ECONOMICS OF EDUCATION: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Tracer Studies/Graduate Survey?



8a iv).Outline the advantages and disadvantages of the Tracer Studies/Graduate Survey


1. Tracer Studies/Graduate Survey

Also called graduate or alumni survey since its target group is former students.

These studies follow a cohort of students through graduation and a few years into the labor market.

The main objective of this approach is

  • To assess accountability for resources spent in higher education
  • To evaluate the operation of the labour market and to assess the outcomes of education and training.
  • To get valuable information for the development of universities/institutions of higher learning
  • To evaluate the relevance of higher education
  • To contribute to the accreditation and/certification process
  • To inform education stakeholders i.e. students, parents, lecturers, and administrators

Graduate surveys are popular for “analysis of the relationship between higher education and work.”

The transition process from the educational system to the world of work requires the intervention of the labour market which performs a categorization function in identifying graduates with specific characteristics for a particular occupation.


When undertaking tracer studies the following issues/variable taken into account are;

  • Employment characteristics-sector of employment income at the hiring point, and earnings several years later, job satisfaction, relevance of education/training, length of time it took to obtain employment (if employed), the nature of the job landed,
  • Individual characteristics-age, sex, marital status etc
  • Community characteristics-urban,rural,regional, religion etc
  • Educational background-type o school, academic performance; type of education etc.
  • Family background –family size, occupation, income and educational attainment of parents etc.

In addition, a tracer study entails a follow-up of the career path of graduates to evaluate the operation of the labor market in terms of:

  • Recruitment practices,
  • Wage/salary policy,
  • Working conditions

Tracer Studies seek to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the views of graduates on higher education based on their career experiences?
  2. To what extent do graduates consider their education and training as wastage or an opportunity?
  3. To what extent is a curriculum aiming to create new types of learning and qualifications to prepare for a highly dynamic labor market?
  4. How broad or narrow is knowledge fostered in individual degree programmes in comparison to prepare for a highly dynamic labor market?
  5. How broad or narrow is knowledge fostered in individual degree programs in comparison to the demands of the labor market?

The results of the tracer study could be used in:

  1. An in-depth analysis of the demand of schooling
  2. Providing curricular options and career choice
  3. Enhancing employment through an efficient labour market;
  4. Instituting curricular reform
  5. Providing a meaningful role for graduates in social and economic development.
  6. Data generated through tracer studies could also be used in educational interventions to make programmes more relevant to societal needs.


  1. Tracer study can be marketing as well as an evaluation tool.
  2. The success of graduates can be advertised as a marketing strategy to recruit new students.
  3. Education providers can use the information gathered to adapt their courses to the demands of the labor market
  4. Information gathered can also be used to modify programs to attract the ever-expanding market of prospective students looking for personal and professional advancement
  5. Provides information on the regional spread of graduates, the careers successes, etc
  6. Tracing of graduates help in establishing cooperation/contacts between higher education institutions and their alumni


  1. It is sometimes difficult to locate graduates and have them complete questionnaires.
  2. Graduate might not always be able to identify the relationship between the knowledge acquired during study and their professional views
  3. Research findings are valuable in as much as planners can turn the findings into concrete reforms

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