Three out of four graduate employers feel universities produce graduates who have the skills they need. Employers who thought graduates ill-prepared cited graduates' poor practical skills and "universities not in tune with the world of work" as major failings.
The Department for Education and Employment this week published a survey examining the effects of the recent rapid increase in graduate numbers. It said 60 per cent of 700 employers questioned had hired more graduates over the past five years and a similar number expect to hire graduates in the next five years. The survey also reported that graduates in work today often do jobs previously done by non-graduates.
Most graduate employers said the rise in graduate numbers was positive, but a sizeable proportion felt the value of a degree had fallen.
The survey, which also questioned 800 graduates who had left university in the past six years, found that equal numbers of graduates were in "non-graduate" jobs, for which a degree was not normally needed, as were in "graduate jobs". Only 40 per cent of those in non-graduate professions said they thought their degree had helped their performance.
The survey also found that the skills graduates had gained in getting their degrees were under-used in their first jobs but better used in their second. Graduates working in smaller firms were among the least likely to report graduate skills being under-used.
Among the skills most sought by managers are practical ability, relevant work experience and interpersonal skills. Working graduates cited team working, logical thinking and ability to work unsupervised as among the most important skills in their jobs.
Graduates of new universities were considerably more likely to have done a degree for career reasons than graduates from the older universities. Increasingly, graduates are forming early career plans. Those who were most clear about careers from the outset tended to be the most satisfied with their early career progress. Just over half of graduates sampled found it easy to get a job after graduating.
There was confusion among some managers about the differences between degrees and institutions. Many felt there should be more information and standardisation among degrees.