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Dear Principal

Plans for the 2013 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey in further education colleges

1. This letter sets out important changes about the way the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey (DLHE) will need to be funded in future. 2013-14 will be a transition year with respect to funding. The survey provides important information for higher education providers about their graduates’ progress after qualification, information that is also important to prospective students deciding where to study.  The Key Information Set (KIS) uses DLHE data, which in turn is part of the information that the QAA considers when it carries out reviews.

2. From 2014-15, further education colleges will be expected to fund and complete the survey themselves, and should begin making preparations for this. In 2013-14, only the first tranche of the survey will be fully funded by HEFCE: half of the costs of the second tranche (to be carried out in January 2014) will be passed on by HEFCE to individual colleges.

3.Information on the destinations of leavers from higher education has been collected since the 1994-95 academic year: originally in the First Destinations Supplement, and more recently in the Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education survey. The first survey of leavers from further education colleges covered those completing their courses in the academic year 2009-10.

4. The DLHE survey gathers data on the destinations of most Home and European Union students obtaining a higher education qualification, through a census survey conducted approximately six months after they leave their course. Each survey consists of two tranches; an April survey covering qualifiers who left between 1 August and 31 December, and a January survey covering those who left between 1 January and 31 July. A typical survey cycle lasts approximately 14 months.

5. The survey collects information about patterns of graduates’ employment and further study or training. This information can be broken down by destination type, subject, student characteristics and institution. The questionnaire also seeks to establish reasons for the graduates’ choice of destination. The published results are a valuable reference source for institutions and the media. The results for individual institutions are available on the Unistats web-site ( and, for individual courses, as part of the key information sets.

6. Given the often small numbers of directly funded higher education students in individual further education colleges, the DLHE survey for these students has so far been centrally administered and resourced by HEFCE, in order to secure benefit from economies of scale.

7. This arrangement does not reflect the ‘level playing field’ that the Government’s 2011 higher education White Paper sought to establish, nor the reductions in grant coming to HEFCE from government, as students pay more towards the costs of their education. Higher education institutions, some of which have smaller numbers than some further education colleges, must complete the survey work at their own expense. This disparity is likely to become more acute as more ‘alternative providers’ enter the higher education system.

8. Currently, HEIs manage the collection of the DLHE survey themselves and collate all the data.  Through their annual subscription to HESA, they are provided with the reference materials, a web portal for collecting web returns and paper copies of the questionnaire.

9. HEFCE has discussed with the Association of Colleges (AoC) how to best manage the transition to a new arrangement.  This will happen in two stages.

10. We have agreed with the AoC that 2013 will be a transition year for further education colleges to begin preparations to fund and complete the survey themselves by 2014. The transition year will apply to the DLHE survey commencing in April 2013 for leavers graduating in 2011-12. During this transition year, HEFCE will pay the full costs of the first tranche for leavers between 1 August and 31 December 2012 (survey conducted in April 2013) and subsidise the cost of the second tranche for leavers between 1 January and 31 July 2013 (conducted in January 2014) at a rate of 50 per cent. The survey will be conducted as usual by our contractors, the International Graduate Insight Group (I-Graduate), and at the end of both tranches in July 2014, HEFCE will invoice all colleges for 50 per cent of the total costs for that institution incurred by the second tranche. This will amount to approximately £5 per eligible student.

11. From April 2014, further education colleges will be expected to fund 100 per cent of each new tranche of the survey themselves. We are working with the AoC to establish a ‘framework’ or preferred list of contractors, to enable colleges to continue to benefit from economies of scale by drawing from a range of providers familiar with administering the survey. It is expected that most colleges will use one of the contractors in the framework, both because this will be more economical and because it will largely relieve colleges of the responsibility for optimal data quality and response rates. While this arrangement is being developed primarily for FE colleges, HE institutions will be entitled to participate in the framework on the same basis. It will be possible for FE Colleges to conduct the survey directly on their own behalf, taking responsibility for achieving good data quality and an acceptable response rate.

21. HEFCE is working with the AoC to finalise plans for 2014 and we will write to you again in the New Year with further details.

Yours sincerely


Sir Alan Langlands

Chief Executive 


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Date: 7 November 2012

Ref: Circular letter 28/2012

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey, Quality assurance and quality enhancement, The student experience, Planning

Enquiries should be directed to:

Alison Felton, tel 0117 931 7078, e-mail