Nearly 90 per cent of art and design graduates have full-time jobs or are self-employed within three years of leaving college, says a report out next week.
The findings, based on a survey of 2,000 1993-96 graduates from 14 institutions, are the most optimistic to date for art and design students. The Higher Education Statistics Agency's 1995-96 employment snapshot taken six months after graduation shows just half in full-time jobs.
Ian Dumelow, dean of design at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, said it would be "alarming" if HESA data alone were to become the sole reference point for art graduate employability.
"The picture emerging from our study is not only that the six-month HESA figure changes significantly over two to three years to far higher levels of full-time or self-employment, but that the employment picture is far more complex," he said.
"It is important that the true value of art and design graduates in the economy is recognised."
The report will be discussed at a conference in London next Friday as part of Design In Education Week organised by the Design Council.
Mr Dumelow said the study, Destinations and Reflections, is the largest longitudinal survey of its kind for 30 years. During this time the number of art and design students has risen from 4,500 to 72,000. The study found that after three years: n The average income for women graduates is Pounds 11,600 compared with Pounds 14,100 for men n Out of the more than 3,000 jobs graduates took during the survey, a significant number involved working in small and medium-sized firms. A quarter of employed graduates are in organisations with ten or fewer people n Graduates "migrate" from salaried employment to self-employment closely linked to art and design. 3D design graduates are most likely to be operating their own business and graphic designers least likely n Just over 10 per cent of the sample are employed in education. Nearly a quarter have done some form of paid teaching or lecturing since graduation, while half the graduates had undertaken further study or training on a full or part-time basis n Product, industrial, furniture and interior design graduates (160 in the survey) find it easiest to get full-time jobs. These jobs carry an average salary of Pounds 17,000 n Graphic designers (350 in the survey) have an average salary of Pounds 12,000. But these designers can be among the most highly paid n 3D designers and crafts-based graduates (260 in the survey) earn Pounds 12,000 on average n Of the 430 fine artists surveyed, many are in part-time work and self-employment. They notch up an average Pounds 9,000 annual salary n Eight per cent of 1996 graduates have incomes of Pounds 20,000 and over. This compares with 19 per cent of 1993 graduates in the same salary bracket after being in work for three years. The study says this is evidence of growth in earnings as graduate careers develop.
Mr Dumelow said the findings help debunk the "myth" that art and design graduates fare poorly in the world of work.
"The art and design curriculum is built on creativity, communication and flexibility - it provides in good measure what employers are looking for," he said.
"Institutions have not sufficiently promoted these employability skills."
Also taking part in the study were the universities of Central England, Coventry, East London, Hertfordshire, London Guildhall, Middlesex, Plymouth, Ports-mouth, Robert Gordon, the art institute at Bournemouth and the colleges of Bradford & Ilkley, and Cheltenham & Gloucester.