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UK: concerns around outcomes data collection

UK education stakeholders are concerned that a decision by the Higher Education Statistics Agency to stop surveying international graduates by telephone will see fewer responses to an important outcomes survey.

Stakeholders are concerned that alternative online data collection methods will not reach graduates in Mainland China where the internet is heavily regulated. Photo: pexels

Universities have toyed with the idea of giving students an alumni email address on graduation

They say that HESA halting the collection of international student data for its Graduate Outcomes survey by phone will be damaging at a time when the UK international sector needs solid outcome data. Ensuring that graduates are satisfied with their experience and that the sector has reliable employability data is vital, they posit.

HESA has said that the key driver for changing the means it surveys international graduates to an online tool only is as a result of needing to cut costs.

“We are collecting data for international graduates, but the modes used to do this have changed,” a spokesperson told The PIE.

The DfE and BEIS asked HESA to make a 10% efficiency saving by 2022/23, they said, adding that the agency is “in dialogue with a number of HE sector bodies regarding this decision”.

“We believe for universities to stay competitive globally, it is important we increase the number of international students who are responding to the graduate outcomes,” Linda Cowan, senior vice president, UK and Middle East at Kaplan International Pathways, said.

“Currently it is very, very low and the recent announcements with HESA means it could become even lower, which then takes away the value of that data,” she noted.

“Ultimately it is going to be the country that actually manages to provide the best quality data in terms of student outcomes that’s going to remain the most competitive for international students.”

The graduate outcomes international data is imperative, and the decision needs to “be looked at again”, Noeleen Hammond Jones, co-chair of the AGCAS Internationalisation Task Group, agreed.

“The removal of international calling is a big concern for us on our Internationalisation Task Group,” she said.

Hammond Jones, who is also international career manager at Lancaster University Management School, added that the sector was not consulted on the decision.

“In my previous role at an institution with 19,000 international and EU students, I produced a 14-page impact report where I worked with the recruitment and alumni teams on how the removal of this data would affect us across the entire institution. None of this information, none of the reports – and several institutions did the same thing – was taken into account. There was no consultation. There was nothing,” she said.

It is not clear how other online provisions would reach graduates in Mainland China where the internet is heavily regulated, she suggested.

“The removal of international calling is a big concern for us”

“There’s a huge proportion of the international community can’t access the information when they’re not being called,” she said.

Both Hammond Jones and Cowan emphasised that institutions ensure that HESA has good contact details.

Students have been asked for non-university email addresses for other surveys, Hammond Jones said, while universities have toyed with the idea of giving students an alumni email address on graduation.

“Unfortunately, what we do is we give [HESA and other survey operators] the email addresses of the students, which are very often out of date, because the international students then change their email addresses when they go back to their home country,” she explained.

Former universities minister Jo Johnson, who was also on the Westminster Forum where the comments were made, suggested a solution.

“If the sector really values this information, they can fund it properly… [by] providing the additional funds to enable HESA to collect more of that data from international graduates.”

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