaries they might expect on graduation; this information needs to be available by summer 2011.

6.   Although the current public information consultation (HEFCE 2010/31) will guide the longer-term approach to publishing subject-level salary data, some initial development work is needed to meet the Minister's request.

Specification for the publication of salary data

7.   In view of the limited timescale, and the technical complexity of measuring salary data, we established an expert group, the Salary Expert Working Group (details of membership are included in Annex A). This group will make recommendations to, and is convened under the aegis of, the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG). For further detail about HEPISG and the development of the quality assurance system in England see 'Future arrangements for quality assurance in England and Northern Ireland: Outcomes of consultation' (HEFCE 2010/17).

8.   The Salary Expert Working Group (SEG) met in January 2011 and was asked to recommend a defensible and robust salary specification using existing administrative data from the DLHE survey and Longitudinal DLHE survey (the latter asks graduates 40 months after they qualify about their career and HE experience).

9.   In brief, the SEG agreed that salary data should only be published where the salary is known for at least half of the students who went on to full-time employment from their subject. The group also agreed that there will need to be a minimum number of salaries given before data can be published at subject level. Although it did not agree a minimum, the group agreed that the numeric threshold should be as low as possible so that the maximum amount of data can be published. HEFCE and HESA will undertake work to establish this threshold.

10.   The SEG considered six options for presenting the data:

  1. Simple median.
  2. Simple mean.
  3. Median or mean salary data after six months, with aggregated comparator data for all institutions after six and 40 months (as reported through the Longitudinal DLHE survey).
  4. A distribution showing the spread of graduate salaries.
  5. Upper and lower quartiles, where quartiles divide the distribution into four equal parts.
  6. Percentage over a fixed salary, for example, the percentage that earn more than £21,000.

11.   The SEG agreed that, when looking at data for a given subject at a given institution, the following nine items of information should be given:

  • upper quartile, median and lower quartile for the subject at the institution of interest
  • upper quartile, median and lower quartile for the subject across all institutions
  • upper quartile, median and lower quartile for the subject across all institutions at 40 months (this figure to be derived from the Longitudinal DLHE survey).

Where users are comparing subjects and/or institutions by default only the median figures will be given. Users will however be able to see the full data using drill down functionality.

12.   Additionally, the SEG recommended that guidance to these data be developed for users of Unistats. To ensure the maximum amount of data is made available to users of Unistats, the group agreed that HEFCE should model the impact of its recommendations, and explore whether showing aggregated data for two years of data would be beneficial where numbers are small.

Next steps

13.   The HEPISG will take a final decision in mid-March 2011 on the nature of salary information that will be published in summer 2011. In the meantime, we welcome comments on the current proposals; they should be e-mailed to technicalsalary@hefce.ac.uk by Friday 4 February 2011.

14.   We envisage that there will be no additional administrative burden on institutions arising from this development.

Timeline
11 January 2011 Meeting of Salary Expert Working Group.
4 February 2011 Deadline for comments on the technical development of a salary indicator.
Mid-February 2011 Technical specification presented to Unistats: this time is needed to develop the site to accommodate salary data.
Mid-March 2011 Recommendation to HEPISG on the best way to develop and present a salary indicator.
July 2011 Salary data available to preview on Unistats web-site.
August 2011 Salary data published on Unistats web-site.
Summer 2012 Likely migration of salary indicator to Key Information Sets hosted on institutions’ web-sites (for more details on the proposed Key Information Sets, see HEFCE 2010/31).

Yours sincerely

David Sweeney
Director (Research, Innovation, and Skills)


Annex A
Salary expert working group

Members
Richard Puttock (Chair) HEFCE
Charlie Ball Higher Education Careers Services Unit
Catherine Benfield Higher Education Statistics Agency
Jovan Luzajic Universities UK
Abigail Diamond CFE
Tomas Paterson Hot courses
Sandra McNally London School of Economics
Anne-Marie Martin Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services
Officers
Paul Hazell HEFCE
Rachel Samuels HEFCE

Date: 6 December 2011

Ref: Circular letter 03/2011

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Organisations with an interest in providing information, advice and guidance to prospective higher education students, including careers advisers and schools, sixth form colleges and their representative bodies
Staff responsible for quality assurance and enhancement

Enquiries should be directed to:

Rachel Samuels, tel 0117 931 7136, e-mail technicalsalary@hefce.ac.uk