What is the survey?
The National Student Outcomes Survey is an annual survey that collects information on vocational education and training (VET) students’ reasons for training, their employment outcomes, satisfaction with training, and further study outcomes. The survey covers students who completed nationally recognised VET delivered by registered training organisations (RTOs) in the previous calendar year. Since 2017, international graduates who completed their qualification in Australia have been surveyed as an additional component to the National Student Outcomes Survey.
Who is doing the survey?
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) - a not-for-profit company owned by the State, Territory and Federal ministers responsible for vocational education and training. NCVER collects information and provides research on vocational education and training in Australia to governments, the training sector, industry and the community.
Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment - the government department funding the survey. They will use the results to assist students to make informed training decisions and to develop government policy to help employers and industry.
The Social Research Centre (SRC) - a national market and social research company that conducts the survey on NCVER's behalf.
Why is it conducted?
The aim of the National Student Outcomes Survey is to improve the social and economic outcomes of students who undertake VET. This is achieved by providing the VET sector with information on students’ reasons for training, their employment outcomes, satisfaction with training, benefits of the training and further study outcomes.
The information is used by national and state/territory bodies, along with local training providers, to ensure vocational training is of a high quality and relevant to Australian workplaces. The survey highlights both the positive and negative outcomes from training and monitors the effectiveness of the VET system. The information collected assists in administering, planning, and evaluating the VET system.
Who is included and when?
Who is included in the survey?
Students included in the survey are those who completed their vocational training in Australia in the previous calendar year. Historically the survey has included ‘graduates’ and ‘subject completers’. Graduates are defined as those awarded a qualification whereas subject completers are those who successfully completed at least one subject and left the VET system without obtaining a qualification.
To better reflect the training undertaken in the VET system, the number of groups surveyed in 2020 has expanded to cover:
- Qualification completers – students who completed a training package qualification or accredited qualification (previously known as graduates).
- Qualification part-completers – students who enrolled in but only completed part of a training package qualification or accredited qualification (and are no longer undertaking that training).
- Short course completers – students who completed a training package skill set or accredited course.
- Short course part-completers – students who enrolled in but only completed part of a training package skill set or accredited course (and are no longer undertaking that training).
- Subject only completers – students who completed one or more subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program and who are no longer undertaking training in the VET sector.
When is the survey conducted?
The survey cycle begins in March and has three main stages: project preparation, fieldwork, and data analysis and reporting.
Project preparation (March to June)
- NCVER selects the sample of students, with each of the five student groups stratified by state/territory of student residence, provider type and funding source. Before sampling, units in each stratum are stratified by age, sex, field of education, and indigenous status. From 2017, the sampling has been designed to allow more records to be selected for training providers targeted for reporting at the training provider level. Contact details of selected students are then provided directly to the fieldwork contractor by NCVER, State Training Authorities or the Office of the Student Identifiers Registrar (OSIR).
Fieldwork (June to September)
- A personalised survey invitation and privacy notice is sent at the end of May each year. In 2020, these invitations were sent from mid-June due to COVID-19 associated delays. Invitations are sent via email, SMS or hard-copy letter, depending on availability of contact details. The survey invitation includes students' training details and instructions on how to complete the survey online. Each invitation contains a unique login code for accessing the online survey.
- Emails and SMS reminders are sent to those students with a valid email address and/or mobile number who haven’t responded to the survey at various times. A hard-copy reminder is sent to non-responders with a mailing address approximately three weeks after the initial invitation.
- Telephone reminder calls and interviews are conducted with a selection of those who haven't responded from July.
Data analysis and reporting (September to December)
- After completion of fieldwork, quality checks are conducted and data are analysed.
What survey results are available?
What information is available to training providers on their students' satisfaction and outcomes?
Where enough responses are received to provide accurate results, eligible RTOs can receive an individual report on employment outcomes, training satisfaction, perceived benefits and relevance of training as reported by their domestic students (alongside state/territory and national results for comparison). The 2020 survey was designed, subject to response rates, to provide data for RTOs with:
- 100 or more qualification completers in 2019
- 100 or more program completers in 2019
- 550 or more qualification part completers in 2019
- 250 or program part completers in 2019
- 550 or more subject only completers in 2019.
Reports for RTOs are disseminated to authorised people at each RTO in January to February the following year. For further information on how RTOs can access a report showing their students’ aggregated responses, see SOS RTO reports.
What information on VET students' satisfaction and outcomes is available to the general public?
The aggregate results of the National Student Outcomes Survey are presented in the following publications.
- Australian vocational education and training statistics: VET student outcomes
- Australian vocational education and training statistics: International onshore VET qualification completer outcomes
All publications and products are available free of charge on NCVER's portal, see Student outcomes. Data on domestic students are usually published in December each year. Due to delays in survey processes, the 2020 survey data on domestic students will be released in January 2021. Data on international onshore VET qualification completers are usually published in May the following year.
The following supporting/supplementary information is also provided on the publication page on NCVER's portal:
- Explanatory notes
- Technical notes
- Terms and definitions
- Invitation letter
- Data dictionary
- How to interpret survey data
For further information about the National Student Outcomes Survey, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requests for more detailed statistical information can be made to NCVER via email@example.com.
A charge will be made by the NCVER for more data requests. See the data access and charging policy.
Additional information is made available to various stakeholders including the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment and the State Training Authorities.
How has the survey changed over the years?
During 1995, 1997 and 1998 the survey was known as the Graduate Destination Survey. From 1999 onwards the survey was known as the National Student Outcomes Survey.
1995 (conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics), 1997, and 1998
- A census of TAFE graduates with a qualification involving at least 200 hours or one semester of training.
- A census of graduates with a qualification involving at least 200 hours or one semester of training.
- A small sample survey of module completers was introduced. Separate questionnaires were used for graduates and module completers.
- The survey was expanded to include students from TAFE, community education providers, private training providers and other government providers.
- Only information on TAFE students was published.
2000, 2001, and 2002
- A sample survey of graduates and module completers.
- For graduates, the minimum training length condition was removed.
- The option to complete the survey via the internet was introduced.
- Students selected as module completers who identified themselves as graduates were reported as graduates. Previously, responses of these people were collected, but not used in reporting. At the aggregate level, this change made no difference, but for sub-populations the effect may be greater.
- For the first time the same questionnaire was used for graduates and module completers.
- Information on government-funded students from community education and private training providers was published for the first time.
- The same questionnaire was used for students from TAFE and private training providers. A separate questionnaire was used for students from community education providers.
- No changes were made
- A new recognition of prior learning (RPL) question was included in the survey replacing the one used previously.
- No changes were made
- For the first time those with email addresses were invited to complete the survey online via email and/or a primary approach letter rather than being sent a hard copy questionnaire.
- For the first time ALL respondents received a primary approach letter inviting them to complete the survey online at the first mailing, rather than a hard copy questionnaire. As in previous years, those with an email address also received an email invite. Hard copy questionnaires were only sent to those who did not complete online by a certain date.
- Students selected as potential module completers who identified themselves as graduates were modelled to determine final status. Previously, responses of these students were reported as graduates. Data were backdated to 2005.
- Sampling changed from proportional allocation to sampling based on more balanced sampling error across institutes for the main survey variable, labour force status after training. The target sampling error for graduates was 4% and 8% for module completers, per institute.
- The scope was expanded to include students from all jurisdictions who completed their training with a community education provider. This resulted in information being collected for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Prior to 2014 only students from community education providers in New South Wales and Victoria were included in the survey.
- Survey responses from fee-for-service students from community education providers were excluded from reporting and the summary publication was renamed to Government-funded student outcomes. Data have been backdated to 2006.
- Module completers were renamed to subject completers. The terminology was applied back to 2005.
- The survey expanded to include graduates from private and community education providers who either paid for their training themselves or whose employer paid for the training. Previously, only students who received government funding were included in the survey.
- The questionnaire was revised to a shorter, more user friendly version that can be used on mobile devices. This questionnaire was implemented in 2016 for all students (TAFE, universities/ other government providers, private training providers and community education providers).
- As a result of shortening the questionnaire, the questions used to classify subject completers were streamlined, and the classification of subject completers was improved. Data for subject completers in previous years have been backdated to 2006 using this improved derivation.
- The expanded survey scope, which includes fee-for-service students from private training providers and community education providers, was applied to subject completers.
- The reminder postcard and the hard-copy questionnaire were removed from the contact methodology.
- The 2017 National Student Outcomes Survey excluded students aged under 18 years of age. Data from previous years were backdated.
- Government-funded training was broadly defined as all activity delivered by government providers and government-funded activity delivered by community education and private training providers. In 2017 the scope of government-funded training was revised and data for previous years have been backdated. Government-funded training now includes only Commonwealth and state/territory government-funded training (either Commonwealth or state recurrent funding, Commonwealth specific purpose funding or state specific funding) from all training providers. All fee-for-service activity from training providers has been excluded.
- The derivation of graduates and subject completers changed to be more in line with administrative data. Previously, due to lags in reporting of a large number of qualifications completed to the National VET Provider Collection, government-funded students who were sampled as subject completers were reported as graduates if they self-reported completing a qualification and were deemed eligible for that qualification via a logistic regression model. From 2017, those who self-report completing a qualification, are reported as subject completers, as per the administrative data (or sample selection). Data have been backdated for 2016, the year the data quality improvement is first seen.
- Non-respondents with a mailing address were sent a hard copy letter approximately four weeks after the initial email contact. This represents a change to the previous methodology where the hard-copy letter was sent to all students at the commencement of the survey.
- In 2018, more RTOs received data about their students’ satisfaction and training outcomes than ever before. RTOs were eligible to receive an individual report on their students’ responses (alongside state/territory and national results for comparison) if they had:
- 100 or more domestic graduates and/or 860 or more domestic potential subject completers during 2017, and
- enough survey responses to provide accurate results.
- In 2019, the scope of students eligible to be included in the survey was revised to be consistent with the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (NVETRE) framework. As a result of this change, students must have completed accredited training delivered by RTOs.
- Following a trial in 2018, the 2019 questionnaire was revised. The results from the 2018 questionnaire trial suggest the survey estimates for ‘received at least one job-related benefit’ and ‘improved employment status after training’ are not comparable with prior years due to changes in question wording. The results from the trial suggest that the 2019 responses to satisfaction with teaching and assessment and overall satisfaction may differ to prior years due to the changes in question wording.
- In 2019, NCVER conducted a national Apprentice and Trainee Experience and Destination (ATED) survey that was integrated with the 2019 National Student Outcomes Survey. The surveys ran concurrently. Key National Student Outcomes Survey questions were included in the ATED questionnaire alongside other questions specific to apprentices and trainees. Where a student was sampled for both surveys, they were invited to participate in one survey only-ATED. Following a mode effects analysis, the responses to these key questions were merged back into the National Student Outcomes Survey response file.
- In 2019, RTOs were eligible to receive an individual report on their students' responses where enough responses are received to provide accurate results. As a general guideline, this included RTOs with 100 or more domestic graduates and/or 850 or more domestic subject completers during 2018.
- Students aged 15 to 17 years and those undertaking VET in Schools were included in the survey.
- Following a review of the subject completer group, the survey was designed to report by the following student groups:
- qualification completers (previously known as graduates).
- qualification part-completers
- short course completers
- short course part-completers
- subject only completers.
- Due to significant changes in the way student groups are reported in the 2020 survey, time-series information is not available for the following student groups: short course completers, short course part-completers and subject(s) only completers. A two-year time-series is available for qualification part-completers.
- To minimise burden, a shorter version of the questionnaire was utilised for most students, with some exceptions such as qualification completers who gained a Certificate II and above.
- There were some questionnaire changes in 2020, including a change to the response scale for recommend the training provider and recommend the training from a ‘Yes / No’ response option to a ‘Very likely’ to ‘very unlikely’ response scale. The results from a trial of this change in scale suggest that the 2020 responses for these questions may differ to prior years due to the changes in question wording and the results are not comparable with prior years.
Where can I obtain further information about the survey?
Who can I contact for general information?
For general queries about the survey, please contact the Student Outcomes Survey Helpline on 1800 413 992 (free call within Australia) or +61 3 8354 3629 (from outside Australia) or email SOShelpdesk@srcentre.com.au.
Where can I obtain a copy of the questionnaires?
Copies of the 2020 SOS questionnaires are available to download.
Where can I obtain information on the privacy notice and the prize draw terms and conditions?
For further information refer to: