Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Inequality persists for graduate employees

Evidence shows that three-and-a-half years after leaving university 97 per cent of graduates were in employment or further study, but differences persist across demographic groups.

Research published by HEFCE analyses the employment outcomes at six months and 40 months of two cohorts of graduates: those who graduated in 2009 and 2011.

It indicates that while overall rates of employment and professional employment are high, there are differences between students depending on their backgrounds.

Overall, the employment outcomes for 2011 graduates are very similar to those who graduated in 2009.

For both cohorts 90 per cent of graduates were employed or in further study six months after graduation, though the share of those employed in professional roles was slightly higher for the 2011 cohort.

Forty months after graduation, the total proportion of graduates employed or in further study was over 95 per cent, and for both cohorts 69 per cent were in professional roles (Note 2). 

Most of the differences across demographic groups were consistent across both the 2009 and 2011 cohort of graduates.

The main differences in employment outcomes continue to be:

  • Male graduates have higher professional employments rates than female graduates. Of those graduating in 2011, 79 per cent of men were in professional employment or further study after 40 months, compared to 74 per cent of women.
  • Employment rates for most black and minority ethnic groups are worse than those of white graduates. Even accounting for degree attainment and other factors, such as subjects studied, the professional employment rates after 40 months of those graduating in 2011 are between 7 and 9 percentage points lower for Black African, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani graduates than for white graduates. The exception is Chinese graduates, whose professional employment rates improved between the 2011 and 2009 cohorts, and in 2011 were equivalent to those of white graduates.
  • Graduates from disadvantaged areas have lower rates of professional employment. Although the rates of professional employment improve for graduates from all areas between six and 40 months after graduation, the gap between the most and least disadvantaged remains.

HEFCE Director of Policy, Christopher Millward, said:

‘With employment rates of 97 percent 40 months after graduation and with 70 percent in professional employment, higher education continues to offer a significant majority of students an excellent route into the labour market. However, the report supports previous HEFCE analysis in demonstrating that there continue to be serious challenges to achieving equality of outcomes for graduates from ethnic minority groups, graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds and women, particularly in terms of securing professional employment.  

‘Higher education can be a powerful force for social mobility, but this requires not just access to and success within university.  It also requires successful transition into rewarding careers. This report demonstrates the imperative for higher education providers to work with employers to address this.’   

Notes

1. Read the report and see the supporting data.

2.  Professional occupations are defined by the classification of a graduate’s employment using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2000 system. Those SOC groups identifying ‘Managers and senior officials’, ‘Professional occupations’ and ‘Associate professional and technical occupations’ are used to define professional occupations as considered in this report. Further details can be found on the Higher Education Statistics Authority website . 

3.  Data for this report was taken from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) and Longitudinal Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (LDLHE) surveys. The DLHE survey is an annual census of all UK- and European Union-domiciled individuals who completed higher education courses in the UK in each academic year. It provides information on a student’s employment or further study six months after they gained a qualification and is collected by the Higher Education Statistics Authority. The LDLHE survey is carried out biennially and involves contacting a sample of DLHE respondents three and a half years (40 months) after leaving higher education. This follow-up survey collects a wide range of information on a graduate’s employment or further study circumstances. This report analyses the DLHE and LDLHE responses of only those graduates who responded to both surveys.

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