Q-Step evaluation finds that quantitative skills training boosts social science graduates’ employment prospects

The Nuffield Foundation, on Wednesday 4th May, released an independent evaluation of the Q-Step Programme, which was established as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively skilled social science graduates.

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The Nuffield Foundation, on Wednesday, 4 May, released an independent evaluation of the Q-Step Programme. Currently Q-Step operates in 17 universities across the UK, including the University of Manchester, and was established in 2013 as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively skilled social science graduates for careers in research and other data-led professions.

The primary findings of the evaluation demonstrate that Q-Step is helping to address the shortage of graduates with the skills to apply quantitative methods in both research and professional settings. 15 months after graduation 46% of Q-Step trained graduates earn over £25k per year, compared to 30% of non-Q-Step graduates and 72% of Q-Step trained graduates are employed in highly skilled jobs, compared to 59% of non-Q-Step graduates.

Q-Step was found to equip students with a deep and secure grasp of the skills needed to make sense of data and a grounding in the ways that data can be used to better understand society.

The evaluation also highlighted an increased quantitative teaching capacity at participating universities and has prompted a range of further investment and initiatives designed to boost quantitative methods across these institutions, as well as in other universities and educational organisations. Student satisfaction levels for Q-Step programmes are high as a result of good quality teaching and work placements.

Prof Jackie Carter and Dr Mark Brown, Co-Directors of the University of Manchester Q-Step Centre have been integral in developing the pioneering programme of living-wage, paid work placements, through opening the world of work for students, connecting them to employers such as the World Bank, the Home Office, the Department for International Development, YouGov, Santander, the BBC, The Times and Sunday Times, and Ipsos MORI.

Q-Step is transforming the way social science undergraduates are taught. Q-Step is teaching students to crunch the data needed to answer research questions of academic and public policy interest and enabling them to apply these skills to real-world environments such as social and political research, consultancy, business and marketing.

Prof Jackie Carter says: "This programme is about giving all social sciences students – whatever their backgrounds – access to professions based on their talent, and we have seen our students grow into data analysts. This programme is a real differentiator for the University." The Q-Step programme at Manchester aims to challenge traditional pipelines into data careers, 25% of our Q-Step work placement students are from Widening Participation backgrounds and upwards of 70% are women.

Prof Carter’s recently published book, Work Placements, Internships and Applied Social Research, draws on several student voices from the Q-Step programme to showcase how you can use a work placement to develop your research and professional skills. The book demonstrates how you can transfer and grow skills from your academic training to the workplace and maximise the benefits of learning by doing - giving you key employability and workplace skills. 

Read the full report from the Nuffield Foundation here.

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