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Unemployed graduates question value of university degree, says report

Nearly half of graduates struggling to find work several months after leaving university wish they had taken a vocational course, a new study has found.

A survey, by totaljobs.com, showed 40% of university graduates are still looking for work six months after finishing university. The figure drops to 25% after one year.

Many students believe the university course they selected is harming their chances of employment; 44% said they wish they had chosen a vocational course rather than an academic route.

This is despite an Association of Graduate Recruitment 2013 report that showed only 28% of companies seriously consider an applicant’s degree during their selection process.

Mike Fetters, graduate director at Totaljobs.com, believes that university is no longer an automatic choice if you want to improve your job prospects.

"Although a degree is an essential qualification for some industries, school leavers need to think more carefully about which route to employment is best for them as some may be more suited to an apprenticeship scheme,” he said.

Tanya de Grunwald, author of How To Get a Graduate Job in a Recession, told HR magazine that companies need to do more to attract the best of the crop of graduates.

"With so many graduates struggling to find work, and many employers vastly oversubscribed, it's frustrating to hear many organisations saying they can't find enough candidates to fill their vacancies,” she said.

De Grunwald sees internships as the best way for companies to connect with graduates.

"They are a great way for organisations and graduates to test each other out to see whether a more permanent arrangement would work. But internships that involve real work must always be paid at least the minimum wage.

“Avoid running unpaid internships and be wary of any agencies who assure you the practice is legal. It isn't, and working with them could damage your reputation as a fair, decent employer."

Stevan Rolls, partner and UK head of HR at Deloitte, said university degrees are still highly valued, but there has been a shift to accept a wider range of disciplines.

"For some specialist roles, Deloitte requires candidates to have studied a relevant degree. However, for the vast majority of our roles we actively encourage applications from any degree discipline. For example, of our 2013 student intake, 46% studied degrees outside of those typically associated with business and finance."