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Dear Principal

Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey: Information for FECs and requirements for 2014-15 leavers

1. This letter provides information and clarification of the requirements for the DLHE survey process for students finishing courses in 2014-15 at further education colleges and sixth form colleges (FECs). This includes a timetable and guidance for best practice. No response is required.

2. As outlined in HEFCE Circular letter 26/2013, the 2014-15 academic year (DLHE survey of 2013-14 leavers) was the first year that FECs fully funded and administered the survey. In that year we asked FECs to inform us how they would conduct the survey so that we could provide support to ensure good quality responses. Institutions could choose to run the survey in-house, to conduct it collaboratively with other institutions, or to work with an external contractor (by appointing their own contractor or The Careers Group, HEFCE’s appointed supplier).

3. The DLHE survey for 2013-14 leavers (the second tranche of which was undertaken in January 2015) was a new working arrangement for many colleges. Some encountered problems during the survey or were unable to reach the target response rate. This circular letter therefore offers clarification of the DLHE survey cycle to help understand HEFCE processes and to support the gathering of robust data and a higher response rate from the next survey event in January 2016 (2014-15 leavers). It also includes a timeline to help colleges plan the next DLHE cycle.

Background (The DLHE survey dataset and what is used for)

4. The DLHE survey collects information on what all leavers from higher education (HE) programmes are doing six months after qualifying from their HE course. There are two annual DLHE collections and census points.

a. The first collection (tranche 1) in April, covers leavers between 1 August and 31 December.
b. The second collection (tranche 2) in January, covers leavers between 1 January and 31 July.

5. The data from the survey is of national importance. It is published as part of FECs’ performance indicators and is used to provide information for prospective undergraduate students through the Unistats website as part of the Key Information Set.

Support for managing the survey

6. As last year, FECs have an option to contract with The Careers Group, University of London (TCG) to run the survey on their behalf. The advantage of this option is that once a college contracts with TCG to run the survey, TCG will take responsibility for collecting and returning the DLHE survey data to HEFCE. And since HEFCE has already appointed TCG through an open procurement exercise, there is no requirement to run a separate procurement exercise to appoint an external contractor.

7. FECs that did not work with TCG for DLHE 2013-14 leavers (conducted in January 2015) but would like to for DLHE 2014-15 leavers are encouraged to liaise directly with TCG as soon as possible and should contact Priyanka Kamal (, 0207 863 6089).

Responsibilities of FECs in running the DLHE

8. In England, conducting the DLHE survey is a condition of HEFCE grant funding. Colleges are expected to survey all eligible students (whether they are HEFCE-funded or otherwise). Eligible students who are part of a franchise arrangement need not be surveyed by the college as the lead provider in the franchise will undertake this.

9. As the survey is of national importance, our approach is to only accept opt-outs where the survey has been offered to the student specifically by name, and then declined.

10. Any failure to deliver DLHE data to the Council, on time, is treated as a breach of the condition in the FEC’s funding agreement with us regarding the provision of information to students.

11. Colleges are responsible for funding DLHE activity and maintaining the appropriate systems and processes to support as high a response rate to the survey as possible. The expected response rates are:

  • 80 per cent for UK-domiciled (i.e. home) leavers who previously studied full-time
  • 70 per cent for UK-domiciled leavers who studied part-time
  • 80 per cent for Research Council-funded students
  • 50 per cent for all other EU students
  • 20 per cent for non-EU international leavers (It is compulsory to survey this group electronically).

12. Any FECs that do not achieve the expected response rate will be asked to develop a recovery plan. This is due to the fact that low response rates cannot give assurance that the submitted data is a representative sample of the eligible student population.

13. For the DLHE survey of 2013-14 leavers (conducted in January 2015) we allowed lower response rates to be published, in recognition of the fact that FECs were new to administering the DLHE process. Only DLHE data submitted by colleges that fell below a 50 per cent response rate was suppressed.

14. However, going forward response rates of no more than 10 per cent below the expected response rates in paragraph 11 will be necessary in order for us to publish the data. This is to bring the requirements in line with those placed on other higher education providers to ensure a level playing field. It is also to enable prospective students to make fair comparisons using this data on Unistats.

Optimising response rates

15. Response rates depend on a number of factors including, but not limited to: the timings and methods used to contact graduates; the type of contact details available (and if they are current); and whether students understand the purpose and importance of the DLHE and expect to be contacted to take part.

16. We encourage all colleges to ensure that they have the most up-to-date contact details for their graduating students before they leave and if possible, collect more than one type (i.e. email/phone/postal address).

17. Response rates have been found to be higher in cohorts of graduates that have a good understanding of the purpose of the DLHE. We encourage all FECs to promote awareness of the survey to their students, throughout the year, to encourage them to take part. Promotional materials and guidance can be downloaded from the HESA website:



Suggested action for FECs

December 2015

HEFCE provides final DLHE target lists to institutions

Check the final target list contains all the students the institution would be expecting to survey.


January 2016

HEFCE provides DLHE template to institutions

Use the template to generate provisional XML submissions locally.

Validate data locally.

(Note: For FECs using TCG’s services, TCG will generate and validate the XML submission.) 

1 January - 7 March 2016

DLHE data collection window for tranche 2 of the survey (see paragraph 4)

covering students leaving 1 January - 31 July 2015 

March 2016

HEFCE DLHE submission system opens

Begin submission process (for April 2015 and January 2016 tranches if data has been collected for both).

We recommend FECs begin the submission process as early as possible. Although FECs can conduct basic validation checks locally, HEFCE does conduct more in-depth checks when the submission process commences.

(Note: For FECs using TCG’s services, TCG will submit the data to HEFCE on the college’s behalf)

We would like to thank FECs for their continued support in conducting the DLHE survey and contributing to the provision of information that helps prospective students make decisions about which course to study. If you have any questions, please contact

Yours sincerely

Chris Millward

Director (Policy)


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Date: 4 December 2015

Ref: Circular letter 28/2015

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

HE managers, Heads of colleges with higher education, MIS managers

Enquiries should be directed to:

Jennifer Sadler, tel 0117 931 9154, email