The Times Higher Education Supplement and the Independent reported yesterday that the Royal Academy of Music enjoy’s the UK’s highest graduate employment rate at 100%.

There’s a small chance somebody might make a fairly important career decision (or at least spend £36,000) on the basis of this 100% figure (or perhaps on the basis of the Independent’s unambiguous advice “If you want to be employed after uni, study music”), and as these two respectable publications were apparently too busy to find out what it actually means, I thought I’d do it. It took 15 minutes. Here we go:

1) The stories are based on the “Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education” employment table for 2011/2012, which you can find here.

2) For the RAM, this table includes responses from 30 students out of an eligible population of 35 students, which seems a bit low for such  large institution.

3) The RAM’s own 2011/2012 financial statements say that 69 undergraduate degrees were awarded for that year.

4) About half the students disappeared between graduating and reporting on their employment status, which might be because students from outside the UK are not included in these statistics.

5) For the purposes of the DLHE stats, “employed” means “doing at least some work” in a field where almost everybody is at least partly freelance and a piece of work can last for an hour or less.

So when it says that the Royal Academy of Music has a 100% graduate employment rate, what it actually means is “at least 30 people did at least five minutes’ work after graduating”.

Sign me up.

Now, the government has to collect this data, and it’s not their fault that journalists do what journalists do and sort it into ranked tables. It would be nice of the THES and the Independent to think critically about the data and not take it at face value, but music comes out the winner here. Why am I, of all people, making a fuss?

Well. Universities sell us the idea that their courses will help us to get jobs. Having done a music degree myself (and then tried to get a job) I know it isn’t easy, and while a degree might help, it certainly doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find enough work to support yourself, let alone a family. Music is a very competitive field, and institutions ought to be honest about that.

I’m not saying that the Royal Academy of Music has duty to tell everybody that these statistics are extremely misleading, but you’d hope they’d be classy enough to not boast about them.

So if you’re working at the Royal Academy, and you’re reading this, and you’re asking yourself “why is he picking on us?” then let me spell it out for you. This is why:

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