Covid-era graduates ‘less positive’ about post-degree jobs fit

Latest edition of major annual UK survey suggests university leavers’ outlook lagged behind employment market recovery

六月 16, 2022
July 16, 2019 Mountain View  CA  USA - Representatives from NASA talk to visitors at Technology Showcase event in Silicon Valley
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The share of graduates from UK universities who feel they are in jobs that fit with their future plans has fallen over the course of the pandemic, the latest edition of an official survey of leavers has found.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s Graduate Outcomes survey also suggest that graduates are less likely to feel strongly that they are doing something meaningful or are using what they learned compared with before the Covid crisis.

The latest edition of the survey included graduates who finished their undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the 2019-20 academic year, the tail end of which was hit by the pandemic, with campuses closed and in-person exams cancelled. They were mainly surveyed in 2021 about what they had gone on to do – a year when restrictions were gradually eased as the vaccination programme kicked in.

According to the data, the share of graduates agreeing that they were doing something – including work or further study – that fitted with their future plans fell to 77 per cent in the latest survey, down from 80 per cent two years earlier. Meanwhile, the proportion of those in full-time jobs who felt the same way was 81 per cent, down from 83 per cent two years before.

There was also a fall in the proportion of those in full-time jobs who strongly agreed that they were doing something meaningful – from 45 per cent to 42 per cent for former full-time undergraduates – while the share who strongly thought they were using what they had learned on their course dropped to 28 per cent.

At the same time, the data suggest a slight improvement in the likelihood of graduates being in full-time work compared with the previous year’s survey, which had spoken to university leavers who were in the labour market in 2020, as initial pandemic restrictions hit the economy.

Lucy Van Essen-Fishman, Hesa’s lead policy and research analyst, writes in an analysis of the survey results that the “slight decline” in highly positive answers from graduates about their outlook and well-being could suggest their “subjective sense of recovery has lagged behind improvements in the labour market”.

However, she points out that the changes are still small and it may take a few more years to understand the full effects of the pandemic on graduates and what a “normal” year of data from the survey looked like.

“For now, the 2019-20 data, which continues to be representative of our target population, shows a cohort of graduates who are, despite the challenges of the past two years, working or studying at rates that are not far off those we saw in 2017-18, before the pandemic began,” she writes.

Elsewhere, the data suggest that the apparent recovery in the labour market in 2021 appeared to be stronger for domestic graduates than for their international counterparts.

While the share of UK graduates who said they were in full-time employment 15 months after leaving a bachelor’s course rose to 57 per cent from 56 per cent in the latest survey, representing a recovery from before the pandemic, the figure for non-UK graduates fell to 39 per cent.



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