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Graduate earnings to gain greater strength

Graduate pay will become more important in judging teaching quality.

On 7 September at the Universities UK annual conference, Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, announced that future iterations of the Teaching Excellence Framework would include a supplementary metric on graduate earnings. Later that day the Department for Education released a promised document of lessons learned from TEF 2 that included details of the new metric. Under the rubric of “strengthening accountability”, it stated: “We will include supplementary metrics derived from LEO data in order to exploit the rich data about graduate employment now available. As supplementary metrics, these will not affect the initial hypothesis but will be considered alongside the provider submission.” It was confirmed to journalists later that LEO data would be used in conjunction with figures from the Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education survey, as long as it continues to exist.

On the face of it, this looked worrying for universities whose graduates have low average earnings. Specialist institutions in the creative arts might be particularly worried about making graduate salaries a proxy for teaching quality. The phrase “strengthening accountability” [to students] really means value-for-money for the now £9,250 annual tuition fee for undergraduate courses in England. In the eyes of the government, value-for-money seems to mean bang for your buck: how much does your university degree allow you to earn?

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