Graduate employment rates vary widely between universities, according to figures published today.
The proportion of graduates who say they are working or studying six months after graduation ranges from 100 per cent at The School of Pharmacy to 74.4 per cent at London South Bank University.
Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the top-performing university is the University of Surrey, where 96.9 per cent of those obtaining first degrees from full-time courses in 2008-09 were employed or in further study, followed by Robert Gordon University (95.9 per cent) and the University of Cambridge (95.2 per cent).
Russ Clark, head of the careers service at Surrey, said that more than half of the university’s students undertook a professional training placement, typically as the third year of a four-year course. “Surrey has always been committed to producing employable graduates,” Dr Clark said. “The university attracts students who are very focused and have one eye on the world of work.”
Many specialist institutions also do well, including the Central School of Speech and Drama (98.3 per cent) and the Royal College of Music (98 per cent).
Phil Cardew, pro vice-chancellor at London South Bank, said: “Along with other universities in the capital, graduate prospects have not met expectations this year, suggesting our economic climate, among other factors, may be a key contributor.”
He added that the university had a “strong record of high graduate starting salaries” and “strong links with industry” which enabled it to offer sought-after work placements.
Data published earlier this month showed that unemployment among recent graduates is rising. In 2008-09, 10 per cent of graduates from UK universities were “assumed to be unemployed” six months after leaving university, up from 8 per cent the previous year.
There were also warnings today of intense competition for university places this summer.
The number of people applying to university is up 11.6 per cent on last year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said.
As of 30 June, 660,953 people have applied to start full-time undergraduate courses this autumn, compared with 592,312 at the same point last summer. The number reapplying – including those who withdrew last year – is up 24 per cent.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said universities would not be able to take on extra students to meet the demand, due to government restrictions.