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Higher education and the graduate labour market

This field of research is directed by Professor Kate Purcell, working closely with with Professor Peter Elias as the other senior researcher with particular responsibility for statistical analysis of survey data. IER has a strong record of mixed-methods, quantitative and qualitative research on the higher education sector and graduate labour market issues. This has involved the creation of large primary data sets, survey design and analysis, case studies and programmes of interviews and includes Futuretrack, the most extensive longitudinal study examining the relationship between higher education, career decision-making and labour market trends ever conducted in the UK. Recent IER research has focused on economic restructuring, changes in occupational structure, and the impact of higher education expansion on the labour market and on the construction of jobs and professional occupational boundaties.

Selected projects

  • The transferability of (under-) graduate knowledge gained in UK higher education institutions (HEIs) within the European Higher Education Area, SRHE Research Award (2013) More Details
  • Methodological issues in estimating the economic value added by Higher Education, Further Education and Skills interventions, Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2013) More Details
  • Data analysis on early-stage doctorate holders in the UK, OECD (2012)
  • Futuretrack an independent, interdisciplinary, policy-related research project about the relationship between higher education, career decision-making and labour market trends.
  • Assessing the Impact of Higher Education Expansion on Economic Restructuring, Occupational Change and Access to Opportunities in Brazil and India a comparative international research project on higher education expansion.
  • The Impact of Student and Migrant Employment on Opportunities for Low-Skilled People a project researching the complexity of contemporary labour market restructuring
  • Surveying UK Doctoral Graduates: Development of questions to enhance longitudinal DHLE an options analysis to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing and potential data and data collection mechanisms and to establish the costs and benefits of a range of options to provide longitudinal information about the early careers of PhD-holders
  • Who is studying chemical sciences in UK Universities and what kinds of jobs do these degrees lead to? undertaken as part of a two year pilot programme of research and other initiatives to ensure a strong and sustainable future for chemical science higher education.
  • The impact of graduate placements on businesses in the South West of England a project to assess the impact of placements on both the graduates who undertake them and the organisations that offer them.
  • EQF Transversal Programme Key Activity 1: EQF Implementation: Impact of National Qualifications Systems Processes, Education Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency (2010 - 2012) More Details
  • Identification of Sector-Related Qualifications According to Common Demands of Being Employed by Enterprises of The European Aeronautic and Space Industry (AEROVET), EU (2009 - 2012) More Details
  • Recruitment at the Middle Qualification Level - Case Studies from Germany, England and Switzerland, Funded by: Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), (2009) More Details
  • Northern Ireland Students: Key Findings from Futuretrack Stage 2, Department for Employment and Learning (Belfast) (2009) More Details
  • Student Career Decision-Making Experience and Research Making the Connection, University of Leicester (2008 - 2009)
  • Development of Questions to Enhance Longitudinal DLHE, RCUK (2008 - 2009) More Details
  • An Investigation of the Factors Affecting the Post-University Employment of Chemical Science Graduates in the UK, Royal Society of Chemistry (2007 - 2008) More Details
  • The Impact of Placements on Businesses in the South West of England: A Longitudinal Study Alongside the Graduates for Business Project, South West Regional Development Agency (2007 - 2009) More Details

Selected publications

  • Atfield, G. and Purcell, K. (2013). Northern Ireland's students approaching graduation: key findings from the Futuretrack survey of final year students on three year courses, Labour Market Bulletin 24, 97 - 105, ISSN 1351-4504.
  • Elias, P. and Purcell, K. (2012). Higher Education and Social Background. In: McFall, S.L. and Buck, N., eds. Understanding Society Findings 2012. Colchester: Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex. ISBN: 978 1 85871 163 8
  • Atfield, G. and Purcell, K. (2012). The fit between graduate labour market supply and demand: 3rd year UK undergraduate degree final year students’ perceptions of the skills they have to offer and the skills employers seek (HECSU Working Paper 4). Manchester: HECSU.

  • Morrow, G., Johnson, N., Burford, B., Rothwell, C., Spencer, J., Peile, E., Davies, C., Allen, M., Baldauf, B., Morrison, J. and Illing, J. (2012). Preparedness for practice: The perceptions of medical graduates and clinical teams. Medical Teacher, 34(2), pp. 123-135.

  • Livanos, I. and Núñez, I. (2012). The effect of higher education on the gender wage gap. International Journal of Education Economics and Development, 3(1), pp. 33 - 47.

  • Livanos, I. and Núñez, I. (2012). Young Workers' Employability and Higher Education in Europe in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis: An Initial Assessment, Forum: Challenges Facing European Labour Markets: Is a Skillk Upgrade the Appropriate Instrument? (invited contribution), Intereconomics, 47(1), pp. 10 - 16.

  • Livanos, I. and Pouliakas, K. (2011). Wage Returns to University Disciplines in Greece: Are Greek Higher Education Degrees Trojan Horses? Education Economics, 19(4), pp. 411-445.

  • Atfield, G., Green, A., Purcell, K., Staniewicz, T., and Owen, D. (2011). The impact of student and migrant employment on opportunities for low skilled people. London: UK Commission for Employment and Skills. (UKCES Evidence Report 32). ISBN 978-1-906597-81-8

  • Wilton, N. and Purcell, K. (2010). The impact of partnership and family-building on the early careers of female graduates in the UK. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 29(3), pp. 271-288.

  • Atfield, G. and Purcell, K. (2009). Northern Ireland's Students: Key Findings from the Futuretrack Stage 1 Survey. Labour Market Bulletin 22, pp. 118 - 132.
  • Purcell, K., Elias, P. and Atfield, G. (2009). Analysing the relationship between higher education participation and educational and career development patterns and outcomes. A new classification of higher education institutions. Research undertaken on behalf of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit. Working Paper no. 1. Coventry: Warwick Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.
  • Purcell, K. Elias, P., Atfield, G., Behle, H. and Ellison, R. with Hughes, C., Livanos, I. and Tzanakou, C. (2009). Plans, aspirations and realities: taking stock of higher education and career choices one year on. Findings from the Second Futuretrack Survey of 2006 applicants for UK Higher Education. Coventry: Warwick Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.

Key contact

Kate Purcell


Further links