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

The University of Warwick has been awarded funding for an 18-month project to extend its research into the experiences of graduates in the UK labour market.

With funding from the Nuffield Foundation , Warwick’s Institute of Employment Research (IER) will revisit its unique Futuretrack study with a fifth survey wave, investigating the employment situations of students almost ten years after their graduation.

The IER’s Futuretrack study followed a large sample of students who applied to university in 2005/2006. Many of them graduated in 2009/10 into a difficult labour market after the 2008/09 financial crash. They were also the first cohort of students to pay £3,000 a year towards their tuition.

Four reports have been produced into their experiences of higher education and their early career outcomes. The fifth inquiry will return to the cohort as they approach their first decade in the graduate labour market and will provide a comprehensive picture of their career histories to date, and an insight into their perceptions of whether their higher education has helped them succeed in their careers.

Dr Daria Luchinskaya is the joint academic lead on the new Futuretrack study. She said:

“The relationship between higher education and employment has become controversial, as the supply of graduates has increased more quickly than the number of roles available in occupations which require graduate skills and knowledge.

“The 5th stage of the Futuretrack survey will catch up with our Futuretrack cohort eight or nine years on from their graduation and help us to understand what is happening to graduates well beyond their first employment destinations. The data and our analysis will answer a pressing need for reliable and up-to-date information about the dynamics of the graduate labour market and, we hope, will inform policy in this area.”

The new Futuretrack wave aims to:

  • create an accurate picture of the kinds of jobs graduates are doing, and how they got them,

  • explore how recession affects graduate employment,

  • 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.

The research will provide rich data for analysing the ways in which the changing nature of HE and the labour market has affected graduate employment through the specific combination of a nationally representative survey which can be linked back to previous Futuretrack waves, and in-depth interviews with selected respondents to explore their responses in more detail. It has also been designed to allow direct comparison with an earlier study carried out by IER among students who graduated in 1995.

Dr Luchinskaya added:

“We have designed the study so that we can compare the experiences of our Futuretrack cohort with data from the IER Seven Years On study of the early career trajectories of students who graduated in 1995.

“These students entered the labour market during a period of economic growth, and carried no tuition fee debt into their working lives. Comparing their experiences with our Futuretrack cohort will help us understand more about the impact of debt, and enable us to look at whether higher education has contributed to social mobility.”

29 March 2018


For more details visit the Futuretrack project website here.

About the Institue for Employment Research

Established in 1981, the Warwick Institute for Employment Research (IER) is a leading international social science research centre. IER researchers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds and work both within and across disciplines. Publishing theoretical, methodological and empirical academic outputs is a core activity, but IER also places great emphasis on maximising its impact among potential users of research. Research questions are tackled in projects funded by a range of public and private sector organisations and through publications in academic journals. Research findings are also disseminated to the academic, policy and practitioner communities through IER’s own publications, research reports published by sponsors, key stakeholder events and international conferences.

About the Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation is funding this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at

About Futuretrack:

Futuretrack is an ambitious longitudinal study carried out by the Warwick Institute for Employment Research and initially funded by the IER and the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU). It was directed by Professor Kate Purcell, working closely with Professor Peter Elias.

The study began in 2006 with 120,000 respondents.

  • Wave 1 looked at why respondents chose to enter HE and what informed their choice of course and institution

  • Wave 2 took place in 2007 and included questions about respondents’ HE experiences and their possible post-graduation careers.

  • Wave 3 was split into two parts for three-year course completers in 2009 and four-year students in 2010. Information collected in this wave included job-seeking practices, perceptions of advantage in the labour market, and career aspirations

  • Wave 4 took place in 2011/12 and covered employment, use of skills, motivation and job satisfaction in post-graduation employment.

By Stage 4 (2011-12) more than 17,000 of the original participants were still engaged, and it is expected that Futuretrack 5 will reach 8,000 people. Questions will include career history since 2011, career evaluations and aspirations, work-life balance, and longer-term career and family aspirations. The online survey will be followed up by in-depth interviews with selected respondents.



Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

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