Now here’s a tricky subject. Over the years there has been much talk about the need to collect data about graduate outcomes and, along with the talk there has been action; some clearly of value and some less so. This does seem to be a fertile area for researchers – academic and otherwise – and those of us of a cynical nature might think that there is much chasing of tails.
Several matters have struck me in reviewing the material in my own non-academic and superficial way and, for what it is worth – here are my thoughts.
“Graduate outcome” seems to focus only those who have graduated, which is fair enough because “graduate” is one of those handy words which is a noun, a verb, and an adjective and all to do with being awarded a qualification. One wonders, though, what has happened to those who commenced their studies but did not graduate. Why did they cease studying and what happened to them?
Different measures obtain data from different sources. TEC’s KIS (Key Information for Students) obtains data from a range of sources, but none from the graduates themselves. The Australian GOS (Graduate Outcome Survey) collects data directly from the graduates. Both measures seem to have a common goal of providing information to those contemplating study.
But it is not just future students that have an interest in graduate outcomes. Government and its agencies, employers, and the training providers themselves have an interest.
It would appear that government may be inching forwards to the point that a graduate outcome measure could be a performance measure and, as such, presumably could affect funding and so affect the training providers. Ultimately, though, it is really only the training providers that can improve graduate outcomes. They can do that in several ways, one of which is to recruit only those students that they know are more likely to succeed. This would be behaviour likely to reinforce the existing EPI dynamic which strongly discourages the recruitment of those who might fail.
It is at this point deeper policy (and possibly, moral) questions arise all of which are beyond my competence. What I would say, though, is that training providers have a very strong incentive to collect their own reliable graduate outcome data, to match those outcomes against the profile of incoming students, and to analyse what interventions can make a difference; not just those in the classroom.