However, state school entrants perform significantly less well than peers from private school pupils on securing a higher-level graduate job.
A report published today by England’s funding council on outcomes from degree study also finds the number of unemployed graduates increased between 2005 and 2009, which the Higher Education Funding Council for England says is “likely to be as a result of the recession”.
The report “allows us for the first time to map the success of university entrants over time, on the basis of their entry characteristics, degree subject and choice of institution”, Hefce says in a statement.
It tracks the performance of cohorts of students who entered between 2002-03 and 2006-07, who began graduating in 2005 and 2009 respectively.
The report looks at performance across four outcomes: achieving a degree; achieving a first or upper-second-class degree; achieving a degree and continuing to employment or further study; and achieving a degree and continuing to graduate-level employment or further study.
On degree classification, the proportion of students gaining an upper-second-class degree or above rose from 49.6 per cent of those entering university in 2002-03 to 53.3 per cent for the 2006-07 cohort.
Meanwhile, those with a lower second of below fell from 31.9 per cent to 29 per cent over the same period.
The number achieving a degree and going into employment or further study fell from 72 per cent to 71.4 per cent over the timeframe. And the number gaining a degree then going on to graduate-level employment or further study fell from 48.1 per cent to 47.8 per cent.
The Hefce report uses data from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, which looks at employment circumstances six months after graduation and is collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
The number of unemployed graduates rose, from 4.2 per cent for the 2002-03 entry cohort to 6.2 per cent for the 2006-07 entry cohort.
Private school pupils outscored state school pupils in each category of performance in the 2006-07 entry cohort: gaining a degree (89.1 per cent of graduates who went to private schools against 82.4 per cent of graduates who went to state schools); gaining a first or upper second (64.9 per cent against 52.7 per cent), gaining a degree and going on to employment or further study (76.9 per cent against 71.5 per cent), gaining a degree and going on to a graduate-level job or further study (60.4 per cent against 46.8 per cent).
But when making comparisons between group of graduates, Hefce also uses “sector adjusted averages” to take account of entry qualifications and other factors.
Hefce says that the “percentage of the cohort who achieved a degree and continued to employment or further study is significantly below the sector-adjusted average among students from independent schools, but is significantly above the sector-adjusted average among students from state schools”.
But it adds: “When we then look at the percentage of students who achieved a degree and continued to graduate employment or further study, we see that the percentage from independent schools is significantly above the sector-adjusted average by 4.2 percentage points. However, the percentage of students from state schools is significantly below the sector-adjusted average for the same outcome.”