Graduates look back with regret

November 9, 2007

Large numbers of graduates regret their choice of university and subject despite generally being satisfied with their careers, according to official figures, writes Melanie Newman. A survey of graduates, carried out three and a half years after they left university, found that more than one in five (22 per cent) would choose a different university if they could turn back the clock. A higher percentage (29 per cent) felt it was "very likely" or "likely" that they would choose a different subject. The figure rose to 41 per cent among those in non-graduate jobs.

But the study of almost 25,000 graduates by the Higher Education Statistics Agency also found that 85 per cent were satisfied with their career and highlighted the financial rewards brought by higher education.

Hesa questioned the students when they left university in 2003 and again in 2006. The research showed that graduates' average salaries had risen more than a quarter in that time.

Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, said: "This, coupled with what we already know - that graduates earn, on average, over their lifetimes about £100,000 more after tax than those with only two A levels - shows that going on to higher education is indeed one of the best investments a young person can make."

He added that the report clearly demonstrated that graduates performed "exceptionally well in the labour market".

Only 2 per cent of graduates surveyed were unemployed, the Hesa figures showed, but a fifth of those in work were not in "graduate occupations" three years after leaving.

Four out of ten media and communications graduates and a third of business studies graduates were not in graduate-level jobs, it found.

Graduates were most likely to regret having taken courses in mass communications and documentation, and computer science.

But Southampton University this week announced its biggest increase in its undergraduate intake in computer science in five years. It took on 94 new computer science undergraduates, 20 per cent higher than last year.

Admissions tutor Paul Garratt said dissatisfaction with computer science had been due to an explosion of courses that arose during the dotcom boom and accepted students without strong mathematical skills. "There was a massive disillusionment," he said.

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