Teaching & Learning


Student outcomes and learning gain

How UCL students achieve their educational and professional goals, acquiring knowledge, skills and attributes that are valued by employers, whatever their backgrounds.

…we will ensure that our students are well-prepared for future career success in a global economy and for a lifetime of intellectual and personal development through further academic study, research and life learning courses.”  UCL Education Strategy 2016-21

Students achieve their educational and professional goals, in particular progression to further study or highly skilled employment (SO1)

UCL has a strong Careers Service which has an excellent track record of success in supporting students into employment and further study, as our metrics confirm.

Every department at UCL has a dedicated careers consultant who devises a bespoke programme, and works with academic staff to review information from DLHE and develop plans.

In 2013, UCL Careers won the ‘Academic Partnership Award’ from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), for the best careers service with initiatives supporting academic departments.

We are also piloting a ‘Student Careers Rep’ system, with students working to provide feedback on the departmental programme.

In 15-16, 5,469 undergraduates used the My UCL Careers portal, and 2,213 individuals had some form of short 1:1 appointment with a centrally-based careers consultant. This compares to 1,553 undergraduates supported centrally in 13-14. 629 appointments were delivered within academic departments by careers consultants in 15-16. 1,565 undergraduate students attended at least one centrally booked workshop or other careers event (excluding careers fairs) in 2015/16, compared to 1,392 in 14-15 and 1,303 in 13-14. In addition, 13,644 attendees were recorded in total at workshops delivered by careers consultants within academic departments (up from 8,769 in 13-14). The UCL Careers Service also engaged with 425 unique employers in 15-16.

As elsewhere, student engagement is key to the design and management of our careers provision.

The Skills4Work programme has been developed and is run in collaboration with UCLU, offering workshops, panel discussions and mock assessment centres for students preparing for highly skilled graduate jobs and internships applications. The programme enjoys the support of over 65 graduate recruiters, with over 85 activities taking place annually. The number of individual undergraduates taking part in the skills activities numbered 332 in 15-16, compared to 273 in 13-14.

We have developed a Careers in Academia online resource to support those who are considering a research career, including video interviews with current PhD students and advice from academics from a range of disciplines.

Careers Fairs are an important element of our provision, and cover a number of larger sectors, attracting 250 employers and 4,500 students across the whole programme.

We actively encourage SMEs and charity organisations offering appropriate roles to attend through discounted places, ensuring that we have a good diversity of employers at the fairs, in line with student feedback.

In 2016, a new fair was added to our portfolio: Health & Life Sciences, a collaborative venture between UCL, Kings and Imperial, hosted at the new Frances Crick Institute. This had 32 exhibiting organisations and attracted 870 students (330 of whom were from UCL).

We run careers consultant-led lunchtime seminars prior to the events, giving tips on how to network with the employers, appropriate prior research and questions to consider to help students make the most of their time at the fairs. The events are popular, with an average attendance of 85 students per workshop, and employer feedback indicates they consider our students are well-prepared.

We also host around 40 individual employer presentations annually, and promote a similar number off-campus, in order that interested students can hear directly about graduate and internship roles in more depth as well as information about deadlines and how to make successful applications to such highly skilled roles.

Our Themed Weeks cover sectors popular with students where the routes in are more diverse and often rely on the students to network and proactively search for opportunities. The roles are all nonetheless highly skilled. These weeks cover Museums & Cultural Heritage, Government & Policy, Media, Charities & NGOs, Environment, and Life & Health Science. They blend panel discussions, insight sessions, workshops and networking events to get students engaging with practitioners in each sector, including UCL alumni, industry experts and recruiters. The programme attracted 1,500 students last year.

We keep our provision under continual review to ensure it is meeting students’ needs, and work closely with UCLU to develop new initiatives.

UCL Careers surveys graduate recruiters who engage with our on-campus careers events programme. Employers are asked for data on hiring figures from UCL as well as information about where our students fall down in the recruitment process. This survey enables us to shape our programme and emphasise where more support for students is required.

Student feedback is also collected from every one-to-one appointment and anonymised before it is shared with consultants and their line managers. Service improvement measures are shared with students on the UCL Careers website.

In 2015, we also undertook research to consider whether certain groups of students were under-performing compared to their peers, looking particularly at widening participation categories as well as BME students. The results were analysed by faculty and provided a baseline for action planning and the development of a careers registration process, so that students who needed additional careers support could be identified early, appropriate interventional support given and progress tracked more closely.

We are now implementing the systems we will need to monitor employability learning gain more comprehensively.

We have recently piloted the careers registration process prior to fully integrating it within our enrolment system from September 2017. The project will enable us to identify all students who are not on track for gaining highly skilled work or further study on course completion. This will enable us to support students from widening participation backgrounds without inappropriately labelling them.

We have also been piloting the use of ‘careers coaches’ with students who do not secure satisfactory employment immediately following graduation.

Outreach calling was used to identify ‘at-risk’ departments and of the 6 to 8 departments identified, 1:1 coaching and signposting to relevant events/ opportunities resulted in 97 undergraduate students engaging over a two-year period. The results of such interventions, alongside peer support via LinkedIn, saw unemployment rates decrease by an average of 5.1% and 9.5% within the targeted departments (2014 and 2013 respectively). 

Students acquire knowledge, skills and attributes that are valued by employers and that enhance their personal and/or professional lives (SO2)

We are committed to supporting student enterprise, both to provide opportunities to current students and to increase the employability of UCL graduates.

Encouraging entrepreneurship 

Following the appointment of Dr Celia Caulcott as Vice-Provost (Enterprise and London) in 2015, our enterprise offer has been refined. We have reallocated resources and aim to increase the business advice resources available and the number of students reached by our training.

Enterprise support for students includes 1:1 advice, a free ‘hatchery’ space and guest lectures.

We also run an annual Enterprise Boot Camp, a three-day event which provides a foundation in the fundamentals of business. Attendance at this event has increased from 138 in 13-14 to 300 in 15-16.

The number of supported student and graduate start-ups has also steadily increased over the last three years, from 40 in 13-14 to 45 in 14-15 and 51 in 15-16. These figures cannot be broken down by level, as undergraduate and postgraduate students are encouraged to collaborate. The total turnover of these start-ups in 15-16 was £12.2m, and 77% of all start-ups initiated are still in existence.

Global Citizenship 

UCL’s flagship Global Citizenship Programme also incorporates strong employability and enterprise strands.

The employability programme offers access to workshops, training, talks, panel events, networking opportunities and 1:1 coaching, as well as dedicated careers support.

Students on the volunteering strand run projects at voluntary sector organisations, and an entrepreneurship boot-camp focuses on developing ‘social entrepreneurship start-ups’.

Participants develop hard and soft skills including negotiating, presenting, and problem-solving.

External consultants and experts contribute to the programme, and all participants have the opportunity to work with external stakeholders within their pathway.

73 undergraduate students completed the enterprise bootcamp in 15-16 (up from 51 in 13-14), with 85 completing the volunteering strand (up from 74 in 13-14).


Our Volunteering Services Unit also works across the university to support students to develop transferable skills through community work.

They fund projects which are designed and implemented by students (typically around 70 per year), develop discipline-specific volunteering activities and broker placements for students in more than 250 community and voluntary organisations across London annually.

In 2013, they recruited 1,700 students who committed a total of 41,500 hours to voluntary activity; this had grown by 2015 to a cohort of 2,000 students, committing 53,485 hours of their time.

Positive outcomes are achieved by its students from all backgrounds, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who are at greater risk of not achieving positive outcomes (SO3)

We are actively developing methodologies to monitor trends in student performance by group.

Data for 15-16 indicate that there is only a small attainment gap at institutional level between students from POLAR 1-2 backgrounds and students from POLAR 3-5. 57% of students in both categories achieved a 2:1 degree (although POLAR 3-5 students are 6% more likely to achieve a first).

Women were also more likely than men to achieve a 2:1 degree (58% / 51%).

However, we are aware of an attainment gap between BME and white students for final awards; in 15-16, 5% fewer got firsts and 14% got 2:2s or thirds, compared with 7% for white students, although fewer BME students got thirds. Our average student attainment data for the same year provides early indications that this may be changing, however: first and second-year BME students in 15-16 achieved 4% more first class marks than their white peers.

We are committed to redressing any disparities, and in 15-16 we made consideration of student attainment data by ethnicity, POLAR quintile and gender a core element of our ASER monitoring process, which highlights to departments where they differ from the UCL average. They then record any appropriate action in their development and enhancement plans, which are monitored by the relevant faculty.

This evaluative approach to student outcomes will be developed in future ASER rounds.

We have also joined a collaborative bid with Kingston University and others to HEFCE for funding to implement a data tool to evaluate ‘value-added’ against degree outcomes data, drawing on data about entry tariffs and outcomes sector-wide. If successful, work in this area will begin in February 2017.

Data analysis will be supplemented with an expansion of the Liberating the Curriculum project into programme-level workshops for staff to enable them to adapt their teaching practices and curriculum content to respond to any identified challenges for particular groups.

We are also a partner in a HEFCE-funded Learning Gain consortium project, led by the University of Cambridge, which tracks students in four disciplines to determine the cognitive learning gain associated with their programme of study. We will develop further interventions to respond to their findings from 16-17 onward.