Only half (52%) of graduates are in graduate-level jobs six months after graduation, according to a report from the CIPD.
The graduate employment gap: expectations versus reality investigated the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data on graduates and found that almost a third (29%) were on a salary of less than £20,000 six months after graduation, well below the UK average salary of £28,300.
Lizzie Crowley, skills policy adviser at the CIPD, said the government should take action. “As we look ahead to the Budget next week, the government should consider linking tuition fees to graduate destination data in order to prevent higher education institutions charging top-rate fees while delivering bottom-rate outcomes,” she said.
“This report shows that the preoccupation of successive governments with boosting graduate numbers is leading to high levels of over-qualification and potentially skills mismatches, which the OECD suggests undermines productivity growth. Many people in ‘graduate jobs’ are actually in roles that don’t require degrees, and with the spiralling costs of university students need to ask themselves whether a degree path is the best route into their career.”
The research also found a clear gender pay disparity for recent graduates, with male grads enjoying a higher salary regardless of their area of study. Six months after graduation female graduates who had managed to secure a job in the top occupational band (managers and senior officials), were almost twice as likely to be paid less than £20,000 as their male counterparts, with 25% of women in this category compared with 15% of men.
More than a quarter (28%) of male law graduates were earning £30,000 or more, compared with just over one in 10 (14%) female law graduates.
“Regardless of what women study, or indeed where they study, they are paid less than their male peers,” Crowley said. “If we are going to eliminate the gender pay gap then employers need to ensure they are paying fairly right across their organisation from day one, including among recent graduates.”
Despite a strong government focus on boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, STEM graduates are more likely to be unemployed six months after graduation than grads from other disciplines. Compared to a national unemployment rate of 4.9%, STEM unemployment rates are 8.6% for computer science graduates, 6.5% for physical science graduates, 6% for engineering and technology graduates, and 6.5% for mathematical science graduates.
Crowley warned that government focus does not always translate into opportunities. “The government has continually focused on boosting STEM skills, and encouraging graduates to pursue those subjects at university, but that investment doesn’t appear to be translating into better graduate outcomes,” she said. “Until we address this problem, and do more to identify the core skills that make STEM subjects so valuable, additional investment in STEM risks being wasted.”