Pro Bono Economics has calculated benchmarks for obtaining skilled employment against which to assess the effectiveness of upReach’s programmes of employability support. upReach works with students from less advantaged backgrounds (or "Associates") to help them access and sustain highly-skilled employment after graduation.

upReach supports undergraduates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to secure top graduate jobs. They offer free, personalised programmes of support, which are carefully designed to help students understand career pathways and develop the skills, networks and experiences needed for career success.

This study has reviewed publicly available information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Department for Education, and the Office for Students regarding student outcomes to identify appropriate benchmarks to compare against outcomes for participants in upReach’s programmes.

We focus on employment and wage outcomes and find that:

  • 85% of upReach Associates entered highly skilled employment or further study after graduation, which compares favourably to the national average of 75%;
  • Comparing the distributions of salaries between the HESA and upReach data shows the salaries of upReach Associates graduating in 2018 tend to be higher than those of the 2018 graduating population as a whole;
  • 90% of upReach Associates who were in employment 15 months after graduation were in a role classified as highly-skilled, 19 percentage points higher than the national average of 71%;
  • 71% of upReach Associates were in highly skilled employment 15 months after graduation. After applying some significant assumptions, we estimate that the equivalent figure for the average student from a less-advantaged background is around 59%;
  • This may be particularly true for graduates in the lowest IMD quintile, by applying some significant assumptions, we estimate that 59% of such graduates in the HESA data obtain high-skilled employment compared to 71% of all upReach associates (and 74% of upReach associates in the bottom IMD quintile) that found high-skilled employment.

However, it is important to note that we cannot draw conclusions about causality on the basis of this analysis: while we observe that employment outcomes appear to be more positive for upReach associates than for graduates in general, we cannot attribute the cause of this difference to participation in an upReach programme.

Access to more granular data on outcomes, with the ability to cut graduate outcomes across multiple graduate characteristics and/or outcomes at once (gender, POLAR4 quintile, university, course studied, employment outcome, salary, skill level of job, etc) would significantly improve the scope for analysis of the sector's outcomes.

Thank you to Bank of America for their support on this project.