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Executive summary

Background and purpose

1. This report analyses responses to the 2016 Intentions After Graduation Survey (IAGS). It provides information on the planned destinations of final year undergraduate first degree students and the reasons for their choices.

2. The report indicates attitudes towards postgraduate study before and after the 2012 fee reforms, and provides an early insight into the reaction of undergraduates towards the introduction of postgraduate loans. This report builds on previous IAGS publications on the HEFCE website, and develops ideas published on the HEFCE blog.

3. The 2016 IAGS was completed by respondents between 11 January and 30 April. Students answering the survey may have been aware of the PG loan scheme following an announcement in November 2015 but the full information on the eligibility of the loan was not released until April 2016. A date for the European Union referendum had been set.

Key points

4. The most frequent response to the survey was to ‘Look for a job’ within the six months following graduation. The second largest number of responses expressed an intention to ‘Go into further study’.

5. ‘Course fees’, ‘The cost of living’ and ‘A fear of debt’ are the most notable concerns around going on to postgraduate (PG) level for UK-domiciled students. Students suggest that ‘additional financial support’ would be the most encouraging factor to help them go on to PG study. How much of an effect the new PG loans may have had on these survey responses is difficult to gauge.

6. Over two-thirds of students responded that they would be likely or very likely to study at PG level if a PG loan of around £10,000 was introduced. Black students would be the most likely to go on to study at PG level following the introduction of a PG loan of £10,000. While students from low-participation backgrounds (quintile 1 in the Participation of Local Areas (POLAR) measure) would be more likely to reconsider their decision if a PG loan was introduced than students from high-participation backgrounds (POLAR quintile 5).

7. The proportion of undergraduates intending to continue immediately on to postgraduate study is now at its highest level (9.7 per cent).

8. The intentions of young and mature students are notably different: mature students seem keener to begin their careers while young students are more likely to intend further study.

9. The intentions of students from different young participation backgrounds show little difference, though in the group intending to continue immediately into PG study there is a larger proportion of students from a POLAR quintile 5 (high participation) background (9.3 per cent) than from quintile 1(low participation) (8.8 per cent). There is little difference in intention groupings by gender.

10. The ethnic group with the greatest proportion of students who immediately intend to study at PG level is Chinese (14.3 per cent), while an additional 44.2 per cent likely to go on to PG study in the future. White students have the smallest proportion likely to go on to PG study at some point in the future (32.3 per cent) and the largest proportion unlikely ever to go on to PG study (58.2 per cent).

11. Only a small proportion of students on sandwich courses intend to go on to PG (6.8 per cent) relative to those on standard courses (9.8 per cent), with 69.7 per cent unlikely ever to do so based on their survey responses.

Action required

12. This document is for information only.

Date: 15 December 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/37

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Postgraduate education, Student opportunity, Planning, Graduate outcomes

Enquiries should be directed to:

Alan Williams, email qapt@hefce.ac.uk, tel 0117 931 7276