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Stop and Measure the Roses: An Investigation into the Assessment of Career Services

in British Universities

Executive Summary
If university careers services do not clearly demonstrate how they directly contribute to
enhancing students’ employability and the institution’s reputation and achievements, they will
be marginalized and eventually demise. A new assessment model is necessary, one that links
institutional objectives for graduate success to proven career programs, services and strategies.

Background
The rising recognition of the importance of student employability and the growing emphasis on
greater accountability within higher education has brought into question the role and relevance
of careers services. A research grant from the Higher Education Career Services Unit funded
investigation into current UK careers service practices and measurement. The resulting report
provides insight into the assessment challenges and opportunities faced by career service
leaders.

The research was conducted with twenty careers service directors throughout the UK; three
senior managers to whom the careers service reports to; two UK-based graduate recruitment and
training organizations; and as a means of comparison, one director of an American university
careers service. Care was taken to include a wide variety of university types.

Research Aims
1. Collect information about the key performance indicators currently used by British university
careers services;
2. Gain an insight into the expectations of senior managers responsible for these careers
services;
3. Identify current career services assessment measures, and determine their effectiveness and
limitations;
4. Determine how university careers services currently assess their effectiveness and success.
5 Key Findings
1. Performance measurement and management is clearly of high importance and is attracting
considerable attention within British universities.
2. Most current measures are ineffective; they are focused on inputs and outputs, namely levels
of activity and satisfaction, rather than the impact of career services on students and
graduates.
3. The Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education report (DLHE – a statutory annual survey of
what graduates are doing 6 months after graduating), is the most widely cited measure used
by senior managers, since it affects an institution’s position in league tables/rankings.
4. Using the DLHE as a measure of the careers service’s effectiveness is controversial,
especially if not combined with other measurements.
5. Careers service directors and their managers struggle with identifying the nature and value of
the services provided by their careers service.

5 Key Recommendations for Careers Service Directors


1. Engage in dialogue with senior leadership about their expectations for their career
service and what it will take to effectively measure success (e.g. what technology,
people or financial resources are necessary).
2. Identify stakeholders and potential collaborators who can partner in producing
expected results (e.g. faculty, alumni, parents, academic advisers).
3. Engage stakeholders, collaborators and careers staff to identify what results will be
achieved through the careers service and how to achieve these results most
effectively and efficiently.
4. Implement systems that will measure the career service’s effectiveness.
Aminder K Nijjar
August 2009
aminder.nijjar@yahoo.com
5. Educate the university community (students, faculty, administrators) about the role
and responsibilities of the career service, and how students and the university can
and should, together, promote career success.
Aminder K Nijjar is a Fellow of the National Institute Careers Education and Counselling; an
independent researcher, consultant and trainer; project manager at the Centre for Recording
Achievement; a trustee of Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs, and was a university careers
adviser for 8 years.

Aminder K Nijjar
August 2009
aminder.nijjar@yahoo.com