HEFCE Employment Performance Indicators

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published the latest employment performance indicators (EPIs) on Thursday 4 July – http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/2912/393/

On the same day, The Guardian published an article entitled “Oxford and Cambridge outperformed on employability” – http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jul/04/oxford-and-cambridge-outperformed-on-employability – which presents the indicators in ranking order; the first time that these have been published in this way. However, the EPIs were never designed to be ranked in this way (see below, ‘Why not league tables?’ from the HESA website)*, instead EPIs are intended to offer an objective measure of how a higher education institution (HEI) is performing against its (HEFCE) set benchmark.

However, the fact is that The Guardian has published them as a league table and provided a minimum level of explanation or context to readers.

So what are the employment performance indicators (EPIs)?

The EPI seeks to give an indication of how successful an institution is in placing its students in employment or study after graduation. Each institution is assigned a benchmark indicator which is calculated taking into account a variety of factors e.g. subject spread, entry qualifications, age of students etc. The Performance Indicator is then expressed as the number of graduates who say they are working or studying (or both) shown as a percentage of all those who are working or studying or seeking work. All other categories are excluded from this indicator.

For the 2012 EPIs published on 4 July, Reading achieved an indicator of 91.8% (92.1% in 2011) exceeding the set benchmark of 91.6% (91.4% in 2011). In The Guardian article, this shows a ranking of 71=, approximately halfway. The average UK EPI was 90.8%.

EPIs – a few caveats…

On the surface the data appears to be fairly solid, but care should be exercised when trying to draw meaningful conclusions. For example,

  • the top four ranked HEIs in The Guardian listings are all specialist institutions with small population cohorts – in terms of eligible population, The Royal Academy of Music had 35 graduates, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 120, The School of Pharmacy 140 and The Royal College of Music 65 and all have well established progression routes to specialist postgraduate study and/or jobs within their respective professions and industries (many starting in low level roles which the EPIs do not reflect);
  • The EPIs do not provide an indication of professional level outcomes, just the proportion in work or study at all levels – so, for example, Derby is quoted in The Guardian as ‘outperforming’ Oxford and Cambridge but in its own University Guide 2014 rankings, The Guardian has Derby ranked ninth from bottom for Career Prospects with a score of 49 (by comparison Reading ranks 46th with a score of 67)
  • Although termed “Employment” performance indicators, they also include study (so institutions with high numbers of graduates continuing on to higher level study will do very well in the EPIs – which might be slightly misleading for prospective students and their parents viewing them as a measure of employment prospects). At Reading 61% of the eligible EPI cohort is in full-time work, over 74% of whom are in professional/managerial roles at six months – a very positive message which should be emphasised!

At a Glance – Latest League Table Positions

The most recently published tables (The Guardian and The Complete University Guide) have seen Reading fall slightly in the measures for graduate employment:

  • The Guardian – 2014, Reading ranked 46th (down from 38th in 2013 and 44th in 2012) ** updated 12/06/2013
  • The Times (Good University Guide) – 2013, Reading ranked 40th (up from 46th in 2012 and 58th in 2011) ** updated 23/01/2013
  • The Sunday Times – 2012, Reading ranked 44th (up from 51st in 2011) ** updated 23/01/2013 **
  • The Complete University Guide 2014 (using data for 2011 cohort), Reading ranked 47th (down from 40th in 2013 and 47th in 2012) ** updated 03/05/2013 **

Why not league tables?

(from HESA website: http://www.hesa.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2074&Itemid=141)

No meaningful league table could fairly demonstrate the performance of all higher education institutions relative to each other. The HE sector is extremely diverse. Each institution has its own distinct mission, and each emphasises different aspects of higher education. Because of this diversity, and the need to compare HEIs fairly, we have used a range of indicators and benchmarks. Even so, we do not cover all aspects of an institution’s performance. In particular, these indicators concentrate on performance relative to full-time undergraduates. However, note that there are other sources of data on institutions that can be used to make comparisons, such as the results of the Research Assessment Exercise.

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