HEFCE have released their long-awaited (by me, at least) report into the outcome of graduates who took HE courses at English FE colleges.
These graduates are not included in standard DLHE data - franchised provision delivered by a college on behalf of a partner HEI is, but provision registered at FE colleges is not and is what is covered here.
There is a laudable volume of graphs and data in annexes, which means I won't do many but which are well worth reading if you like data (and if you don't like data, then hello, let me introduce myself. I'm Charlie, and I do data. Sorry about that.)
So what are the findings? Well, first, bear in mind that the survey has a response rate of 61 per cent in 2010/11, a good 20 per cent below the rate for DLHE. This equates to 14,210 responses.
In general, the report shows that this cohort were less likely to be in further study and more likely to be unemployed, than counterparts in HEIs. They're also likely to be paid a little less, although this is dependent on subject area, and in some cases does not hold.
The differences are not very great. For full-time first degree qualifiers, about the same proportion from each cohort went into work, and the difference comes in further study and employment rates. You can see the data in Figure 2 of the main report. Foundation degrees are a little more complex - the main difference is that the FE in HE cohort were more likely to be combining work and study, and the HE cohort more likely just to be in study.
But there are some things that bear examination.
The first is that, not surprisingly, things have not budged that much in the last three years from that data we have. Well, graduate outcomes have been stuck in recessionary inertia for a while, so this is not surprising.
The second though, is that unlike the outcomes for the DLHE cohort, the outcomes for this cohort (particularly for unemployment) may be worsening. Not a lot, but it bears close examination.
Here's the third.
To put this a bit more starkly, if we were reporting the FE in HE graduates in Unistats, 32% of those employed were in professional level employment after six months. And HEFCE report some data from 2008/9 and 2009/10 which suggests the figures for this cohort have deteriorated.
Now, of course, most of these graduates took qualifications below first degree level - 60%, in fact. And the subject groups play an important part in outcomes - engineering outcomes for the FE in HE students, for example, look pretty good. And some occupations classed as below professional level are, nevertheless, the kind of jobs these courses aim at - beauty occupations, nursery nursing, teaching assistant roles, skilled trades. So we shouldn't expect this data to have parity with the pure HE data.
But what do we expect it to look like? I'd like to see the bars on the left of that graph look a little higher.
This is a really interesting report, and by understanding more about what's happening, we can help to understand the challenges for this cohort of students. Let's see what we can do to improve their career prospects.