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Executive summary


1. This issues paper examines the retrospective satisfaction of graduates with their higher education (HE) choices, using data from a nationwide survey of former students. This is to identify whether there is variation in the frequency with which graduates from different equality groups say they would be likely to make different choices if they were able to revisit their choice of subject, institution or qualification or to choose to do something completely different.

Key points

2. A majority of graduates are satisfied with their choices and the most common response is that they would be not at all likely to make different choices. However, a large minority of respondents say they would be either likely or very likely to choose differently. This proportion is greatest for choice of subject (32 per cent of graduates) and smallest for choice of institution (21 per cent).

3. Levels of satisfaction across ethnic groups vary in large and statistically significant ways, with black and minority ethnic graduates more likely to wish they had made different HE choices. These findings are robust to controls for entry qualifications, subject studied, institution attended, degree satisfaction, degree classification, employment outcomes, and other factors. Using regression analysis to estimate levels of satisfaction, it is found that relative to white graduates:

  • the proportion of Black African graduates who say they would be likely to choose a different qualification is 18 percentage points higher, and 11 percentage points higher in the case of choosing something completely different
  • the proportion of Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates likely to choose something completely different is 14 percentage points higher
  • the proportion of Indian graduates likely to choose a different qualification is 10 percentage points higher
  • the proportion of Chinese graduates likely to choose a different institution is nine percentage points higher.

4. Mature graduates are on average more satisfied with their choices than young graduates, which is consistent with the expectation that mature students have a greater knowledge and understanding about what and where they want to study and are on average more constrained in their choices due to other commitments.

5. Female graduates are less likely to say they would go to a different institution, but would be more likely to choose something completely different (an estimated two percentage points). There was no difference between male and female graduates in their likelihood of choosing different subjects or qualifications.

6. The only statistically significant difference between graduates who were in receipt of Disabled Students’ Allowance and those who were not is that those in receipt are estimated to be three percentage points more likely to choose a different institution.

7. Graduates from low-participation areas generally express the same levels of satisfaction with their HE choices as those from other areas once degree satisfaction and post-HE employment experiences are taken into account. The exception is that they are slightly more likely (an estimated two percentage points) to say they would choose a different qualification.

Action required

8. This document is for information only.

Date: 20 October 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/28

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student opportunity, Admissions, Widening participation, Advice to applicants to higher education

Enquiries should be directed to:

Stephen McDonald, tel 0117 9317036, email or Quantitative Analysis for Policy Team, email