A real-terms cut in graduate salaries this year may herald a fall in the financial value of a degree, employers have warned.
The average graduate starting salary has failed to rise above inflation, increasing by just 2.4 per cent to £23,500 a year, according to the latest recruitment survey published by the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
Although demand for graduates is still strong, with a 12.7 per cent rise in graduate vacancies, continuing growth in the number of degree holders in the jobs market appears to be making employers less generous with new recruits.
One employer said this year's modest rise in wages was "a reflection that the graduate standard is dropping and business is not prepared to pay graduates a higher salary".
Meanwhile, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggest that employment prospects for graduates are stable, with nearly two thirds in work six months after gaining their degree.
Figures for 2005-06 show that only 63 per cent of graduates were in employment - the same as the previous year - with 8 per cent in a combination of work and study, 16 per cent in further study, and 6 per cent assumed to be unemployed.