Some of Australia’s least fancied universities outperform their highly ranked rivals in producing graduates who land well-paid jobs, data suggest.
Three years after finishing bachelor’s degrees, graduates of Charles Sturt University – a sprawling institution straddling eight regional towns, and one that is not listed in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings – are more likely to have full-time jobs than leavers from any other Australian university.
CSU undergraduates also boast Australia’s highest median full-time graduate salary: A$78,300 (£43,680). Meanwhile, the private University of Notre Dame Australia – also unranked in the World University Rankings – has the highest full-time employment rate for people with postgraduate coursework qualifications.
The findings come from a longitudinal study of almost 40,000 Australians who graduated from 60 higher education institutions in 2014.
Overall, the results of the 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey suggest that university study gives careers a handsome boost. Ninety-two per cent of people with undergraduate or higher research degrees – and 94 per cent of those with postgraduate coursework credentials – are in some sort of employment three years later.
Recent graduates also enjoy rapidly rising incomes, with their median salaries climbing by up to 23 per cent over three years.
But the survey shows that many graduates are taking time to reap the rewards of study. Four months after the respondents had completed bachelor’s degrees, just 67 per cent of those who wanted full-time jobs had been able to find them.
This compared with about 83 per cent in the years immediately before last decade’s recession. “Since the global financial crisis, it has taken graduates longer to successfully establish themselves in their careers,” the report says.
Representative group Universities Australia said that the jobs picture for graduates was “looking strong” in the country’s now-improving labour market. “A university degree…remains one of the surest ways to find full-time work, even when the labour market has been doing it tough,” said chief executive Catriona Jackson.
She said that four out of five people with undergraduate qualifications were in managerial or professional positions three years after graduating. “These are exactly the types of jobs that the Australian Bureau of Statistics says require a bachelor’s degree or higher.”
The education minister, Dan Tehan, said that university graduates were “getting superior outcomes” in terms of finding and retaining jobs.
However, the most eye-catching outcomes were not delivered by the best-regarded universities. At the undergraduate level, just half of the prestigious Group of Eight institutions registered median full-time graduate employment rates above the national average.
Three were also below average for median full-time earnings. The nation’s best-ranked institution, the University of Melbourne, placed second last among 38 Australian universities on both the employment and earnings measure.
It performed better at the postgraduate coursework level, ranking fourth on full-time employment. But five Go8 institutions including Melbourne performed below average on medium-term earnings of people with postgraduate coursework qualifications.
The survey also suggests that despite the hype around the need for science, maths, engineering and technology skills, many people are not using them on the job.
Science and maths boasted the lowest skills utilisation levels of 21 broad discipline areas. Three years out from study, more than 42 per cent of people with undergraduate science and maths qualifications reported that their skills were not fully applied in their current employment.