University Tips Blog
Image of a presentation using graduate outcome data
A headshot image of the author, Ian McGarry

by Ian McGarry

Student Recruitment Officer at Manchester Metropolitan University

posted on 3 Apr '23

A guide to how university graduate outcome data can support student decision making

Depending on your choice of media, you would be forgiven for thinking university subject choices these days are less about doing it for the love, more about the money.

Information about graduate outcomes has always been published but it has a lot more clout these days. Alongside the familiarities of course completion rates, degree outcomes and the numbers going on to occupy graduate roles, we can now explore detail about earning potential for up to ten years after the course ends.

It is powerful stuff, and it has a name, LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes). It links education data to HMRC records, and it is helping to stoke the continued debate about the value of higher education. It also helps to cut through a lot of the hyperbole.

What is the benefit of LEO data to a sixth form or college student preparing a UCAS application?

Dig into the data and students will find trends like the sort of salaries to aspire towards after graduation. Very broadly, we are dealing with averages (sorry, median ranges) with outcomes influenced by the choice of degree subject, where it is studied, and which part of the UK the graduate goes on to settle down in.

I’m sure none of that comes as a big surprise to any teacher or careers advisor, let alone a dancer or a nuclear physicist to come to that.

What a pity that LEO data is often dumbed down to soundbites in the media. Our shared experiences of the last three years only demonstrate that now, more than ever, young people need conversations and context. Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) that is personalised and tailored.

There are so many competing internet sources of IAG, arguably more platforms than in Elton John’s shoe collection! Websites such as Discover Uni (formerly Unistats) can be easily overlooked. Owned by the Office for Students, it is tactile, easy to navigate, and gives the would-be UCAS applicant a chance to compare rival courses against one another, across a range of factors. All of which is informed by public data sources and clean of marketing.

At Greater Manchester Higher, we have introduced sources of LEO data to support our IAG around student finance. It helps us to nurture conversations as well as tackling some of the continued misnomers around loans, repayments, and the question, is university worth it?

It also allows us to encourage young people to stick with the tried-and-trusted science behind the choice of degree subject. Always lead with where the appetite and passion for a subject lies, then introduce graduate outcomes to support the thinking. Do not flip that advice. Because the benefits of going to university are, and remain, wide-ranging and potentially transformative for the individual, as well as to the economy and society. Get those UCAS choices right and it is hard to put a value on that.

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