Official statistic

Key performance measure 17

Graduate wellbeing

Graduates completing their courses in 2018-19 were less likely to score very highly for 'life satisfaction' and 'the sense that things done in life are worthwhile' than their counterparts who graduated in 2017-18.

What does this show?

KPM 17 compares graduates 15 months after graduation with the general population (including graduates) of all ages on two of the four Office for National Statistics (ONS) questions on personal wellbeing.

The benefits of higher education are not solely concentrated in greater employability or academic progress, vital though these are. Higher education also enriches lives in a much broader sense, and this measure seeks to go some way to capture that benefit.

The measure shows the percentage of respondents to the Graduate Outcomes survey who scored very high for life satisfaction and for feeling that things done in life are worthwhile.

Respondents are split into four graduate groups based on the mode and level they previously studied at. These percentages are compared to percentages from the ONS’ Annual Population Survey, reported as part of their "measuring national wellbeing" dashboard.

A lower proportion of full-time graduates score very high for both of the questions than part-time graduates, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

For life satisfaction, graduates who studied full-time were less likely to score very high than the general population (as reported in the APS, which surveys UK residents aged 16-years-and-over and will therefore include both graduates and non-graduates).

Further information

The coronavirus pandemic was declared on 11 March 2020, followed by a national lockdown across the UK, starting on 26 March 2020. Those graduating in 2018-19 will have been surveyed between December 2019 and December 2020.

While these students did not graduate during the coronavirus pandemic, it is reasonable to assume that for those responding during the pandemic, this may have had some impact on their responses to the subjective wellbeing questions.

We see that the 2018-19 respondents were less likely to score very highly for life satisfaction or sense that things done in life are worthwhile than the 2017-18 respondents. However, we cannot know that this decrease is as a direct result of the pandemic, since many factors are likely to affect our sense of wellbeing.

More details of how the responses to the four subjective wellbeing changed across the collection of data from the 2018-19 graduates can be found in HESA’s insight brief 'The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Graduate Outcomes 2018/19'.

Data from the ONS’ Annual Population Survey (APS) has not yet been updated since our first release of KPM 17. Therefore, the comparisons for both years of graduate outcomes data are against APS data collected between April 2019 and March 2020, which covers almost none of the same timeline as the coronavirus pandemic.

This means that comparisons with the APS data for 2018-19 graduates will not reflect any changes in the wider population that occurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and so these comparisons should be made with caution.

The measure shows the percentage of respondents giving the most positive scores to two of the four personal wellbeing questions on the Graduate Outcomes survey, by level and mode of previous study. These are compared with percentages from the Annual Population Survey.

These two personal wellbeing questions reflect the 'evaluative' and 'eudemonic' approaches to measuring subjective wellbeing, which best reflect our strategic focus on higher education that enriches lives and enables students to flourish. Find out more about the theoretical approaches used in the ONS personal wellbeing questions.

  • Frequency: Annual
  • Population: Graduates from English providers who responded to the wellbeing questions in the Graduate Outcomes survey, who were UK-domiciled at the start of their studies
  • Comparisons made with the April 2019 to March 2020 Annual Population Survey results, which surveys members of the UK public aged 16-and-over. Graduates are included in this survey.
  • Data sources: Individual student data from HESA and the Individual Learner Record from ESFA, responses to the Graduate Outcomes survey and data from the ONS’ “Measuring national wellbeing” dashboard
  • Available: Summer each year. The survey is carried out around 15 months after graduates have completed their higher education course.

For more details about the personal wellbeing data on the Graduate Outcomes survey, please see our report Graduate wellbeing recorded in the Graduate Outcomes survey.


If you have any queries about the statistics published as KPM 17, please contact Annalise Ruck at [email protected].

If you have any queries about our overall approach or on individual measures, please contact Josh Fleming at [email protected].

Published 13 January 2021
Last updated 19 October 2021
19 October 2021
Improved clarity of headline finding
13 October 2021
Annual update
15 February 2021
Availability changed to summer each year

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback