Top ten favourites retain poll positions

October 10, 2003

The radically altered picture of graduate employment prospects that emerged from the reclassification of jobs for league tables published in The THES last spring was no flash in the pan, a more detailed study confirms.

An analysis of five years' data shows remarkable consistency in subjects whose students enjoyed the most "positive outcomes" six months after graduation. The term covers further study and traditional graduate jobs, and graduate-track jobs, but excludes non-graduate occupations.

The methodology was used for the first time in the compilation of The Times Good University Guide 2004 . Previous comparisons of graduate destinations had not distinguished between different types of employment.

This article examines longitudinal shifts in this measure within subjects between 1997 and 2002. It is probably here that the more exaggerated claims are made by proponents of some disciplines, seemingly unaware of the hard facts returned in the official survey completed by graduates themselves.

The following trends have been identified:

* The top ten subjects (table 1) show great consistency over the five years, with eight (mainly medicine and allied professions, but also architecture and education) appearing every year and three others (building, civil engineering and law) appearing in two or more years

* The bottom ten subjects (table 1) display less consistency, with four appearing in all five years, and three each appearing in one or more years.

They include some of the most popular subjects, such as communications and media studies, environmental science and psychology. They also include art and design, dance and cinematics, and sociology, where often the traditional route to relevant careers is via hands-on work experience categorised as non-graduate level

* The new definition of graduate destinations (restricted to graduate and graduate-track jobs) gives very different results for some subjects compared with the previous definition that included all jobs. Subjects that show above-average positive destinations using the old definition methodology but now fall below the line are listed on table 2

* Both methodologies record slight increases in positive graduate destinations up to 2000, followed by a steady decline to 2002. However, computer science and, to a lesser extent, electrical and electronic engineering show an even greater decline in the new rank order over the period, perhaps reflecting the fortunes of the dotcom sector.

We have sought to determine whether there is a relationship between these trends in positive graduate destinations and simple economic indicators such as gross domestic product, retail price index and national unemployment figures, and find a reasonable correlation with GDP only.

The latest study is the third in a series of longitudinal analyses of material collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency from universities. The first two examined the changes in class of degree awarded and of A-level entry standards in individual universities.

The data used to compile the tables on this page derive from the First Destination Survey of UK-domiciled first-degree graduates and leavers available annually from Hesa. The data have their shortcomings, not least the fact that they span only the period from graduation to January 31 following, but this material has been continuously collected for almost 50 years, is of high quality and is used by stakeholders, including the government and universities.

Indeed, while the original raison d'être was internal to university careers guidance and placement programmes, the FDS has long since assumed as great a significance among workforce planners and researchers. The FDS outcome has also been of growing concern to university applicants and their parents as paying consumers. It is not surprising, therefore, that university rankings in broadsheet newspapers include a graduate destinations measure based on the FDS return.

The Times Good University Guide is no exception and, until this year, used the proportion of UK graduates obtaining any employment or further study.

However, its league tables of university and subject rankings published last May included a modified employment element based on the work of Abigail McKnight and her co-workers at the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University.

The IER researchers took the Standard Occupational Classification used in the FDS and, with reference to the national Labour Force Survey , allocated each of the job titles within the SOC to one of three categories: graduate, graduate track or non-graduate occupations. The rationale for this was based on consideration of typical entry requirements plus the average level of qualifications held by employees in each occupation.

Our new measure excludes non-graduate occupations. The full 2001-02 results for the 62 subjects listed in The Times Good University Guide are shown in table 4. It is obvious that the new methodology gives a more sensitive delineation, with a greater spread of outcomes, but it should be noted that small graduate numbers in some subjects (such as Asian, African and some European languages) could give a false picture.

The move this year from any employment to graduate plus graduate-track employment in our graduate destinations measure for The Times Good University Guide 2004 rankings excited little criticism and much interest.

It is likely, therefore, that we will use this definition again next year, with minor modification. However, the FDS is itself undergoing a substantial revision, so we may have to review the detail of our methodology, but we will want to retain an insight into what graduates do.

Bernard Kingston is a partner in Mayfield University Consultants (b.kingston@mayfield-uc.org.uk). </a> Background information provided by Nicola Bright of Bright Statistics and Abigail McKnight (now at the LSE).

The Times Good University Guide is published by HarperCollins.


FIRST-DEGREE GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT, 1997-2002

Table 1
Positive destinations for top ten and bottom ten subjects

 Top 97/98 98/99 99/00 00/01 01/02 Architecture        Dentistry   

Education          Medicine Nursing Other subjects allied to medicine Pharmacology & pharmacy Veterinary medicine Building  Civil engineering   Law     Bottom 97/98 98/99 99/00 00/01 01/02 American studiesArt & DesignDrama, dance & cinematicsSociologyAnthropology Italian Psychology Environmental science  History of art, architecture & design  Philosophy  Communications & media studies   Russian   Social policy    Iberian languages    Linguistics     Middle East & African studies    


Table 2
Subjects with above average old but below average new outcomes

Subject Total graduates Old (n) Old (%) New (n) New (%**) Materials technology3,8333,56993.12,87675.0Hospitality & tourism10,4869,80693.57,08667,6English22,79421,11692.615,51568.1French3,7923,55593.82,732.0German1,3491,794.7982.8Italian39236392.624061.2Music7,5817,13094.15,56373.4Geography17,62916,47793.512,17469.1Psychology24,67522,84192.616,09365.2 All subjects 760,398 703,377 92.5 572,672 75.5

** Percentage with positive destinations.

Table 3
Trends in positive destinations using new and old definitions

<BR clear=all>


Table 4
Old outcome methods versus new measures by subject (2001-2002)

<P align=left> Subject

Total graduates* Old (%**) Rank New (%**) Rank

Dentistry

637

99.5

2

99.4

1

Medicine

41

99.8

1

99.3

2

Nursing

2908

99.0

3

98.1

3

Veterinary medicine

459

96.1

7

95.6

4

Pharmacology & pharmacy

1691

97.8

4

93.6

5

Architecture

1024

95.3

11

90.5

6

Civil Engineering

1048

94.8

12

89.2

7

Other subjects allied to medicine

5454

96.7

6

89.1

8

Education

6930

97.2

5

88.2

9

Building

1139

93.4

18

87.2

10

Food science

498

96.0

8

84.3

11

Land & property management

208

91.8

30

83.7

12

Social work

1168

94.7

13

83.5

13

Chemical engineering

517

91.5

32

83.0

14

Law

61

95.4

10

82.9

15

Celtic studies

109

95.4

9

81.7

16

Chemistry

2228

92.6

25

81.4

17

Town & country planning and landscape

880

94.2

15

79.9

18

Anatomy & physiology

1059

94.1

16

78.0

19

Materials technology

682

93.1

21

75.4

20

Mechanical engineering

1856

88.1

54

74.8

21

Middle Eastern & African Studies

45

80.0

62

73.3

22

Economics

2525

90.2

40

73.2

23

Theology & religious studies

656

93.4

17

73.2

24

Molecular biosciences

4171

93.3

19

73.1

25

General engineering

865

86.9

55

72.9

26

Physics & astronomy

1643

88.9

51

72.9

Mathematics

2838

89.9

44

72.4

28

Business studies

14711

91.6

31

70.9

29

Aeronautical & manufacturing engineering

1471

86.3

56

69.4

30

Music

1676

92.9

22

69.2

31

Geology

829

90.6

34

69.0

32

Linguistics

265

93.2

20

68.7

33

East & South Asian studies

105

90.5

36

68.6

34

Social policy

546

90.7

33

68.3

35

Librarianship & information management

182

85.7

57

68.1

36

Organismal biosciences

3748

90.4

38

68.0

37

Classics & ancient history

463

89.4

48

67.4

38

Computer science

8222

82.3

60

66.7

39

Politics

1813

90.1

42

66.6

40

Electrical & electronic engineering

2366

84.0

59

66.1

41

Agriculture & forestry

921

90.4

37

65.3

42

German

222

91.9

64.9

43

English

4675

91.9

29

64.7

44

Hospitality & tourism

1834

94.2

14

64.7

45

History of art, architecture & design

574

90.4

39

64.6

46

Geography

3636

91.9

28

64.6

47

Environmental science

1502

89.5

47

64.5

48

French

634

90.1

43

64.4

49

Archaeology

513

89.7

46

64.3

50

History

4039

90.2

41

63.8

51

Philosophy

669

89.2

49

63.8

52

Psychology

5018

92.7

24

63.0

53

Sociology

3220

90.5

35

61.1

54

American studies

361

92.0

26

60.4

55

Anthropology

382

89.0

50

59.9

56

Russian

49

81.6

61

59.2

57

Iberian languages

3

88.6

52

58.6

58

Communication & media studies

2642

88.3

53

57.9

59

Drama, dance and cinematics

2115

89.8

45

57.6

60

Italian

82

92.7

23

56.1

61

Art & design

7287

84.6

58

54.9

62

All subjects

 

91.4

-

72.0

-

 * Excludes graduates and leavers not available for employment or training. ** Percentage with positive destinations.

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