Institute of Education


PhD employment in and out of the academy: insights from secondary data in the UK

23 January 2020, 12:30 pm–2:00 pm

students studying in library. Image: Robert Bye via Unsplash

The Destination of Leavers of Higher Education Longitudinal Survey (Long DLHE) is discussed, focusing on the employment of PhD graduates in the UK.

Event Information

Open to



Centre for Global Higher Education


Room 828
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

Internationally, governments have pledged to increase the number of PhD holders and support their transition into employment outside academia. These policies emerge from a commitment to the knowledge economy and human capital theory - which assert the necessity of knowledge-intensive labour to future prosperity. However, regarding the amount of evidence on first-degree holders, understanding of the economic, social and cultural contributions of PhDs is considerably undeveloped.

A recent study made use of the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education Longitudinal Survey (Long DLHE) - which records employment circumstances three and a half years after graduation. Long DLHE data provide the most comprehensive record of PhD employment currently available in the UK.

The analysis suggests the vast majority of PhD holders will leave the academic sector after graduation. However, employment outcomes are highly variable by discipline. Higher proportions of graduates from Russell Group universities in scientific fields secure research roles outside of academia. This has prior qualifications and gender having some effect on these outcomes.

In this seminar, the implications of these findings will be discussed, as well as the limitations of the DLHE dataset. Issues surrounding a need for richer demographic and decision-making data from PhD holders is explored, with an extensive longitudinal view of the careers they forge.


About the Speaker

Dr Sally Hancock

Lecturer in the Department of Education at University of York

Sally's research interests include access to and outcomes from postgraduate study. Her current work is focused on PhD holders’ employment outcomes in the UK.