Medics and artists top job league

August 13, 2004

Historians and philosophy students are more likely to land jobs immediately after graduation than computer scientists, according to figures.

The latest data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency on the destination of 182,300 graduates six months after graduation suggest that 63 per cent had jobs, 16 per cent were engaged in further full-time study and 7 per cent were unemployed.

Women were more likely to have a job than men, with 8.5 per cent of male graduates unemployed six months after graduation compared with 6.7 per cent of their female counterparts.

Hesa broke down the data to reveal the employment prospects of graduates in different disciplines.

Figures show that while 12 per cent of computer science graduates were unemployed, 7 per cent of graduates in either history or philosophy were without a job. Four per cent of those who had studied law, meanwhile, found themselves still on the dole queue.

The Hesa statistics also showed that while less than half of maths graduates had jobs, a quarter were engaged in further full-time study.

The creative arts and design courses were among those to boast the highest rates of employment (64 per cent), although medicine and dentistry graduates were the most likely to be in a job six months after university (87 per cent).

But uncertainty remains over the whereabouts of 45,600 graduates six months after completing degrees, with Hesa recording their destination as "unknown".

The data are released amid growing debate about whether there are enough "graduate jobs" to absorb the number of students leaving UK universities each year.

Anthony Hesketh, of Lancaster University Management School and co-author of the study of graduate job prospects, The Mismanagement of Talent , pointed out that the Hesa figures suggest that one in three graduates classes their job as being of a management or senior official level or as a professional occupation.

Some per cent said their job was "associate professional or technical", 18 per cent said it was "administrative or secretarial" and 11 per cent said it was "sales or customer service".

"The big debate is about the classification of the associated professional or technical worker," Dr Hesketh said.

"I would argue that they are not knowledge workers and that the majority of those workers are doing jobs that could be done by non-graduates. As you look at the other classifications, such as administrative or secretarial, you are getting even further away.

"We are a million miles away from the claims made in the White Paper in 2003, on which tuition fees rested, which said that 80 per cent of the jobs created in the UK economy between then and 2010 would be jobs needing graduate qualifications."

Dr Hesketh added: "These data do nothing to shift our original thesis that there are not enough knowledge-worker jobs available for graduates."

Dr Hesketh also questioned the value of statistics that painted a picture of graduate destinations only six months after graduation and said that better data were needed.

The National Union of Students said that the "ever-diminishing" employment prospects for some graduates - particularly in information technology and computer science - was of great concern.

It added that there was a stark difference between salary expectations and reality, and urged the Government to create a scheme to forgive student debt through periods of unemployment or career breaks.

But the Department for Education and Skills said this week that the figures showed it was a good time to be a graduate and stressed that graduate unemployment falls significantly over time.

The DfES also hailed the figures as evidence that students who completed foundation degrees were less likely to be unemployed than other graduates.

The Hesa figures show that 3 per cent of students who completed undergraduate diplomas or certificates - including foundation degrees - in 2003 were unemployed six months later.

By comparison, 7 per cent of first degree graduates were unemployed, 6 per cent of those completing a postgraduate course had no job and 4 per cent of those who finished a doctorate were unemployed.

Students who finished a foundation degree or undergraduate diploma were almost twice as likely to continue their studies as first degree graduates.

A DfES spokesman said: "Recent evidence shows that just 1 to 2 per cent of graduates are unemployed and seeking work seven years after graduation.

"It would be reckless and irresponsible to deny UK firms the extra graduates they need to compete in the global economy.

"We are delighted with this first indication that graduates who have studied shorter, more vocationally oriented courses, such as foundation degrees, are less likely to be unemployed than other graduates."

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

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