33 Data! Data! Data! I Can’t Make Bricks Without Clay (or) How a UK University Career Centre Uses Data to Construct its Provision


Eluned Jones, University of Birmingham, UK
Dr. Toni Wright, Newman University, UK

Driven by past and current governmental fixation with ‘value for money’ and ‘return on investment’, UK university careers services now work within an extraordinary landscape of rankings and ratings all driven by data capture. Every year Directors of UK university careers services await with bated breath the results of their Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, measuring as it does 80% of our graduates’ progression on to work or further study.

For many of us, institutional success or failure is now measured by fractions of a percent and just tens of students. A case in point being Birmingham’s fall of 1.4% from 86.7% in the graduate level destinations of the 2014 cohort to 85.3% in the 2015 cohort was accounted for by just 42 graduates (out of a survey population of over 3,500).

The imminent arrival of the national Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) with its increasingly granular requirements for graduate outcome data is also bringing additional challenges for us as is the drive for evidence of the impact of careers services’ interventions beyond the graduate survey.

But is everything really that bad? Is there nothing of worth emerging from this demanding backdrop? I would argue that for most UK careers services these increased expectations, whilst they do bring challenges, also generate significant rewards including higher institutional profile, increased investment in services and, a more evidence-based approach to developing careers service provision.

This workshop is therefore the story of how Birmingham survives, and indeed thrives, within this demanding landscape and how it has used this situation to move itself from the periphery of the institution to the centre and doubled staffing levels in just 5 years. It is also a story of how we now use this data environment to create targeted, bespoke and contextualized employability interventions and bring employability interventions right into the heart of the academic curriculum.


  • Program analytics
  • Evaluation
  • Research
  • Careers intervention targeting



Eluned Jones, University of Birmingham, UK
Eluned is Director of the Careers Service at the University of Birmingham and the 2014-2016 President of the UK’s Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services. Eluned has worked in the university sector for over 20 years and leads one of the UK’s most successful university careers services, employing over 65 staff and ranked within the top 5 UK universities for successful graduate destinations. Running a nationally recognized ‘hub & spoke’ model of careers service delivery, Birmingham uses enhanced data analysis processes to help it develop and deliver its customized and highly targeted careers provision. With a strong interest in internationalization, Eluned is also on the Student Experience Steering Committee for the Universities 21 group of global research-intensive universities and a member of Universities UK International, the international arm of Universities UK. Eluned is currently leading the national Learning Gain research project into employability-gain associated with internationalization.

Dr. Toni Wright, Newman University, UK
Dr Toni Wright is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Newman University. Previous related research includes psychometric properties and exploration of applications of the Career Adaptability Scale UK; and the learning and employability gains from Student International experience, upon which studies two of the Learning Gain employability strands are based. Toni is the Academic Research Lead for the Career Adaptability and International Learning Gain projects. Toni is also a UK Health & Care Professions Council Registered Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.



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Key Findings

This session outlined how data can help university colleagues both strategically and operationally in many powerful ways, including how to:  

  • Provide universities, governments and other key stakeholders with strong evidence for ROI;  
  • Inform university employability and student recruitment strategies;  
  • Influence university senior managers and drive change;  
  • Strengthen relationships and forge partnerships with academic colleagues;  

Set operational priorities and allocate resources appropriately;  
Develop tailored services for students and track progress of graduates from discrete cohorts 

Implications for Career Education

Using this data driven approach Career Educators can:

  1. Determine best practice in using data for service enhancement and development.
  2. Identify models for using data to influence university leaders, academics, prospective students and other key stakeholders.
  3. Evaluate potential relationships between destination data, student demographic data, career registration data, research data and labour market intelligence.


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