Only Successful Graduates Respond to Tracer Studies: A Myth? Results from the German Corporation Project Tracer Studies
INCHER-Kassel and 58 German Higher Education Institutions conducted together the biggest tracer studies campaign in Germany so far. Up to date, more than 100.000 graduates of the cohorts 2006 – 2009 were surveyed in the years 2007 – 2011. During this project it was often claimed that graduate tracer studies cannot be representative. This doubt is based on the assumption that only particularly successful or satisfied persons participate in these surveys. This hypothesis will be discussed in the following essay after a introduction in the methodological approach of the Cooperation Project balancing comparability and individuality of the questionnaires. The essay will also explain the network approach of the Cooperation Project "Study Conditions and Professional Success – Cooperation of German Institutions of Higher Education for the Design and Execution of Tracer Studies” (KOAB). The respondents of the cohort 2008 which were surveyed in the fall semester 2009/10 are divided into two groups to test the hypothesis that only particularly successful or satisfied persons participate in these surveys: early respondents and late respondents. The graduates were invited by up to four contacts to participate in the survey. Early respondents participate right after the first contact, while late respondents representing the non-respondents of the first contact. This model refers to the idea of a "continuum of resistance” in survey participation. A comparison shows that there are no fundamental differences between the early respondents and late respondents according to the following indicators: assessment and satisfaction with study programme, study success (final grade), or actual professional situation and satisfaction with current professional situation. Based on these observations, the above mentioned statement that only successful or satisfied persons will participate in graduate tracer studies cannot be confirmed.
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