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Degrees of Advantage? A longer-term investigation of the careers of UK graduates

The Futuretrack longitudinal research has been tracking the cohort of students who applied to university in 2005/2006, most of whom graduated in 2009/10. The fifth stage of the study was a survey conducted in summer and early autumn 2019, followed by 200 detailed telephone interviews conducted from September 2019-early January 2020. The data collected has been analysed and a report written and submitted to the Advisory Group and the Nuffield Foundation, which funded that stage of the research, and the report is scheduled to be published at the end of September.

However, as the team were analysing the data, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. We realised that many of the plans and aspirations outlined by many Futuretrack respondents in 2019 may have been disrupted, and our findings would provide at best a rather partial and potentially outdated account of their career outcomes and future opportunities. It is an extraordinary situation, with huge policy implications.

We are delighted that the Nuffield Foundation has agreed to fund an additional ‘updating’ research exercise, to enable us to go back to the respondents with a brief online enquiry followed by a short survey to investigate the impact of the Covid restrictions and the evolving recession on their employment security and perceptions of their future options.

The Futuretrack Covid-19 Online Follow-up Enquiry is now live!

If you are a member of the Futuretrack cohort and receive an email from us to participate, we hope that you will answer the three very simple questions asking about the impact on your work and life more generally of the Covid-19 restrictions and its subsequent socio-economic effects.

If you are a member of the Futuretrack cohort and do NOT hear from us, please email , giving us your name and current email address, and we will send you a copy of the email you should have received.

Please see information for participants for more details.

Futuretrack Stage 5 aimed to:

  • create an accurate picture of the kinds of jobs graduates are doing in the longer-term, and how they got them,
  • explore how the post-2008-9 recession had affected graduate employment opportunities,
  • collect data on the longer-term impact of student debt on graduate careers,
  • establish whether higher education has contributed to social mobility, and
  • compare the experiences of the Futuretrack cohort with students who graduated in 1995.

Futuretrack is an academic research study that explores the relationship between higher education, career decision-making and labour market opportunities – an issue that has become heated in media and academic debates. Futuretrack stages 1-4 were led by Professor Kate Purcell, working closely with Professor Peter Elias. It tracked the 2005/2006 cohort of applicants who applied to study on full-time undergraduate courses through the University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) applicants four times in six years, starting from their initial application to higher education, shedding a great deal of light on the relationship between higher education, employment and how students’ views of career options evolved during their studies. Findings from all previous stages 1-4 are available on our website. The fourth stage, conducted in 2011/12, looked at what kinds of jobs recent graduates were doing around two years after graduation. The fifth stage was conducted to provide a timely opportunity to catch up with the Futuretrackers to see how they had navigated the labour market over the longer term.

The fifth stage and the ongoing post-Covid stage is led by Professor Peter Elias, working with Professor Kate Purcell (now semi-retired) and a team of researchers at the Warwick Institute for Employment Research that includes old Futuretrack team members and new faces. Like previous stages, Futuretrack Stage 5 involved a survey - this time through Qualtrics rather than SnapSurveys – and a follow-up programme of telephone interviewsmwith a sub-sample of 200 respondents to collect detailed information about the options and reasons for choices and outcomes recorded in the survey.Futuretrack is an independent, interdisciplinary, policy-related research project. The fifth stage and the enquiry leading into the sixth stage are funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Stages 1-4 were funded by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) and this Institute, working with UCAS. For more information please contact us at


The impact of the Covid-19 restrictions and socio-economic effects of the pandemic on the careers of the Futuretrack cohort

Degrees of Advantage: A longer-term investigation of the careers of UK graduates

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