Higher Education Research

Higher Education Insight

Universities and the higher education sector at large are experiencing significant challenges. From increased student expectations linked to rising fees, to increasing competition within the UK and internationally, there has never been a greater need for data to drive decisions.

We help universities and HE organisations to gather the insight they need to better support their students before, during and after their higher education experience.

How can we help?

student accommodation research

Student Recruitment

As the financial cost of higher education rises and students choose alternative learning routes, understanding the nuanced factors involved in student decision making is more important than ever.

Using our wealth of experience exploring learner and consumer decision making in the HE sector, we can help you better understand student choices using appropriate statistical techniques such as trade-offs and segmentation.

Student Experience

With increased competition throughout the UK sector to recruit students and pressures on retention, universities must commit to enhancing the student experience, consumer satisfaction and value for money.

We can help you better understand what your students think of their higher education experience by using a variety of mixed methods such as deep dive qual with students and staff or quantitative surveys to measure performance.

Student Accommodation

Where we live has been shown to have a direct impact on wellbeing. And, given the importance of providing a strong student experience that supports wellbeing, it’s vital that universities understand how satisfied students are with their accommodation. As well as ensuring high quality provision, this insight will also support supplier choices and accommodation development decisions.

Using quantitative surveys, with qualitative follow-ups where required, we can help you better understand what your students think of their accommodation, areas in which you can improve provision, and identify which suppliers are providing the best experience for your students.

Graduate Outcomes and Employability

Higher Education is about equipping students with the right skills and experience to move into the next phase of their life.

Through our extensive work with HESA and UK HEPs on the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey series and the current Graduate Outcomes survey, we know how to capture graduates’ varied outcomes, explore the factors that influence these outcomes and assess how HE provision should evolve to meet the changing requirements of the graduate labour market. Through our ability to synthesise and interpret a range of data, we can help to evaluate course performance and inform employer engagement strategies.

Why choose IFF Research?

Specialist Team

Our team are higher education experts, who between them have decades of research experience and are active contributors to the wider sector discussion. Combined with our passion to make a difference, we can guarantee research that is informed, robust and impactful.

Unrivalled Sector Understanding

Our experience of delivering high-profile higher education studies for DfE and OfS, teamed with our understanding of student experience, gained from our work on National Student Survey (NSS) and Graduates Outcomes, means we have a rounded and informed approach at all stages of the research process, from design through to analysis and recommendations.

International Experience & Context

Our experience of partnering with higher education institutions across the globe gives us a depth of understanding that enables us to deliver more effective research solutions to meet an increasingly international market.

Before we started using IFF, the DLHE survey was a major stress point for us. Their professional approach, responsiveness and approachability were reassuring.  I really valued the regular reporting that we received on progress.  Now we can focus on all of our other core initiatives, and leave the heavy lifting to IFF.

–Plymouth University

Our Global Higher Education Research

IFF Global Higher Education experience

Our Higher Education Team

David Vivian, Higher Education research director

David Vivian

Director and Head of HE

Experience: 20 years’ experience of providing insight within higher education and learning & skills. During that time David has been instrumental is designing and delivering some of the most extensive and high profile graduate destinations and employability research for HESA and DfE, as well as working with individual institutions.

Projects: David has helped develop NSS, Intentions after Graduation (IAGs) and Graduate Outcomes. He has led Longitudinal DLHE since its inception in 2002, delivered Early DLHE for 40 HEPs and now leads on its successor, Graduate Outcomes – the UK’s largest annual social survey. He was also responsible for helping develop the Employers Skills Survey series – one of the largest business surveys in the world, and a project IFF has delivered biennially for over 20 years.

Catherine Turner, Director of Research

Catherine Turner


Experience: 11 years’ research experience, focusing principally on higher education. Ranging from bespoke studies for individual institutions, including Royal Holloway and the University of London, to large scale impact and process evaluations for government departments. Catherine’s expertise includes student recruitment, funding, graduate employability and access to postgraduate study.

Projects: Catherine was responsible for the successful delivery of several iterations of the DLHE for over 40 HEPs and co-led the full cognitive testing exercise of the Graduate Outcomes Survey for HESA. She also worked on the recently DfE published Evaluation of Master’s Degree Loan scheme.

Andrew Skone James Director of Higher Education Research

Andrew Skone James


Experience: With 9 years of research experience, focusing on higher education and employer skills, Andrew’s focus lies in policy research, undertaking studies for public sector clients including DfE, OfS and HESA.

Projects: Successfully led three evaluations of the TEF, for DfE and OfS, capturing provider and student perceptions that fed into a broader review of the future of the TEF. Andrew has also managed the Employer Skills Survey for DfE, enabling universities to develop their portfolio and design course content accordingly. In recent years Andrew has led international-focused research for the British Council as they seek to evaluate how their funding is being used, and for EAIE, exploring the landscape of internationalisation in HE.

In addition to our directors we also have a strong team of researchers who specialise in higher education, from junior researchers, to associate directors. Many of our higher education team have supported key projects for several years, making them a valuable resource for institutions seeking experience, understanding and expertise.

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