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What are university graduates doing now?

Stephanie Harris

Policy Manager
Universities UK

​As discussions around the value of a degree continue to make the headlines, it's important to look at the employment outcomes of graduates as well as the views of current students and income data.

Results of the biennial longitudinal Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) survey were published last week and these results provide us with crucial data.

The survey interrogates the employment outcomes of graduates three and a half years after graduation, in this case for those graduating in 2012-13, producing a rich dataset. We can compare outcomes between groups of students and providers but also with the same students when they took its sister survey, the DLHE, six months after graduation as well as to the results of the previous longitudinal surveys. It also includes questions on the satisfaction levels of graduates and their reflections on the extent to which their higher education experience has been useful in their careers to date.

So what do the most recent results tell us?

82% of UK domiciled 2012-13 graduates are currently employed, 74% in full-time employment and 8% in part-time employment, 6% are pursuing further study and another 6% are working and studying at the same time.

Comparison with the data collected for these graduates six months after graduation highlights significant progression into the job market and into full-time employment. Six months after graduation 58% of the same graduates were in full-time employment and 13% in part-time. 73% of the graduates who were unemployed at the six-month survey point are now employed and 68% of those who were undertaking further study have entered the employment market.

The survey results also highlight strong progression of graduates into professional level employment; in the three years between the survey points, 60% of graduates who were employed in non-professional jobs have progressed to professional level jobs, with over 84% of 2012-13 graduates now in one. This also represents a 4% increase from the previous survey of 2010-11 graduates, 80% of whom were in professional level employment at the same point post-graduation. This highlights a strong and growing demand for university graduates in highly-skilled jobs.

Then of course there's the opinion of the graduates themselves. 85% of 2012-13 graduates believe their degree was required, important or helped them obtain their current job and 76% believe that their higher education experience prepared them for or progressed their career. Satisfaction levels are also high, 88% of 2012-13 graduates are very or fairly satisfied with their career to date and only 15% believe their degree didn't offer value for money.

Of course, it is also important to note the areas in which the survey highlights that there is room for improvement. 59% of 2012/13 graduates don't believe that their degree prepared them well for being self-employed or setting up their own business. The survey also reinforces the importance of the sector's on-going work to provide information to support student choice. 22% of 2012-13 graduates would be likely or very likely to choose a different HE provider and 35% a different subject. This data, as with other sources on graduate employment outcomes, also highlights the disparity of outcomes for certain types of graduates - women or BME students are more likely to be employed part-time or not at all in comparison to their male and white counterparts.

The 2012-13 longitudinal DLHE will be the last as it is replaced by the new Graduates Outcomes survey. But, once again, it has provided invaluable information about the value of higher education to graduates and the way in which their university education is shaping their career pathways. We often, and rightly, use the graduate premium (which sees graduates earning up to £400,000 more than non-graduates over the course of their lifetime) to demonstrate the value of higher education. The data provided by the longitudinal DLHE also highlights how graduates' higher education experience has also provided them with the skills necessary to have a fulfilling and successful career.

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