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Postgraduate outcomes

24 Jun 2019 | David Williams The Department for Education has released new data on postgraduate outcomes. The data identifies significant variations in employment and earning outcomes according to the level and subject studied, as well as disparities in earnings based on gender.


Based on Longitudinal Education Outcome (LEO) data, the Department for Education (DfE) has released new information on postgraduate outcomes.

The data is released in the form of a main text containing an overview and summary of postgraduate outcomes (30 pages), with the full set of data being made available in a separate document.

The latest release covers students who have completed Level 7 (masters) and Level 8 (doctoral) postgraduate degrees. The data allows users to “look at the progress of higher education leavers into the labour market” (p.4). The data allows earnings and employment to be examined for up to ten years after completion of a postgraduate degree.

The data is presented as raw outcomes. These have not been controlled for differences in the characteristics of students or university attended, which could influence the figures. It should also be noted that the LEO data is experimental, and is undergoing further development.


Postgraduate earnings are frequently shown using the median of earnings. I.e. the middle value of the earnings distribution. In addition, information on lower and upper quartile earnings is also published.

For all levels of postgraduate study, median earnings are higher ten years after graduation than one year after graduation. For Level 7 (taught) in the 2016-17 tax year, the figures were £26,000 after one year, and £34,000 after ten years.

Level 8  median earnings were higher than those for Level 7 graduates, with a difference of £3,500 one year after graduation (£29,500) and £7,100 ten years after graduation (£41,100).

In nominal terms, median earnings one year after graduation grew slowly for Level 7 (taught) over the three tax years: 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. When adjusted for inflation, median earnings in real terms remained the same or fell. A similar pattern in nominal and real terms was seen in the earnings for Level 8 graduates.

Five years after graduation, regardless of the level of study, males had higher median earnings than females. For Level 7 (taught) the median earnings were £29,600 for females and £35,700 for males.

Employment outcomes

Five years after graduation, the proportion of postgraduates in sustained employment, further study or both was higher for females (85.4%), than for males (83.0%). However, the difference is likely to be explained by the fact that for a larger proportion of males there was “no activity” data.

The highest level of sustained employment by subject level was 81.1% for graduates with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Graduates with an MBA (4.9%), Business and management (5.6%) or Architecture, building and planning (5.8%) qualification were least likely to go on to additional further study. Males had higher median earnings in all subjects, with the extent of the difference varying significantly between subjects.

The data tables released by DfE allows users to consider subject level earnings for up to 10 years after students have completed their postgraduate degree. The data shows marked variation in earnings by subject studied.


The latest release of LEO data by the DfE is a reminder to higher education providers and their governing bodies, that it is not just employment data for first degree graduates that is being developed. Rather, work is ongoing to examine the employment and earnings patterns associated with postgraduate study. This data could in the future influence government policies and the student choice.


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