Research Approach

Nuffield Foundation

Our research will draw upon data from the UK’s largest birth cohort studies to provide detailed empirical evidence on the career paths of both STEM graduates and other highly skilled STEM workers from the early 1980s to the present day. It will examine these trajectories in order to look for both evidence of the demand for particular skills and knowledge, and for any skills shortages or surpluses. It will also identify the factors most closely associated with success in the STEM labour market. At each stage findings will be contrasted with those for non-STEM graduates, including those working in the STEM sector.

Research Questions

The study is grouped around three themes and will address the following main research questions

Theme 1: Early educational trajectories of STEM graduates

  1. What are the patterns in the early career destinations of STEM graduates in the UK?
  2. To what extent do the early career destinations of STEM graduates differ from no-STEM graduates in terms of opportunities for further study and the nature of subsequent employment?
  3. How have these patterns varied since the mid-1990s?

Theme 2: Participation in the STEM labour market

  1. What are the patterns in the career trajectories and duration of employment for STEM graduates?
  2. What are the patterns in the career trajectories and duration of employment for non-STEM graduates working in the STEM field?
  3. How do STEM patterns of employment compare with employment patterns in non-STEM fields?
  4. What are the longer term overall employment trends among STEM workers?

Theme 3: Inequalities and variations in participation

  1. How closely is participation in STEM careers related to individual social and economic characteristics such as sex, ethnicity, age, educational level, geographic location and family background (including parental occupational class and education)?
  2. Does studying particular subjects or having graduated from particular institutions affect STEM career success?
  3. Given the available data, how well can we predict participation in STEM careers?

Data Sets Used in the Analysis

The study will involve the secondary analysis of two national cohort studies as well as key cross-sectional surveys of the UK labour market. The following data sets are being used in the study:

Higher Education Statistical Agency Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey (link

1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS) (link

1970 British Cohort Study (BCS) (link

Labour Force Survey (link

Annual Population Survey (link

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