Degrees and despair: graduates gloomy about jobs

Only a third expect to find work, study finds. Hannah Fearn reports

This year’s graduates are pessimistic about their chances of bagging a graduate job: just a third of those leaving university in the summer expect to find work.

With confidence in the graduate job market at a 15-year low, those who have studied for non-vocational degrees and undertaken little or no work experience are least optimistic.

The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2010, published by High Fliers Research, quizzed 16,114 final-year undergraduates about their future prospects.

Only a quarter of arts and humanities graduates said they expected to find appropriate work. They also anticipated earning up to £50,000 less their contemporaries with science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) degrees during their first five years in work.

By contrast, more than half of business and finance students (54 per cent) and engineering finalists (57 per cent) were confident that they would be offered a job.

A third of the students questioned said they would be willing to accept “any job they were offered” in the aftermath of the recession.

Graduate salary expectations have plummeted. Final-year job hunters expect to earn £22,000 in their first role, 3.1 per cent less than in 2008. Yet they still expect to collect a salary of £39,100 five years after graduating.

Students fear that last year’s graduates will fill most of the entry-level vacancies advertised in 2010 and are making other plans: 26 per cent say they will go on to postgraduate study, and 16 per cent are preparing to take time out or to travel.

The study comes out alongside research confirming the influence of longitudinal data on graduate destinations.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England commissioned an evaluation of the longitudinal data it collects and publishes. Researchers found that this information had been used to influence higher education policy at a national and regional level and had also been used to demonstrate the economic and social value of higher education.

However, the report, Evaluation of Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey, suggests that the longitudinal data would be improved if it included a larger sample size and was administered online with a more streamlined questionnaire.

It also recommends that qualitative data be collected, such as perceptions of job quality.

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