August 24, 2011

Useful statistics that prospective applicants can understand. Really?

Filed under: Education,Employability — Ellie Franklin @ 11:28 pm
Tags: , ,

So the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) helpfully directs prospective students to the Unistat’s website where
statistics are available on degree UCAS tariff entry points, graduate jobs prospects and student satisfaction.

Helpful by intention, but this is a lot of incomprehensible data for those whom it is supposed to assist:

1. Firstly, I find it hard to reconcile the number shown there for the subject I teach at the university where I teach to what I know the entry requirement for the degree is. For the actual average according to Unistat to be lower than the minimum requirement it takes a very large volume of low UCAS points students that would have been taken on during Clearing. And that’s not what I understand has been happening in the last couple of years with the surge for university places before the higher fees come into effect. I don’t know, may be I am blinded by bias, but I don’t see how this statistic is right, and if it is (which I don’t think it is) – how is it that useful (other than to tell prospective applicants which universities recruit higher academic achievers which is kind of obvious from the entry requirements in their prospectuses, isn’t it). I guess it tells something about demand and the discount to points offered by suppliers to attract the needed demand. So I can live with it in principle (although I remain unsatisfied with the calculation method of that statistic; what’s the methodology anyway?)

2. The second statistic given is the “% of employed with graduate jobs”. You click on the definition but the explanation provided leaves you non-the-wiser about how Unistat define “graduate jobs”. Do they mean “graduate training schemes with blue chip organisations”? Because if that’s what they mean, it is not what is transparently clear from the presentation and definition. Even if one was persistent in trying to find out what “graduate job” is and does check out the “Standard Occupational Classifications” referred to by the definition – one remains in the dark. I am sorry, but I just don’t get it. I don’t know how to read this data. And I
can’t help thinking that actually, most prospective applicants will not go through the various steps like me trying to understand; what they will read is “% of students in employment” full stop. And that’s blatantly wrong! Especially for a widening participation university like mine where a lot of kids would have come through non-traditional backgrounds, and by the definition
of “widening-participation” do not meet the pre-university academic entry requirements of the “blue chip graduate schemes” and would therefore be in other employment, potentially  falling outside the definition of “graduate jobs”, whatever that is, but actually being the jobs that graduates got. This is wrong! This is self-perpetuating wrong! And misleading. If Unistat purports to provide helpful statistics it should perhaps show the % of those in employment (any type), then those in “graduate schemes” but define that explicitly, not ambiguously.

3. The student satisfaction % statistic given is also a good idea. I find it the most difficult to critique. It is useful, no question about it. But there is so much behind it that remains completely invisible to the user of the data on Unistat’s website – for example, how many students, or what proportion of the student population took part in the survey, was it 2 students voting “happy”
resulting in a 100% “happy” rate? Or was it 250 voting differently for a variety of reasons (what are those?) resulting in a lower, say 90% “happy” rate. Prospective students never get to see why those who are “unhappy” are in fact that way. So?

Well, good attempt at comparability between universities. Sadly, not ideal. Do users (prospective students and their parents) understand that? And of course there is the disclaimer. It reads:

“The content of the website is for general information only and does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation upon which a specific decision should be made.”

‘Nuff siad.

Useful links:



Standard Ocupational Classification (Office for National Statistics)


Create a free website or blog at