Simple Answer

A quarter of graduates do not have full-time jobs more than three years after getting their degrees, according to government figures.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which examined the career progression of 24,000 people, also found that 20 per cent of those who were employed were not working in graduate occupations.

So too many are getting a degree then.

6 comments on “Simple Answer

  1. Doesn’t it depend on the relevant numbers?

    To what extent do the job prospects of graduates depend on: (a) degree subject and (b) degree class? Is it possible to predict ahead, and with what confidence, which graduates are unlikely to have jobs three years after graduating?

    Graduates of most degree subjects are still attracting premium pay compared with non-graduates:

    “University graduates earn on average about a quarter more than young people who leave school after their A-levels, a study has suggested.

    “Higher education organisation Universities UK measured the economic impact of getting a degree. It found average additional earnings of £160,000 over a working life. But there are very wide variations – with arts graduates only gaining a tenth of the additional earnings received from a medicine degree.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6335189.stm

    Various surveys report that graduates with degrees in medicine, engineering and economics tend to feature high in graduate earnings league tables.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/good_university_guide/article2253011.ece

  2. Bob is right. It depends on the numbers, and he’s also right on the degree premium.

    This research is interesting and hugely valuable as it’s one of the very few pieces of work looking at graduate careers, but it’s also only three and a half years after graduating. It is far too early to make definitive statements like yours, Tim, and it is lazy of you to make it.
    It also makes a number of extremely unscientific assumptions – most notably that the only reason a graduate would take a job that doesn’t require a degree would be because they can’t get one that does.

    As an illustration, were you to jack in your role in the international scandium oligopoly, hey presto! Your assumed job as writer and blogger is non-graduate, I’m afraid. So even if that job were to be more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding than your current one, by your lights you’d be a failure if you did it. It’s tough being Tim.

    You could also look at this data and find that only 2% of graduates were unemployed (oh, hang on, the Times forgot to mention that), and conclude that perhaps we’re not sending enough to university.

    We have literally NO comparisons with this data as it hasn’t been done like this before in the UK or overseas.

    A degree is not about instant gratification and NEVER WAS. You were born in 1963, and I’m going to make an assumption. You went to university from school and graduated at the age of 21 in the 1973/74 academic year.
    55,360 people got first degrees in 1974, one in three of whom were women. 43.5% got permanent employment on graduating. That was all. In 2006, that figure was 60.2%.

    It’s not always as easy as it looks to draw simple conclusions from complex data. But it is satisfying, I admit.

    Tim adds: About me, er, no. My job in the international scandium oligopoly has nothing to do with my degree. It’s a company that I started and majority own. No degree required. Further, I took three years out between school and university, graduating in 1987….and most certainly not when I was 11 years old.

  3. Ha! That’ll teach me to rely on wikipedia biogs! I’d hammer one of my own staff for that mistake.

    Ok then, for 1987, my point is even easier to make. 59.6% of 1987 graduates were in permanent jobs after graduating – still fewer than 2006. And the unemployment rate, at 6.2%, was also higher than the current rate of 6.0% (although only a bit).
    In fact, I’d say that the stats look pretty similar. But that’s not surprising. It was, after all, Margaret Thatcher who started the current expansion of HE, although John Major was the first to set a specific target.

    Anyway, it is nice to hear that you’re in a non-graduate job. So, should you have gone to university then?

    Tim adds: Should I have gone to University? Certainly. I wanted to develop my mind. I did.

    Please understand, I accept that as an entirely valid reason to go: what I don’t accept are that there are “graduate jobs” in which possession of a degree is a necessary pre condition (and please note here that I don’t mean a degree in civil engineering before you start designing bridges). That’s simply credentialism. I also don’t accept that, while yes, human capital is increasingly important, university is the only place that can be developed.

    There’s university, the joy of learning, of finding out about the world. Ther’s also training for a specific job. Let’s not confuse the two, eh?

  4. Onanism Corner here. Wikipedia is correct, I just can’t add 21 to 1963 for some demented reason. I expect it was the effect of reading so much cobblers in the newspapers.

  5. Firstly, the term ‘graduate jobs’ as used here by HESA is a very specific term derived from some excellent research by very good economists at Warwick’s Institute of Employment Research.

    The classification system used to determine the different kinds of jobs done by graduates is here if you want to read it. (Warning, pdf)
    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ier/research/completed/7yrs2/rp6.pdf

    Secondly, you’re citing the fact that 20% of the longitudinal cohort don’t have graduate level jobs (by the definitions above) three and a half years after graduating as proof too many people go to university.

    How many of them are actually in your position? You wanted to ‘develop your mind’. You didn’t then get a job that, in your view, required a degree. If your cohort were the cohort under study, then you’d be in that 20 per cent, and you’d be citing yourself as proof as there are people going to university who shouldn’t, even though you don’t see yourself as proof of that at all.

    Tim adds: I’m not so worried about the 20% not doing “graduate” jobs as the 25% doing nothing full time.

  6. That “25%” includes all the people doing PhDs, all the people training to be teachers, anyone who has had babies and is now looking after them, anyone who is disabled and can’t work, anyone who is working AND studying at the same time (for rather dull reasons to do with the location of individual activities they are counted separately from the full-time employed, even though a lot of them are spending 40 or 50 hours on their combined activities) and anyone who was working part time – including out of choice. And anyone who was in prison or dead.

    In fact, 6% were working part-time (as identified by themselves rather than the hours they were working). We don’t know if they’re doing it because they can’t get a full-time job.

    9% were combining work and study (this most commonly means accountancy or nursing directly on graduation – it may be different for this cohort as they are a little after graduation).

    5% were in further study – I think we’d find that the majority will be PhDs in this group as my experience suggests that three and a half years isn’t enough to finish your research and write up, and many will have done Masters first.

    3% were not available for unemployment for one reason or another (the most common reasons are maternity, disability or travelling)

    2% were unemployed.

    I don’t know how many were banged up.

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