MAJOR recruiters will offer only a few of the total graduate job openings in future, according to a study by the Institute for Employment Studies.
But, says the Sussex University-based research centre, big employers still dominate debates about graduate jobs, and that distorts the view of "what has become an increasingly diverse labour market for graduates".
The IES's annual graduate review urges institutions to develop distinctive roles in order to compete at a time of limited graduate jobs and more graduates.
Although it says that "universities are not equal in terms of their funding, staffing intakes and value added for students", the IES warns employers against limiting their recruitment to just a few institutions, stating "diversity exists within universities".
In 1997, more than 150,000 graduates entered the jobs market. Six months after graduating, about one-third of them were in a temporary jobs and 8 per cent were unemployed.
At the same time, big recruiters were reporting 17,000 graduate job vacancies. One in three reported problems recruiting the graduates they needed, particularly in IT and electrical and electronic engineering. Many said graduates needed better interpersonal, business and leadership skills.
But the number of recruiters prepared to sponsor undergraduates has dropped from just under 40 per cent to less than 30 per cent in the past three years.
And some graduates earn less than Pounds 10,000 on starting work, although a few in the City go straight in on more than Pounds 20,000. Average starting salaries this year are about Pounds 15,500.
Like their counterparts in the United States and many other European countries, graduates are also taking longer to settle into a career. The graduate recruitment round is becoming a thing of the past, with many graduates entering jobs throughout the year and filling vacancies not specifically designed for them, often displacing less qualified candidates.
The review also suggests that rising debts are leading students to take any job they can get to pay off what they owe.
It says "temporary work now appears to be an established feature of the early careers of graduates". Five years after graduation, however, many have settled, with 86 per cent in employment.
On subdegree qualifications, the review says: "There is little evidence of significant employer demand for those with subdegree qualifications, nor that it will grow as long as there is a supply of first degree graduates."