Nearly all graduates have a job three and a half years after leaving university or college, and the majority have a "graduate" job, a national survey has found.
While a significant proportion are jobless for a short time, only 2 per cent are unemployed after three and a half years, and just 10 per cent are in "non-graduate" jobs, the study by the University of Warwick's Institute of Employment Research discovered.
Contrary to popular perceptions, employment levels among graduates of "new" and "old" universities are about the same.
The survey of 11,000 leavers from 33 institutions found that the strong vocational element in many "new" university courses helped them keep pace with "prestigious" institutions in the graduate employment stakes.
Graduates from new universities were less likely to be in jobs that required their degrees, but more likely than those from old universities to be in non-graduate jobs where they believed their graduate skills and knowledge were used.
Also running against common assumptions was the finding that the proportion of graduates going into occupations usually classified as "non-graduate" is declining, falling from about 25 per cent in 1995 to 10 per cent in November 1998.
However, the boundaries between graduate and non-graduate employment were unclear to many graduates interviewed in the survey. Nearly half of those who regarded their current job as career-related had not required a degree on entry, whereas about a quarter of those who did not regard their job as career-related were in jobs that required a degree.
Earnings three and a half years after graduation were found to be related to gender, age, prior qualifications, degree class and subject studied. Male medical or maths and computing graduates were at the top of the earnings league, with average gross salaries of Pounds 25,000 a year. At the bottom were female arts and humanities graduates, with average gross annual salaries of about Pounds 16,000.
More than half of respondents had taken another course since graduating, mostly part-time. Most of those did so because they thought it would improve their career prospects.
Work experience was perceived to be a crucial key to the labour market, with many respondents feeling that on graduation they were not "work ready" because they lacked basic workplace experience.