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winter 2014/15
Inside this issue:
Policy, skills and education in 2015
Careers policy reviews
UniverCities – driving growth
Graduate migration
Australian gender wage gap
Defining institutional prestige
HEA employability update
Information, debate and research into higher
education, graduate employment and careers
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in this issue
GMT Summer
Note from the editor
News in brief
GMT interview
GMT policy
Careers policy reviews: where next?
UniverCities: the role of HEIs in
driving city growth
Brhmie Balaram and Jonathan Schifferes
Note from the editor
With only two editions of GMT before the
general election in May, we have taken the
opportunity to put together articles which add
something to the debate. Shedding light on
the skills agenda, careers policy, university
support for local economies, graduate
mobility, international gender wage gaps and defining
prestige in the UK higher education sector, this edition
is one to be mulled over.
Summing up the education and skills debate in 2014
and looking ahead to education, funding and party
politics in 2015, GMT’s Aphrodite Papadatou
interviews Steve Besley, Head of UK Education Policy
at Pearson Education Ltd.
Dr Deirdre Hughes gives us an overview of current
careers policies across the UK and discusses the
opportunities and challenges faced by those working in
the careers profession within and beyond HE.
Brhmie Balaram contributes a summary of the RSA’s
City Growth Commission report, co-authored by
Jonathan Schifferes, which assessed and made
recommendations to further the contribution of
universities to local economies across the UK.
GMT international research
Are Australian graduates at the
mercy of the gender wage gap?
Edwina Lindsay
Dr Deirdre Hughes
GMT research
Loyals, stayers, returners and
incomers: graduate migration
Charlie Ball
Policy, skills and education in 2015
with Steve Besley
GMT research
GMT research
Institutional prestige and the money
Andrew McCulloch
HEA: Employability update
Prospects Charlie Ball uses graduate destinations data
to map out the movement of graduates across the
regions in terms of their locations of domicile, study
and employment.
An article featured in GMT Futuretrack Special 2013
investigated the gendered earning power of graduates
across the UK and found a gender pay gap among
recent graduates. There is documented evidence of a
gender pay gap in Australia and Graduate Careers
Australia’s Edwina Lindsay investigates how subject
choice on entry to HE explains part of the gap but
what is the cause for the rest?
Finally, an extra article for the digital version of GMT,
Andrew McCulloch uses data from university league
tables to investigate the prestige of UK higher
education institutions and looks at what part the
money factor plays.
I hope you enjoy this edition of GMT.
Kindest regards,
Jennifer Redman
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News in brief
New careers and enterprise company
The Department for Education released a statement
from the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan
announcing the creation of a new company which
aims to bring employers and schools together to
inspire the careers of young people. The new company
will be employer-led and independent of the
government and will focus on young people aged 12 to
18. (December)
Patterns and trends in UK higher education
This annual report released by Universities UK
continues the review of the performance of the higher
eduction (HE) sector up to 2012/13 when the current
fee regime was introduced. Information provided by
the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on
students, staff and finances in HE toward the end of
2012/13 reveals patterns and trends prior to the
significant change. (December)
UCAS applications review 2014
End of Year Application Cycle 2014 analyses the
recruitment of students to full-time undergraduate
courses in the UK in 2014. UCAS placed more than
500,000 applicants to HE. Just less than 700,000
students applied for a place with an acceptance rate of
73.2%. (December)
Engineering UK report 2015
A recently published report, The State of Engineering,
warns that education at all levels doesn’t have the rate
of growth or capacity to meet the predicted demand
for skilled engineers by 2022. Recommendations
encourage engineering employers to work closer with
education providers in making engineering jobs more
attractive and offering good career progression.
Careers of the future
Using research, the UK Commission for Employment
and Skills put together a guide to showcase some job
opportunities in the coming years. Included is
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information about entry requirements, pay,
progression and personal development. Careers range
from farmers to secondary school teachers. (December)
Apprenticeships: an employer survey
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
(BIS) published findings from a survey which asked
over 4,000 employers of apprentices for their views
and experiences of apprenticeships. The report
highlights the satisfaction of most employers who have
seen a positive impact on their businesses as a result of
having had an apprentice. There is also a survey of
apprentices in conjunction with this report.
Confidence in the graduate labour market
AGCAS published findings from their survey of Heads
of HE Careers Services asking for opinions as to their
confidence in the graduate labour market. Confidence
is high as the majority of respondents agreed that
graduate vacancies increased in 2014. (January) enrolments and qualifications obtained
HESA published the Statistical First Release detailing
student enrolments and qualifications obtained data for
2013/14. Find out how many students enrolled on
undergraduate and postgraduate courses and more
about the trends in enrolments. There is concern
surrounding another drop in enrolments on part-time
undergraduate study. (January)
The value of transnational education
The report published by BIS details the activities of
higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK
providing transnational education, which is where the
institution provides education to a student based in a
country other than where the institution is located.
Modes of study, numbers of students and the value of
these activities to UK HEIs are discussed in the report.
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Policy, skills and
education in 2015
GMT interview
with Steve Besley
It is December 2014. GMT’s Aphrodite Papadatou
catches up with Steve Besley1. Head of UK
Education Policy at Pearson, Steve is a wellknown figure in the education and skills sector,
and a fountain of knowledge in all things skills
policy. In this exclusive interview, Steve considers
the state of education and skills in the build up to
the general election. He discusses further
education (FE), higher education (HE),
information, advice and guidance (IAG), funding,
employer engagement, party politics and much
more. There is no better person to round up 2014
with his unique blend of knowledge, foresight,
and humour which have for years made his
reviews so accessible. 2015 has arrived!
It has been a while since GMT last caught up with
you in Summer 20112 but what an exciting time to
meet again! Tell us what you have been up to in
2014? What things keep you ticking and excite you
and what do you most enjoy about your work in
education policy?
As ever it's been another hugely busy year in education
with a lot happening around curriculum and
qualification reform, developments around the skills
agenda and continuing debate about the future funding
and nature of HE so there's no shortage of things going
on. All of these things, and many more, matter
enormously to individuals so the challenge remains not
only keeping up to speed with developments but also
about what sort of reactions they are generating. In fact
I'd say the biggest change having 'worked' in education
policy for so long has been the advent of social media.
It's opened up a whole new world of comment, opinion,
thought and yes sometimes comments you'd never have
thought of or even wanted to but it's all an important
reflection of views and you need to keep up with
it...there's always a gem in there somewhere.
Skills and education in an international context:
Pearson stands in the forefront of this. But what is
its importance in terms of the UK’s economic
growth and the wellbeing of learners?
The interesting thing is that skills policy has risen up the
political agenda to become one of the biggest challenges
we face. Last month, for instance, we had nine major
reports, four keynote speeches, three set piece
conferences and any amount of column space all on the
issue of skills in some form: skills for the present, skills
for the future, global skill challenges, skill levels
generally, skills funding and so on. The reason for this
burst of interest is of course that skills, or more precisely
the talent pipeline, is critical to economic recovery and
with employers continuing to express concerns about
the talent pool in their sector, government has taken a
deep interest, so much so that there is talk of a
vocational 'arms race' breaking out. It's raised all sorts of
questions about the nature of training, the role of
employers and the changing nature of the jobs market
but for us in the UK, two issues remain. One is
strengthening the school to work transfer for young
people and the other is securing the route through
higher education.
2015 is a big year for British politics with the
general election in May. Based on the manifestoes
and discussions held in last autumn’s party
conferences, how high up on the agenda of party
politics are education and skills? I remember
clearly in 2010, all themes HE related were
particularly ‘hot’ but where are we now, what do
different parties have to offer?
With the general election just five months away and no
one political party a clear favourite, this is an 'interesting'
time for policy in general let alone education. Education
doesn't feature very high as an electoral issue at present;
in the latest reports on voter interest, it comes in around
the third or fourth issue behind the economy, NHS and
immigration. Nor has there been any sense of
significant gear change in education policy as there was
ahead of both the 1997 and 2010 elections. The ‘hot
issues’ remain pretty much the same including school
standards, 14-19 education, college responsiveness and
HE tuition fee funding. There's broad agreement on
many of the issues across all the major parties but some
marked differences about approach within that. This can
be seen for example over issues such as school
academies, college specialisms and higher education
funding. We reach the end of the year with both major
parties pretty much neck and neck in all three major poll
Steve Besley is Head of UK Education Policy at Pearson Education Ltd.
Download the pdf of the GMT interview with Steve Besley at:
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ratings but with enthusiasm for the traditional two-party
system seemingly waning. It's going to be an interesting
few months.
In what ways have recent budget cuts impacted
education, in your opinion?
The most obvious answer is higher education where of
course the issue of tuition fees and what impact these
would have on student numbers and thereby
institutions has remained a constant theme throughout
the last four years. However, the latest health check on
the system by HEFCE and the recent report on 2014
admissions by UCAS3 suggest that the sector is bearing
up well... although the issue won't go away. School
funding, at least for ages 5-16, is ring fenced and many
schools too have been buttressed by the pupil premium
so the real 'victim' in all this and the one that often gets
little attention is FE and in particular budgets for 18 year
olds and for adult skills. Lots of figures have been
thrown around about the level of cuts and without
getting into specifics, this remains a real concern for the
future particularly in the light of the Chancellor's latest
Autumn Statement which indicated a further three to
four years of further cuts for departments such as the
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS)4.
Arguably, IAG provision for young people has
been in crisis since the demise of Connexions.
More recently, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan
announced £20 million of funding for a new
‘careers and enterprise company’5, which aims to
broker employers in the mix and supplement the
work of the National Careers Service. How
sincere is this move? A political manoeuvre or
something more meaningful? In other words, do
we see a change in direction and priorities – more
funding for IAG?
I think the answer is that we don't know yet. The new
company, which of course is more of an advisory or
brokerage company than a supplier of services, doesn't
get going until next spring and on the basis that this is
just before the election, it could be seen as a political
manoeuvre but hopefully not. The important thing is
that after months of suggesting that all was well and that
schools and colleges were doing what they had to, even
in the face of conflicting reports, the issue about careers
guidance has at last been recognised. At present it's hard
to see any more money being conjured up to support
IAG but the issue for the future may be more about
how to modernise a system that on the one hand needs
to be able to offer a personal service, while at the same
time offer a hi-tech model of fast moving employment
and training opportunities. I'm not sure we're quite
there yet in terms of how we do all this.
Vocational skills, work-based learning and
apprenticeships – all three are pretty high on
every party’s agenda. Is FE the future of
employability, and is the FE sector equipped
enough to deliver?
Last month, the Association of Colleges published a
response to a UKCES report commenting on how
closely and with how many employers, colleges typically
worked with6. Both they and training providers work
closely with employers in lots of different ways but the
political perception remains that they are still not
aligned sufficiently with local labour market needs.
This is why the Labour Party is talking about creating
employer accredited Institutes of Technical Education
and the Conservatives are pushing the case for National
Colleges. The specialised college or training provider
model is not new, remember Centres of Vocational
Excellence, and is likely to run as a theme well into 2015
but the new challenge is localism: the devolvement of
key public services, such as skills training, to local bodies
and partnerships. The blueprint for this is the recent
Greater Manchester Agreement. It potentially shifts the
skills system around a locally determined model of
provision which in fairness the FE sector has been pretty
good at responding to.
How can employers’ best work in partnership with
colleges and universities in delivering
Many employers sit on college and university boards
and committees in various capacities but there is a sense
that a stronger relationship needs to be created at
regional or sub-regional level and that this will be an
area of development after the 2015 election. This already
happens in some areas with local Chambers of
Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnerships and other
forms of local partnership but can be patchy and if the
government, either now or in the future, wants to shift
to a more regionally devolved model, then a nationally
recognised structure of local business-education boards
may need to be put in place.
Spearheaded by BIS, there has recently been a
flurry of reports and ensuing debate about the
value of different levels of qualifications in terms
of earnings potential. In your opinion are there
reliable sources of information about the value of
qualifications – both vocational and non –
available to students and careers practitioners?
There's considerable interest at present in moving
beyond performance table listing of qualifications to
UCAS Undergraduate 2014 End of Cycle report is available to download at:
HM Treasury (2014) Autumn Statement 2014 available to download at:
Read the press release about the Careers and Enterprise Company at:
Association of Colleges (2014) response to UKCES Growth through People report. Available at:
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actually trying to assess both the potential and the actual
value of qualifications to the individual in terms of job
opportunities and wage returns. BIS has been consulting
on ways of doing this throughout much of the year and
is gradually building up an impressive database of
market intelligence intended to support this in the
future. It's not an easy area but, rather like food labelling
which allows the consumer to make an informed
judgement, so employment and wage return data has
the potential to do the same for learners.
School leaver schemes: Employers are more
interested in hiring school leavers. Nonetheless,
alternatives to HE are still taboo themes in school
careers advice, as recent research shows
(AGCAS/GTI – on parental influence in students’
career choice decision making)7. What is your
opinion on the future of these alternatives?
School leavers are always going to take advice on careers
from a range of sources and parents and family
members will be one of those. What is interesting is
how attitudes are shifting whether because of social
networking or because of headlines about the economy,
but young people are increasingly recognising labour
market signals much more than perhaps we give them
credit for. We saw this in the summer for instance when
it became clear in the reporting of exam results that
young people were increasingly choosing subjects that
could help secure them jobs in the future. So for me,
this is very much an attitudinal thing, which may take
some time but is starting to happen. Nobody talked
much about apprenticeships that long ago but now
everybody is talking about the opportunities they can
bring: that's the sort of attitudinal change that's taking
place now.
Finally Steve, what are you looking forward to in
2015 in the world of skills and education?
The Education Secretary recently said that, “education is a
partnership; it isn't a battle or a war”. In an election year, it
seemed a pretty good wish for the future.
Keep abreast of the latest developments in education through Policy Watch at:
AGCAS/GTI (2014) Parental influence on children’s academic and employment choices. Available at:
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Careers policy reviews:
where next?
GMT policy
Across the UK, there are clear signs of careers
policies shifting as a result of formal reviews and
recommendations to governments. The role and
responsibilities of the state, employers, private
and voluntary sector organisations is highly
topical. In this article, Dr Deirdre Hughes1
considers patterns, trends and recent policy
developments in the UK careers landscape. It
discusses the formation of a new careers and
enterprise company in England and sets out
some opportunities and challenges that lie ahead
for those working in the careers profession both
within and outside of higher education.
Patterns and trends
By 2020, nearly half of the UK workforce will be
qualified to degree level and above, overtaking the
USA2. Universities UK published its latest ‘Patterns and
Trends’ report outlining a range of data on the changing
size and shape of UK higher education (UUK, 2014)3.
The decline of 6.3% in total student enrolments (20122013) illustrates the ongoing need for the higher
education sector to demonstrate its value to
prospective students. The decline in numbers studying
part-time has continued, as has the recent reversal of
the growth in postgraduate taught study that occurred
over the past decade, with a 7% drop in postgraduate
taught numbers between 2011-12 and 2012-13 (UUK
op. cit.). Variations in the gender balance in different
subjects also persist and need to be given careful
consideration if the sector is to continue to produce a
balanced graduate population. In the current economic
climate, weighing up the cost benefits of higher
education can be difficult for some young people (and
adults) even though ‘in difficult conditions graduates
continue to experience better outcomes than nongraduates in both lifetime earnings and employability’
(UUK op. cit.). There is a clear problem to be
addressed by governments and their key partners in
making sure more young people are exposed to
meaningful career learning from an early age but the
challenge is how best to achieve this. Some
improvements in destination data and labour market
intelligence into school and college systems are
beginning to emerge.
In a new report, ‘Careers of the Future’, the UK
Commission for Employment and Skills’ identifies
careers that labour market analysts believe offer some
of the best opportunities for tomorrow’s job seekers
(UKCES, 2014)4. This No 10 Downing Street
initiative, responded to the Prime Minister’s concern
that insufficient careers information is available to
young people on the realities of the labour market.
There are widespread concerns across each of the four
home nations that careers provision needs to be
improved. There is also recognition that careers work
is a public as well as a private good. As a result,
differing career policies in the four home nations are
emerging. Some insights are presented below,
including brief commentary on the potential
implications for those working in the careers sector.
The English experiment
In England, the marketisation of career guidance
policies and practices has expanded, with a growing
assumption from government that market-based
goods and services ensure greater responsiveness to
consumer choice and offer better and/or more
innovative services for lower prices. However, very
little research has been conducted into the effects of
market principles applied in career guidance focusing
on the quantity and quality of the services (Meijers,
2001)5 and the cost benefits to governments and
individuals (ELGPN, 2012)6. In recent years, the
careers marketplace has become crowded, confused
and complex, with a multiplicity of disjointed careers
provision (Hughes, 2014)7. Whilst some schools have
Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE is Associate Fellow at the Warwick Institute for Employment Research (IER) and former Chair of the National Careers Council in England
(May 2012 – September 2014)
The Telegraph (2014) available at:
Universities UK (2014) Patterns and trends in UK higher education. Available at:
UKCES (2014) Careers of the future. Available at:
Meijers, F. (2001). The effects of the marketisation of career guidance services in The Netherlands. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 23 (2), 131-149.
ELGPN (2012) Lifelong Guidance Policy Development: A European Resource Kit, Finland: University of Jyväskylä, 52. Available at:
Hughes, D. (2014) Taking Action: Achieving a culture change in careers provision, London: National Careers Council, September 2014.
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responded positively to their new statutory duties for
impartial and independent careers provision, many
have not fully embraced this new requirement. Ofsted,
in its sample survey, found that only a fifth of the 60
schools it surveyed were giving the right careers
information to pupils (Ofsted, 2013)8. There are
serious concerns about skills mismatch, student dropout rates and participation rates in both vocational and
academic pathways.
The National Careers Council (2012–2014)
presented two formal reports to government9 setting
out recommendations for the National Careers Service
and wider careers support services. In September 2014,
the Council reiterated its recommendation made in
June 2013 to implement an Employer-led Advisory
Board, comprising senior representatives from
employers, education and career development sectors
to guide the work of an all-age National Careers
Service. It would provide decisive and robust strategic
influence to drive forward high quality all-age careers
provision across all parts of England. The strategic role
of employers, careers professionals and educationalists
working together to improve the ‘careers offer’ to
young people was made explicit. The National Careers
Council also set out funding options for greater
investment by government in careers provision,
particularly for young people. The Chancellors’
Autumn Statement (October, 2014) announcement of
a £20 million investment for careers advice and
support for young people (para. 2.227)10 was warmly
In early December 2014, the Education Secretary
announced plans for a new independent careers and
enterprise company in England. This moved beyond
the recommendations proposed by the National
Careers Council. The company will ‘ensure employers
are supporting young people with decision-making
and career development at every stage of school life’11.
The new careers and enterprise company’s work will
be aimed at schools, to transform the provision of
careers education and advice for young people and
inspire them about the opportunities offered by the
world of work. This will focus on young people aged
12 to 18 and will ‘help to broker relationships between
employers on one hand and schools and colleges on
the other’ (Department for Education op. cit.).
Christine Hodgson, Chair of Capgemini UK, has
agreed to chair the new company which will be
employer-led and independent of government, with
governance and advisory board arrangements due to be
established by March 201512. Advisory membership
recently outlined to the Education Select Committee
included: the Association of Schools and Colleges
(ASCL), the National Association of Headteachers
(NAHT), the UK Career Development Institute
(CDI), Business in the Community (BiTC), the
Education and Employers Taskforce (EETF), the CBI,
the British Chambers of Commerce, and the
Federation of Small Businesses. There was also some
mention of involving Local Authorities, LEPs and
public sector employers. The National Careers Service
will form part of the advisory arrangements and will
have a ‘formal Memorandum of Understanding’ with
the new company. It currently has a 5% allocated
budget from the Skills Funding Agency for ‘brokerage
services’ to schools and colleges.
The extent to which employers within the new careers
and enterprise company may lead the way in setting
out new careers policies and practices has yet to be
determined. A recent report by Warwick University
IER, on behalf of the Department for Business
Innovation & Skills (BIS), sets out findings from a
study focused on understanding the link between
employers and schools and the National Careers
Service (BIS, 2014)13. Whilst many employers are
doing great work with schools, colleges and
universities more need to step up and offer young
people more work experiences and opportunities. This
is a major challenge given findings from a survey of
just over 300 employers which highlights over 50% did
not engage, had no plans to engage in working links
with schools because they saw no real benefits to their
business and there are too many restrictions to navigate
(BIS op. cit.). This may help explain the government
and Skills Funding Agency’s focus on the need to
strengthen ‘brokerage arrangements’ between schools
and employers.
UKCES has welcomed calls for further strengthening
collaborative work between higher education
institutions (HEIs) and employers14. Within this
Ofsted (2013)
All reports from the National Careers Council are available at:
HM Treasury (2014) Autumn Statement 2014 available to download at:
Department for Education (2014)
Secretary of State for Education evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee available to download at:
Bimrose, J., Brown, A., Behle, H., Barnes, S.A., Hughes, D., Andrews, D., Davies, E., and Wiseman, J. (2014). Understanding the link between employers and schools and
the National Careers Service. London: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) Research Report Series, December 2014. Available at:
UKCES (2014)
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dynamic context, knowledge exchange is embedded
increasingly as an established mission of every publicly
funded HEI. Therefore, in my view HEIs and their
careers training and advisory services will have a
strategic decision to make on whether or not to engage
with the new careers and enterprise company. Higher
education careers professionals with first-hand
experience of working closely with students, national
and local employers and sharing labour market
intelligence could potentially greatly benefit this new
organisation. A critical issue is whether they have the
appetite and capacity for joint development work or
prefer to have divided and separate responsibilities?
The process of ensuring high quality careers provision,
at the right time and to the right people, through a
newly established company will be a long term and
potentially complicated process, particularly coming up
to a general election. There will be a need to establish
clear protocols, mechanisms for agreeing the level of
investment funding for careers and enterprise activities
and a process of distribution. The good news is that a
new ‘wrap around’ framework, co-designed by
employers, educationalists and careers professionals
working together with other key partners at a local and
national level, could significantly improve existing
provision. But in this crowded landscape the new
company must be clear on the actual problem it is
trying to solve. This may be to set up brokerage
arrangements between schools and employers
(something the National Careers Service has in its
delivery remit from 1st October 2014 onwards with
small-scale funding), to target ‘cold spots’ where
careers provision is weak, to quality-assure scalable and
sustainable careers and enterprise initiatives, to realign,
re-evaluate or reinvent policies and practices that have
been proven to work well in other parts of England.
On a positive note, there is a real chance for joint
workforce development in the careers and teaching
sectors to be prioritised. The extent to which Lord
Young’s enterprise agenda15 becomes the dominant
theme is something to be reconciled by the new
company. Concrete agreements will need to be reached
and concrete careers information, advice and guidance
for students needs to be achieved. Government and the
opposition must take immediate steps to not only
support a new independent company, but to improve
quality standards and the impact of careers work in
order to make up for lost ground. This is truly a new
era for careers work in England and this ‘experiment’
needs to be closely monitored.
Celtic nations
The Celtic nations have adopted a hybrid mix of
‘softened’ neo-liberalism and social justice policy
stances. For example, in Scotland, the government
recently unveiled a plan aimed at cutting youth
unemployment by 40% by 202116. The new youth
employment strategy will focus on forging closer links
between schools, colleges and employers. It comes in
response to a report by Sir Ian Wood’s Commission for
Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce17. The
Commission concluded that Scotland was not
preparing or equipping its young people for work. The
Wood report, published in June 2014, made a total of
39 recommendations. The Scottish government said
the recommendations had informed the strategy’s aims
to enable young people of all backgrounds to succeed
in a stronger, fairer and more equitable society. Key
measures to be put into place over the next seven years
include earlier careers guidance available from
2015/16; a new standard for work experience by
2015/16; and all secondary schools to have active
partnerships with employers by 2018/19. The role of
Skills Development Scotland in supporting the
‘Curriculum for excellence teaching and learning
framework’ (Scottish Government, 2008)18 and the
‘My World of Work’ website19 underpins careers
approaches in both primary and secondary education.
A pioneering approach in the integration of theoretical
and practice-based models of ‘career guidance and
coaching’ is well underway.
In Northern Ireland, the Minister for Employment
and Learning and the Minister of Education invited
Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City
Airport to chair a panel of experts from education,
career guidance and business to conduct a formal
review of the careers system in Northern Ireland
(Careers Review, 2014). With the comprehensive
inquiry carried out by the Assembly Employment and
Learning Committee and other key publications as its
starting point, the panel of experts undertook to
examine the careers system with the intention of
making recommendations on the way forward for the
future delivery of careers education and guidance20.
Lord Young (2014) Enterprise for all: The relevance of enterprise in education. Available to download at:
Careers, policy, research and practice. The blog of Dr Deirdre Hughes (2014) Scotland’s new plan to cut youth unemployment by 40%. Available at:
Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce (2014) Available at:
Scottish Government (2008) Curriculum for excellence: Building the curriculum 3 – a framework for teaching and learning. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government; 2008.
My World of Work website can be found at:
Careers Review 2014 (2014) A report by an independent panel of experts from education and employers on careers education and guidance in Northern Ireland.
Available at:
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In October 2014, a number of key themes emerged,
for example, exposure to the world of work and strong
partnerships with employers; easily accessible, accurate
information; access to impartial career guidance; and
support from modern information systems. To ensure
consistency of delivery across all of these areas the
expert panel recognised the need for a clear quality
assurance framework for the entire careers system.
In Wales, the government's priority for the national
careers service is young people (in defined priority
groups in schools and colleges and unemployed young
people up to the age of 25 who are most in need of
careers information, advice, guidance and support).
Careers service support for employer engagement with
education, coupled with capacity-building support to
schools to help institutions develop the ‘Careers and
the World of Work’ framework (including the Careers
Wales Quality Mark) remain a priority. However, there
have been significant cuts in budget and staffing
resource. The Deputy First Minister is currently chair
of a Wales Careers Strategic Forum designed to foster
cross-sector collaboration and co-ordination in respect
of both policy and service delivery.
In all four home nations, employers’ active
participation in helping to transform careers provision
is apparent. The careers marketplace is becoming more
crowded with multiple players, including national
careers services, employers, careers and human
resource professionals, recruitment specialists and
work coaches, each seeking to transform the careers
landscape in some shape or form. Closer collaboration
between employers, schools, colleges and universities
is essential to ensure that there are clear pathways
between institutions and workplaces. Those working
in the careers sector (and those who support it) must
strengthen their resolve to jointly make a strong case
for continued investment in careers professionals’
For further information visit: or email: [email protected]
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‘UniverCities’: the role of
HEIs in driving city
GMT research
Universities play an important role in the local
economies within which they exist. As the
government devolve more powers to metro
governments, the RSA City Growth
Commission’s report, UniverCities: The Knowledge
to Power UK Metros, considers how universities
can contribute further to their local economies.
Brhmie Balaram1 summarises the findings of the
report, co-authored by Jonathan Schifferes2, and
shares some of the recommendations.
What does the rise of cities mean for the UK
economy? The RSA City Growth Commission
embarked on a 12-month inquiry over the course of
2014 to find out. Specifically, the Commission
explored how businesses and government can enable
stronger growth in the UK’s 15 largest metros. As part
of this, the role of universities – key institutions of the
knowledge economy – was examined and
recommendations were made on how the UK can
maximise the contribution made by the higher
education sector.
A major ambition of the Commission was to make the
case for devolving more decision-making powers and
funding to metro governments in an effort to support
diverse urban areas in boosting their growth rates. In
its consideration of devolution of powers over public
expenditure, the Commission reflected on other ways
of securing best value from public investment to
maximise growth. Given that the higher education
sector is annually in receipt of more than £7 billion
(exclusive of student loans) in public funds from
central government, it was natural that the
Commission would be interested in the potential to
enhance the return on investment. Its aim in this
regard was to focus on strengthening the impact of all
higher education expenditure on local economic
The Commission set out its vision for universities in
the report UniverCities: The Knowledge to Power UK
Metros. This report builds on the premise that the
calibre of the UK’s universities and their geographical
breadth is a unique strength that benefits the UK
economically, particularly in the UK’s metros. Of 123
universities in the UK, 72 are in the UK’s 15 largest
metros. These universities have become key economic
assets in every major UK metro, but they also are as
competitive because higher education is exactly the
kind of knowledge industry that benefits from, in
addition to contributing to, agglomeration effects
within cities. The Commission is thus intent that the
global competitiveness of these universities is
reinforced through their metro contribution.
Adding value
There are a number of ways in which universities add
value: through research and teaching, producing
graduates, and supporting ‘innovation ecosystems’.
The UK is formidable in its research, recognised in a
survey of executives by the World Economic Forum as
second best (preceded by Switzerland) in the world in
quality of science research institutions3. However, in
spite of its strength in this area, the House of
Commons Science and Technology Committee has
found that the UK currently under-performs in
capturing the economic benefits from its world-class
science base at a local level4. This failure was in part
attributed to a lack of locally relevant information and
advice, but also because many of the financial and
performance incentives that universities are governed
by are agnostic to where the impact created by higher
education institutions (HEIs) is felt. Notably, only a
few regions, including London, have made an attempt
to correct this through networking and umbrella
bodies for the sector which connect HEIs and
Brhmie Balaram is a Researcher for the RSA (the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).
Jonathan Schifferes is a Senior Researcher for the RSA
The Competitive Rankings for quality of scientific research institutions:
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2013) Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research. Available at:
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Employer engagement
Of the 1.2 million small and medium enterprises
(SMEs) estimated to innovate annually on products or
processes, only 1,000 have collaborated with Research
Councils UK (RCUK)5. This may speak to how
prohibitive many SMEs find engagement with
universities. The underlying barriers are difficulties in
predicting future needs, raising investment capital and
commissioning research, but the ‘institutional
architecture’ is partially at fault. There is little
investment in coordination within and between HEIs,
which means that businesses often struggle to navigate
different faculties, schools and departments and their
Graduates in the labour market
Likewise, more could be done to integrate graduating
students into the labour market. In a 2014 survey of
HEIs, only one in seven identified that their HEI as a
whole made a significant contribution to economic
development through graduate retention6. Rates of
retention do vary by metro as longitudinal data from
the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
shows, but some metros are much weaker than others
at holding onto their share of graduates. This could be
for a number of reasons, including that a higher
concentration of graduate-level jobs in the private
sector is found in London7. Between 2009 and 2012,
35% of all jobs in London were graduate-level jobs
compared to 26% for other large cities in the UK. As
recruitment in the public sector wanes in accordance
with the recession and cuts to the public sector,
graduates increasingly depend on the private sector for
Another explanation may be that graduates find it
challenging to identify a wide range of possibilities or
alternatives to job leads that did not pan out
successfully in their local areas. The Association of
Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has estimated that
nationwide there are 84 graduate applications rejected
per graduate appointed. These candidates could be
more suitable for other employers in the area, some of
which may be SMEs, but the connection is only likely
to be made if there are brokers.
Graduate entrepreneurialism
Graduates may also not feel linked up to opportunities
enabling entrepreneurialism. In the Commission’s
research, graduate interviewees expressed that there
was still stigma surrounding enterprise. Students
viewed it as a ‘minority sport’ compared to
employment, but they also perceived that faculty was
often reluctant to support enterprise. There were
references to faculty being ‘fearful of being seen to
back something that isn’t a winner’ and some refusing
to embed entrepreneurialism in the curriculum
because they believed that ‘discussing business
applications cheapens the theory’ of what they teach.
Yet, the movement for further developing enterprise
education is gaining momentum and for good reason.
Enterprise education is ‘a process which develops
individuals’ mindsets, behaviours, skills and
capabilities’ in order to create value in a range of
contexts and environments – this usually has the
knock-on effect of improving the employability of
graduates overall8. An ‘entrepreneurial mindset’
prepares graduates to compete in a more dynamic
labour market9.
However, as enterprise education expands and has new
proponents, such as Lord Young and Sir Andrew Witty,
there is still a dearth of capital for graduate start-ups.
The graduates interviewed made it clear that social
capital is just as important as financial capital;
mentoring, support and access to networks of
customers and suppliers were all highly prized.
Harnessing the contribution of universities
The Commission has proposed a series of
recommendations aimed at optimising research and
teaching for metro growth, promoting graduate
retention and utilisation, and encouraging enterprising
students, graduates and faculty. These
recommendations are designed to ensure that as well
as being globally competitive, the contribution of
universities to metro growth is harnessed.
Metro funding to optimise research and teaching
for growth
In line with the overall belief that metros should have
more autonomy to act, the Commission suggests that
new freedoms and flexibilities be given to metros to
establish Metro Investment Funds for Higher
Education (MIFHE). These funds would be derived
from devolved skills budgets, and could be used by
metros to top up existing pots of money for research
and teaching that specifically impact on local growth
within their area. There are a number of advantages to
creating an MIFHE; for example, a metro approach to
Research Councils UK (2013) Impact report 2013. Available at:
Respondents were prompted to select answers from a prescribed list: In which three areas do you see your HEI as a whole making the greatest contribution to
(economic development? (HEFCE, ‘Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction Survey’, 2014)
Centre for Cities (2014) Cities Outlook 2014. Available at:
K Hermann, P Hannon, J Cox and P Ternouth (2008), ‘Developing Entrepreneurial Graduates: Putting entrepreneurship at the centre of higher education’
UKCES, (2014) ‘The Future of Work, Jobs and Skills in 2009’
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funding is likely to encourage collaboration between
HEIs. The flexible nature of this fund could also mean
that metros are able to aggregate small-scale
investments from philanthropic funds or businesses, or
channel funding to widen participation among metro
Graduate incentives to stay
There are several initiatives that metros could
champion with the aim of providing local graduates
with every opportunity to find employment in the
metro labour market. The Commission has suggested
a ‘ReFreshers’ Week’ which can essentially be
described as a campaign with universities to support
students ahead of and in the months following
graduation in their transition to working life in the
local area. Extending roots can take time: graduates
must find housing and work, as well as ways to feel
more connected to their off-campus community, such
as through volunteering opportunities or local events.
The introduction of a Graduate Clearing scheme may
help students diversify their job search, benefiting local
SMEs. The scheme would be similar to the UCAS
clearing scheme; however, the difference would be that
graduates who have not found a place in corporate
schemes would be connected to other firms, including
SMEs, looking to recruit. It would entail a centralised
system which pools rejected graduate recruitment
applications and then recycles them to local firms with
vacancies. The model could be developed from
existing infrastructure, such as the government’s
Graduate Talent Pool portal, and could be
commercialised after initial public investment.
To explicitly commit graduates to working in the local
area following graduation, industry associations,
start-up incubators, or university careers services could
attract subscriptions from firms to support a student
loan repayment bonus, made after a graduate’s loyalty
period ends. Eligibility for this ‘golden handcuffs’
scheme should require continuous (or near-continuous)
employment in identified industries and sectors,
rewarding a medium term (three to five year)
commitment from graduates to work locally. This
should be prioritised for industries or sectors with
identified skills shortages or growth potential, and
should extend to cover individuals who go on to
start-up firms within the loyalty period.
Investing in enterprise
Universities could also go the extra mile in supporting
start-up incubation and acceleration space in
innovative urban districts through co-investing with
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and industry
partners. There is a pattern of success that can be
followed, including Engine Shed in Bristol, Northern
Design Centre in Gateshead, C4DI in Hull, Collective
in Camden, London, and the Hatchery at UCL in
London. As suggested by the House of Commons
Science and Technology Committee, universities
should consider investing a fraction of their
endowment, reserves, or pension funds in such
schemes10. This might also produce further resource
for reinvesting in local spin-off enterprises of staff and
The Commission backs Lord Young’s
recommendation that all students have access to an
enterprise module. However, enterprise education
could be elevated a notch by expanding options for
flexible course provision, such as allowing for
sandwich years and modular courses, which enable
short-term placements at shorter notice.
Notably, many of the ways in which universities can
play a more central role in driving growth do not
actually require further devolution of powers before
they can act. Universities have the potential to help
metros realise greater prosperity, and a number have
already been pursuing this agenda for some time. The
Commission’s exploration of this matter is intended to
inspire other universities and metros to recognise this
potential and spur them to act.
Download the full report, UniverCities: The Knowledge to Power UK Metros at:
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2013) Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research
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Loyals, stayers, returners
and incomers: Graduate
migration patterns
GMT research
Charlie Ball1 introduces a section of the work
he is undertaking investigating graduate
employment across the UK. He takes a look at
UK-domiciled first degree graduates from
2012/13 who were in employment in the UK six
months after graduation, and analyses patterns of
graduate movement by region in terms of their
locations of domicile2, study and employment.
The data used in this study comes from the Higher
Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) Destinations
of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey
from 2012/13, which surveyed graduates leaving
university in 2013, and examined what they were
doing six months after graduation. We have split the
employed population of graduates into four groups:
1. Loyals
These are graduates who are domiciled in a region,
went to study in the region, and remained to work in
that region. Nearly half of employed graduates (45.9%)
from 2012/13 working in the UK six months after
graduating fell into this category – not a significant
change from before the recession. Loyals tended to be
slightly older, were more likely to be women and more
likely to have studied part-time than other groups.
They were more likely to be from a background with
lower participation in higher education (HE), and to
have a job in education.
2. Returners
These are graduates domiciled in a region, who go
elsewhere to study, and then return to their home
region for employment. Just under a quarter (24.7%)
of employed graduates fell into this category, again not
a significant change from before the recession, and
40.5% of graduates working in the East of England
were from this group. They were the most likely group
to be in non-professional employment after six
months, except in London, where it is the Loyals.
3. Stayers
These are graduates who travel away from their home
region to study, and then remain in that region to
work. Of the first degree graduates who were in
employment in the UK 11.5% were in this category,
nearly one in six of whom (16.3%) were working as
health professionals. They were also more likely than
other graduates to work in arts and media professions.
This group were the most likely to be young (21-24)
on graduation, to be white and to have studied fulltime.
4. Incomers
These are graduates who go to work in a region in
which they neither studied nor were domiciled, and
made up 18% of the population of employed graduates
from 2012/13. They often come to a region for jobs
which may be higher paid, in management,
engineering, or business. This group were the most
likely to be male and from the backgrounds with the
highest participation in HE. They were the least likely
(17%) to be in a non-professional job. Business, HR
and finance professions were the destinations for
15.1% of Incomers six months after graduating, and
11.9% went into marketing or PR. More than a third
(34%) of graduates in engineering and 30.6% of
graduates in employment in the sciences were in this
Figure 1 (over the page) shows the breakdown of
regional employment into these groups. Incomers
become more important the closer a region is to the
employment hotspots of London and the South East,
and it is notable that the Scottish labour market now
sees more Loyals than Northern Ireland, most likely as
a result of the different fees regime there.
Graduate retention
There are a number of different potential forms of
graduate retention. Here we examine two, retention of
graduates originally domiciled in a region, and
Charlie Ball is the Head of Higher Education Intelligence for Prospects, you can access more of his work on his blog at:
Domicile refers to the region that the graduate lived in before they began studying at university.
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retention of graduates who went to university in a
region. Figure 2 examines the differences. With the
exception of Northern Ireland, each region is more
likely to retain those originally from the region than
those who studied there – not surprising, as
there are more Returners than Stayers. This does
demonstrate the differences between different forms
of ‘retention’ and the challenges in thinking of
graduate retention, and what that might actually mean.
Figure 1. Breakdown of
graduates from 2012/13
employed in each region after
six months by migration
Source: HESA’s Destinations of Leavers
from Higher Education survey 2012/13
East London
Returners 15.7
Wales Scot
Figure 2: Proportion of
graduates from 2012/13
originally domiciled, and
proportion of graduates
who went to university in
each region, working in the
region six months after
of graduates retained by region
Source: HESA’s Destinations of Leavers
from Higher Education survey 2012/13
Domiciled 76.2
East London
There is more insight from Charlie’s full report on regional graduate migration at:
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Are Australian graduates
at the mercy of the
gender wage gap?
GMT international research
Persistent gender wage gap inequality among
recent graduates in the UK was explored in the
GMT Futuretrack special 20131. Is this
phenomenon felt only in the UK or is it
experienced in other graduate labour markets?
Edwina Lindsay2 from Graduate Careers
Australia (GCA) analyses the Graduate
Destinations Survey to explore the gender wage
gap in the Australian graduate labour market.
This article investigates the key determinants of
the Australian graduate gender wage gap and
provides suggestions for future research.
As the national gender wage gap in Australia is
currently sitting at a 20 year high of 18.2% in favour of
males (ABS, 2014), the need to address the financial
barriers for Australian women is now stronger than
ever. It is important to note, however, that this 18.2%
figure does not take into account the many vital factors
that influence salaries, such as differences in age and
work experience. The question is this: does this gender
wage gap (i.e. the difference in earnings between males
and females) exist for Australian graduates? Since
graduates enter the labour market at a time when their
human capital is arguably equal, there is no obvious
reason to expect there to be differences in their starting
Using 2013 Graduate Destinations Survey (GDS) data,
we investigated whether a gender wage gap exists
within the labour market for recent Australian
graduates and, if so, the extent of the gender wage gap
when the personal, enrolment and employment
characteristics of graduates were taken into account.
Some literature
When reviewing the international literature examining
the gender wage gap amongst graduates, overseas
studies have found that a major contributor to the
gender wage gap is field of education (Finnie and
Wannell, 2004; Jewell, 2008). Finnie and Wannell’s
(2004) longitudinal analysis of Canadian bachelor
degree graduates found that field of education was a
significant contributor to the overall wage gap, and that
women tended to be over-represented in lowerearning fields of education. Similarly, in her UK study
of University Reading graduates, Jewell (2008)
reported field of education choice to be a major driver
of the gender wage gap, and that the overall gap was
partly attributable to males being more likely to obtain
jobs at the higher end of the pay scale.
Interestingly, Australian studies have found similar
results. In 2009, Birch, Li and Miller, using data from
the 2003 GDS, found field of study to be a major
determinant of Australian graduate starting salaries.
They reported that particular majors were associated
with a pay premium, and found a residual gender wage
gap of around 3% favouring males in their pooled
sample. Another study, conducted by Li and Miller in
2012, again using GDS data, reported a slightly larger
gender wage gap of 5% in the Australian graduate
labour market.
Data and methodology
The data used for this study came from GCA’s annual
Graduate Destinations Survey 2013 (GDS). Previous
studies have established that the GDS data are reliable
indicators of the full-time labour market outcomes of
recent graduates (e.g. Guthrie and Johnson, 1997).
The data set for this analysis was restricted to a subset
of respondents who were Australian citizens or
permanent residents, had completed a bachelor degree,
aged less than 25 at the time of the survey, in their first
full-time employment in Australia, and had indicated
their gender. Graduates with missing data in any of the
variables of interest in this study were excluded from
the sample, as were those with an annual salary below
$A20,000 or above $A112,500. Following these
exclusions, the final sample contained 8,185 graduates,
consisting of 3,103 males (37.9% of the sample) and
5,082 females (62.1% of the sample).
GMT (2013) Gendered Earning Power. Futuretrack Special. P.14. Available at:
Edwina Lindsay is a Research Associate at Graduate Careers Australia (GCA). GCA works in association with the higher education sector, government and business
in Australia to provide employment and career opportunities to graduates, producing graduate-related publications and research that informs stakeholders about
graduate employment and career development.
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The analysis consisted of three multiple regression
models predicting annual starting salary on the basis of
a set of potential influencing factors which included
personal, enrolment and occupational characteristics.
The dependent variable in this study was the natural
logarithm of the annual starting salary. Results from
the three models are presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Gender differences in graduates' average annual starting salaries when controlling for various
personal, enrolment and employment characteristics, 2013†¥
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
-0.094 (0.006)**
-0.047 (0.006)**
-0.044 (0.006)**
Field of education (a)
Agricultural science
Architecture & building
Art & design
Biological sciences
Computer sciences
Earth sciences
Economics & business
Paramedical studies
Physical sciences
Social sciences
Social work
Veterinary science
0.070 (0.014)**
0.069 (0.029)*
0.061 (0.019)**
-0.121 (0.020)**
-0.002 (0.017)
0.125 (0.019)**
0.446 (0.052)**
0.285 (0.033)**
0.059 (0.011)**
0.177 (0.013)**
0.306 (0.013)**
0.152 (0.019)**
0.134 (0.038)**
0.238 (0.021)**
0.529 (0.060)**
0.155 (0.012)**
-0.110 (0.020)**
0.101 (0.034)**
0.026 (0.020)
0.023 (0.029)
0.028 (0.032)
0.024 (0.048)
0.035 (0.013)**
0.077 (0.027)**
0.078 (0.018)**
-0.074 (0.018)**
0.028 (0.015)
0.100 (0.018)**
0.452 (0.048)**
0.197 (0.031)**
0.046 (0.010)**
0.141 (0.013)**
0.230 (0.012)**
0.117 (0.017)**
0.074 (0.035)*
0.130 (0.020)**
0.504 (0.055)**
0.093 (0.011)**
-0.124 (0.019)**
0.076 (0.031)*
0.043 (0.018)*
0.047 (0.026)
0.035 (0.029)
0.054 (0.044)
Personal characteristics
Non-English speaking background
0.023 (0.016)
-0.003 (0.008)
0.006 (0.015)
0.000 (0.008)
Enrolment characteristics
Honours bachelor
Double degree
0.114 (0.010)**
0.107 (0.008)**
0.079 (0.010)**
0.076 (0.007)**
Region, occupation, other
employment characteristics
Adjusted R2
Sample size
† Standard errors are reported in parentheses.
** = statistically significant at 1 per cent level
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Not included
Not included
* = statistically significant at 5 per cent level;
¥ Reference categories: (a) humanities
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According to Table 1, Model 1 reports that female
graduates earn approximately 9.4% less than male
graduates, on average, controlling for no other factors.
However, capturing the impact of gender alone is not a
true reflection of the determinants of the starting
salaries of graduates (Birch, Li and Miller, 2009),
because men and women enrol in different fields of
education and have different occupational pathways as
a result.
We then built on Model 1 by controlling for field of
education studied, and a range of other personal
characteristics (disability status, language background)
and enrolment characteristics (honours degree, double
degree) that may influence graduates’ starting salaries
to create Model 2. The results of Model 2 halved the
aggregate 9.4% gender wage gap to 4.7%. In other
words, female graduates earn approximately 4.7% less,
on average, than male graduates when field of
education and other personal and enrolment
characteristics are taken into account.
So what are the key factors that contribute to the
overall 9.4% gap observed in Model 1? When looking
at the enrolment patterns of male and female graduates
(Table 2), 24.6% of males and 3.7% of females studied
engineering. According to Model 2 (Table 1),
engineering was associated with a 30.6% salary
advantage compared with the reference category of
humanities. When it came to humanities, females
outnumbered males, and humanities was ranked at the
lower end of the salary distribution. This overrepresentation of males in fields of education that
typically have higher starting salaries, and
concentration of females in jobs at the lower end of the
pay distribution seems to be a key contributor to the
aggregate 9.4% gender wage gap observed in Model 1;
consistent with the findings from Jewell (2008) and
Birch, Li and Miller (2009).
In Model 3, we estimated the impacts of broad
occupation groupings and other employment
characteristics on graduates’ average annual starting
salaries. In addition to personal, field of education, and
enrolment variables, Model 3 (Table 1) includes an
extensive list of employment variables such as weekly
working hours in logarithmic form, whether the
graduate was employed in a small or medium
enterprise, whether they worked in the
public/government sector, were on a short-term
contract, whether they considered their field of
education to be of only limited importance to their
current employment, and whether they were
Table 2. Graduates’ field of education enrolment
patterns, by gender, 2013 (%)
Field of education
Agricultural science
Architecture &
Art & design
Biological sciences
Computer sciences
Earth sciences
Economics & business
Paramedical studies
Physical sciences
Social sciences
Social work
Veterinary science
employed full-time in their final year of study. We also
included 14 region of employment variables (each
Australian state is split into regional and urban
categories) and seven broad occupation variables (with
reference categories of regional South Australia, and
Community and Personal Service workers).
The addition of the various employment variables in
Model 3 only changed the female coefficient
marginally from -0.047 to -0.044. This small shift
appears to confirm the earlier finding that much of the
gender wage gap for recent graduates is due to the
differences in fields of education studied by male and
female graduates, and the differences in occupational
pathways resulting from these choices.
It is unfortunate that even after controlling for an
unusually detailed set of fields of education controls, as
well as an extensive set of personal, enrolment and
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employment characteristics, a statistically significant
gender wage gap of 4.4% in favour of males remained
unexplained by our data set. Nevertheless, this 4.4%
figure is similar to the results from other Australian
studies for example, 3% found by Birch, Li and Miller
(2009) and 5% found by Li and Miller (2012).
Conclusions and future research
Major findings from our analysis suggested that much
of the earnings gap between new male and female
graduates in Australia can be explained by differences
in the choice of fields of education. In other words,
half of the graduate gender wage gap can be explained
before graduates even enter the workforce (for
example, the field of education variables reduced the
gender wage gap from 9.4% to 4.7%).
If higher earnings are of importance to students, then
the strategic selection of field of education at an earlier
point in their education is likely to reward them with
higher earnings in the labour market. The 9.4%
aggregate gap could be narrowed if females were given
more information about career choices and
opportunities at school with encouragement to
consider training for occupations that are often
traditionally thought of as male roles. These include
training and occupations in STEM subjects.
We also found that, after further controlling for
personal, enrolment and broad occupational
characteristics of male and female graduates, a gender
wage gap of 4.4% remained unexplained by our data.
While the gap could be partly due to other differences
between men and women not captured in our data and
models, it could also be explained by gender
differences in negotiating behaviour as well as
discriminatory practices within the workplace. If true,
this could be addressed by organisations implementing
gender-neutral wage practices that ensure equal wage
structures for males and females who work in
comparable levels of employment, and training staff
and managers on the issue of gender bias. The
Workplace Gender Equality Agency3 is currently
running a campaign to encourage CEOs to analyse
their pay structures within their respective workforces.
So far the campaign has established 58 pay equity
ambassadors (CEOs who have pledged to achieve
gender equity within their organisations).
Finally, other studies have concluded that the gender
wage gap tends to widen with age. Finnie and Wannell
(2004), for example, found that the gender wage gap
for graduates narrowed two years after course
completion, but widened two to five years out for all
cohorts. The analysis undertaken in our study was
limited in that the GDS data relate exclusively to
recent graduates at the beginning of their careers. This
limitation may be addressed by future research based
on longitudinal data such as those contained within the
Beyond Graduation Survey4, in order to determine
whether the magnitude of the gender wage gap for
recent Australian graduates fluctuates over time.
ABS (2014) Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, May 2014, cat. no.
6302.0 [online]. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available from:[email protected]/mf/6302.0
Birch, E. R., Li, I., & Miller, P. W. (2009) ‘The influence of
institution attended and field of study on graduates’ starting salaries’,
The Australian Economic Review, 42 (1), 42-63.
Finnie, R., & Wannell, T. (2004) ‘Evolution of the gender earnings
gap among Canadian university graduates’, Applied Economics, 36,
Guthrie, B., & Johnson, T.J. (1997) Study of Non-Response to the 1996
Graduate Destination Survey. Canberra: Department of Employment,
Education Training and Youth Affairs.
Jewell, S. (2008) Human Capital Acquisition and Labour Market
Outcomes in UK Higher Education. UK: Centre for Career
Management Skills, The University of Reading.
Li, M., & Miller, P. (2012) Gender Discrimination in the Australian
Graduate Labour Market. Discussion Paper Series No. 6595.
Germany: The Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA)
Download the full journal article with more detail about the data and methodology employed at: Gender Wage Gap Paper 2013 GDS - 17 June 2014 FINAL.pdf
For more information, visit:
Graduate Careers Australia’s Beyond Graduation Survey investigates the activities and outcomes of graduates three and five years after course completion.
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Institutional prestige
and the money factor
GMT research
Are universities prestigious because they are rich
or rich because they are prestigious? Different
league tables use different methodologies and
rarely compare like with like and financial
factors usually determine where a university sits
in the rankings. Andrew McCulloch examines
the role of league tables in helping define
institutional prestige.
comparator institutions. Institutions are concerned that
a fall in a league table position from one year to the
next may impact on their prestige and reputation. This
is because the reputation of an institution is an
important factor influencing the decisions made by
students about where to study.
Published annually by several newspapers, including
the Times, the Independent and the Guardian, league
tables use a set of indicators to try to rank UK
universities. These tables attempt to rank universities
along a single dimension. What exactly this dimension
represents is not explained in detail by any of the
publications, but we can broadly think of it as
'prestige'. Universities do pay attention to their
position in the league tables and in particular to
changes in where they are ranked relative to other
Example 1. Guardian league tables
Although institutions may be concerned about the
impact of changes in league table position on the
number of applications they receive, both league table
position and the number of applications show a strong
pattern of stability. Using the Guardian league tables,
figure 1 shows the relationship between league table
ranking in 2009 and 2012, with research-based
universities (the Russell Group and the 1994 Group)
distinguished from remaining institutions. There is a
very positive correlation (r = 0.9) between league
position in 2009 and league position in 2012. The
Figure 1. The relationship between league table
position in 2009 and 2012 for Russell Group, 1994
Group and other institutions
Figure 2. The relationship between number of
applications in 2009 and 2012 for Russell Group,
1994 Group and other institutions
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stability of position within the league table is
particularly marked for the research-based universities,
with seventeen institutions remaining in the top
twenty in both years. Outside the group of researchbased universities, there is greater movement in league
table position from year to year, although long-term
movement in position still tends to be uncommon.
Figure 2 shows the relationship between the number
of UCAS applications received by universities in 2009
and 2012. The correlation between the number of
applications received in 2009 and the number in 2012
is remarkably high (r = 0.96) with a few universities –
Manchester Metropolitan, Leeds, Nottingham,
Edinburgh and Manchester – receiving more than
45,000 applications in both years.
The stability shown by universities' positions in league
tables and the number of applications they receive
suggests that the relationship between league table
rankings and number of applications is likely to be
relatively weak. Research studies confirm this view,
and a recent study using data at the subject level has
found that a unit change in league table score is
associated with a 0.5% change in applications
(Chevalier and Jia 2013)1.
Figure 3. The relationship between the entry
points of students and the staff/student ratio for
Russell Group, 1994 Group and other institutions
Example 2. The Times league tables
Figure 3 plots the relationship between the entry
qualifications of students against the student/staff ratio
and figure 4 plots the relationship between the entry
qualifications of students against the spending on
services for universities in the most recent league table
published by the Times. Figure 4 shows that there is a
positive relationship between entry qualifications and
spending on services (r = 0.71) while entry
qualifications show a negative relationship to the
student/staff ratio (r = -0.77) (figure 3). In other
words, the higher qualified the average student, the
more the university spends on services, and the lower
the student/staff ratio is.
The figures also show that research-based institutions
tend to have lower staff/student ratios and higher levels
of spending in comparison to other institutions.
Meanwhile, the magnitude of the variation in student
spending and staff resources across institutions seems
to be quite large. For example, although differences in
the subjects taught at different institutions will
influence the costs of education, the spending on
services vary widely from over £3,000 per student at
Oxford and Cambridge to less than £1,000 per student
at the universities of Bolton and Cumbria. The league
Figure 4. The relationship between the entry
points of students and the services facilities
spend for Russell Group, 1994 Group and other
Chevalier A, Jia X, 2013, Subject specific league tables and students’ application decisions. Available at:!/file/A3_jia.pdf
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table positions of the more prestigious institutions are
not therefore due to a single factor, but instead a range
of advantages, including the level of financial and staff
resources which they have available.
The effect of financial advantage
The financial advantages that the most prestigious
universities have over other institutions are not trivial
despite the majority of institutions charging the same
tuition fee of £9,000 per year. For example, the Vice
Chancellor of Oxford recently complained that the
university was spending around £70 million of its own
money each year on the education of its students2. If
we put aside the argument that as a charitable
organisation there is nothing remarkable about
providing services at less than their market price, it still
leaves the university with a significant funding gap
each year. For universities such as Oxford, the extra
financial resources that they spend on teaching come
from a range of sources, but include a significant
component from donations made by former students.
Information on the amount of money received in
donations by UK universities has been collected by the
Ross Case survey since 2001/02 (NatCen, 2014)3. The
Ross Group is a network of leading fundraising
professionals from the research-based universities.
Figures from the most recent survey show that Oxford
and Cambridge are a case apart from remaining
institutions, with total alumni donations to Oxford and
Cambridge exceeding £350 million in the academic
year 2012/13. Among the remaining institutions, the
older universities tend to receive more in donations
than the newer universities. Institutions established
prior to 1960 received on average around £6 million
per year, while the 1960s universities received around
£2 million and the 1990s universities around £640,000.
The magnitude of donations to Oxford and
Cambridge tells us quite a lot about the kinds of
processes that produce inequalities between higher
education institutions. The amount received by a
university in terms of donations is related to how
successful its former students have been in the labour
market, which in turn is related to the level of prestige
of the institution they attended. This highlights the
strong pattern of cumulative causation that runs
through higher education.
Can anything be done to level the playing field?
Recent government initiatives have tried to increase
the role of donations as a source of cash for
universities, with the Pearce Report setting a target of
£2 billion per year in donations from 630,000 donors
by 2022 (HEFCE, 2012)4. It is not a bad idea to
encourage alumni who have benefited from their
education to donate to their former institutions.
However, it would seem likely that greater reliance on
donations as a source of finance would tend to increase
differences between institutions. While the most
prestigious institutions would likely prosper, with a
virtuous cycle of generous financial assistance
attracting the most qualified students who go on to the
best jobs, those at the bottom of the league tables
would not have the same degree of support from
former students and would likely find it difficult to
maintain the quality of their services.
Although the quality of our research-based universities
does attract a lot of attention, it is not a particularly
useful way to gauge the quality of an education system
as a whole. It is likely that the prestigious institutions
in the UK could prosper without government support.
A reduction in the level of government support and an
increase in competition between institutions might
have a positive effect for a handful of universities, but
would very likely lead to an increase in inequalities
between institutions. From what we know, this would
likely make it more difficult for young people from
less well-off backgrounds to go to university.
Government regulation and financial support will
therefore remain key both to the quality of the
education system as a whole and to the level of
investment we make in education as a country.
NatCen (2014) Giving to excellence. Available at:
HEFCE (2012) Review of philanthropy in UK higher education. Available at:
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Higher Education
Employability update
Learning and teaching in cyber security grants awarded
The Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
have awarded Development Fund grants of up to £40,000 to Newcastle College, Birmingham City
University, Edge Hill University and Liverpool John Moores University. Following a National Audit
Office landscape review on the UK cyber security strategy, the HEA and BIS invited proposals for
innovative projects that would improve cyber security teaching and learning. The four institutions will
use the funding to develop individual projects that will help improve the skills of graduates, address the
shortage of cyber security skills and future proof the country’s IT sector, making it more resilient to
possible cyber-attacks.
Further information is available at:
Student transitions: journeying into, through and beyond higher education – 19th February
2015, London
This one-day enhancement event will focus on the student journey as a transitional experience, beginning
when students first decide to enter higher education, and continuing through to graduate employment.
The keynote address will reflect on the challenges and opportunities encountered by students entering and
transiting through higher education. Delegates can choose from a number of workshops which provide
opportunities to network and share best practice with colleagues. Find out more and book your place at:
The role of disciplines in interdisciplinary learning and teaching – 5th March 2015, Belfast
Students need to be prepared for a world of complex social and economic challenges which often require
interdisciplinary solutions. Addressing this requires the development of curriculum and pedagogy that can
support students in developing skills such as problem solving and the ability to think across intellectual,
cultural and linguistic borders. This event will provide an opportunity for delegates to share their
experiences and perspectives of interdisciplinary education and the role of discipline teaching and learning
within this. Find out more and book your place at:
For information on all HEA events visit:
New resources
Enhancing employability through enterprise education
This new HEA resource seeks to share, disseminate and encourage good practice in enterprise education
across the disciplines. The case studies represent higher education providers (HEPs) across the UK and
provide diverse and innovative approaches to addressing enterprise education at a discipline and university
level. The resource can be accessed at:
A launch event and workshop was held on 4th December 2014 in Cardiff. A blog on this is available at:
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Engaged learning in MOOCs: a study using the UK engagement survey (2015)
This study looked at the learning taking place in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It shows that
participants can and do experience engaged, high quality learning. The study sets out to answer the
question: how can we know what learning is taking place in MOOCs, and identify MOOCs’ potential for
future use in HE? Available at:
For information on all HEA resources go to:
Professional development and recognition
Become a Fellow of the HEA: applying for recognition
The scheme is closely referenced to the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF):
Benefits to gaining recognition as an Academy Fellow include:
• National recognition of your commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher
• Demonstrates that your practice is aligned with the UKPSF;
• Provides an indicator of professional identity for higher education practitioners, including the
entitlement to use post-nominal letters;
• It is a portable asset that has UK-wide relevance and which is increasingly recognised by higher and
further education institutions.
The HEA’s new online application process is now available for use. This enables individuals and
institutions to make applications for professional recognition with the HEA via the My Academy portal:
For further information go to:
The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is the national body for enhancing learning and teaching in higher education (HE). We are committed to
excellent learning and teaching, supporting UK HE organisations with an emphasis on improving the student experience. For further information
on our services go to: