Traditional job routes die hard

October 18, 1996

Traditional jobs still top most graduates' wish-lists even though such jobs are harder to find and corporate employers prefer students from older universities, according to a survey by the Institute of Employment Research at Warwick University.

The survey questioned more than 5,000 finalists at 21 institutions ranging from Oxbridge to institutes of higher education. It found that the most popular occupational groups were management and teaching/research and the key employment characteristics were "interesting and challenging work" followed by "a competitive salary".

Yet the survey, commissioned by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and the higher education careers services unit, found that four years after the binary divide between old and new universities ended, non-traditional students and those from the former polytechnics "were clearly finding it more difficult to obtain appropriate employment than students in their early 20s from the established university sector".

Despite the reports of employers' declining use of the "milk round", the survey discovered that "the old graduate labour market is still there, relatively unchanged, with large organisations recruiting high-achieving students from a handful of universities to be their high-flying managers, administrators and professional specialists".

Co-author Kate Purcell said: "You still get big employers laying on grand champagne receptions at established universities and trying to persuade natural scientists to become accountants, while for students studying accountancy at new universities the onus is on them to go out and find a job."

The survey also revealed that most students planning a postgraduate career were not driven by the prospect of improved employment prospects. The majority are "hedonists", choosing courses for enjoyment, rather than "pragmatists", choosing courses to enhance a career.

The report concluded that "the widening of access to higher education does not appear to be reflected in a commensurate widening of access to traditional "graduate" jobs.

Great Expectations: the new diversity of graduate skills and aspirations. By Kate Purcell and Jane Pitcher. Available from CSU Ltd, Armstrong House, Oxford Road, Manchester M1 7ED. Price: Pounds 35.

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