Supply of degrees bigger than demand

November 20, 1998

Many job applicants need better qualifications than their predecessors, but a third of graduates remain in jobs where a degree is not required, according to research.

Francis Green of Kent University questioned 2,500 employees about the skills and qualifications needed to get their job or an equivalent today, and looked at the qualifications they held.

He found that 30 per cent of people with degrees are in posts where a degree is not a requirement for the job. However, 38 per cent of people in jobs where a degree would be necessary to gain such a position today are not graduates.

The research, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council, also shows that the increase in graduates in the workplace over the past ten years has been matched by an increase in jobs requiring degrees.

In 1986, 7 per cent of the workforce were graduates, compared with 13 per cent in 1997. Over the same period, the percentage of jobs where a degree was required increased from 9.7 to 14.1 per cent.

"As the supply of workers with degrees increases, the demand for degrees has also gone up," said Professor Green.

"But these figures are backward-looking. Now we are graduating 30 per cent of the cohort, so if you look to the future around a third of the workforce will have degrees. Until now the demand for degrees has kept up with supply, but there is no guarantee it will in the future."

The research also suggests that women are catching up with men in the jobs market. Professor Green pointed to figures from 1986 when 12.8 per cent of men were in jobs where a degree was required. In 1997 that figure was 15.2 per cent. In 1986, 5.5 per cent of women were in jobs requiring degrees. In 1997 the figure was 12.8 per cent. "Women are still lagging a bit behind, but they are catching up," he said.

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