Universities challenged to prove worth after CIPD study shows half of students do not secure graduate-level jobs

The University of East Anglia. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The University of East Anglia. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A report revealing only half of university students secured jobs at the right level after graduating has prompted a challenge to the institutions to justify their tuition fees.

The CIPD, the professional body for human resources employees, is calling for universities to prove they can boost students' career prospects after its analysis found 48% of graduates were not in graduate-level jobs six months after leaving university.

Almost three in 10 (29%) were on a salary of less than £20,000 six months after graduation, considerably below the UK average of £28,300, the report said.

Skills adviser Lizzie Crowley said: '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.

'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.'

She added that careers advisers should better steer prospective students towards vocational routes into employment if the job they are after does not require a degree.

The CIPD also claims to government figure of those in graduate-level jobs, 77%, within six months is inflated by including employment which does not necessarily require a degree.

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Its report's findings are based on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which are released in the annual Destination of Leaver from Higher Education report.

It also lays bare the gender pay gap in certain industries, including for law graduates, where 28% of men earn more than £30,000 six months after graduating, compared to 14% of women.

More broadly, women are paid on average £21,500 at the end of the six month window, compared to £24,000 for men, the report said.

Commenting on the study, a Department for Education spokesman said: 'Our reforms are about helping students see which institutions are delivering the best teaching and student outcomes, helping them make better informed decisions between different courses and universities.'

It comes as separate research found that one in three graduates left their job within a year of starting, mainly complaining the role did not match what they were offered.

A study by graduate careers site Magnet.me found fewer young people are attending careers fairs as a way of finding out about jobs.

A survey of almost 10,000 current students and 2016 graduates found the number leaving their first job after university had increased from 28% to 33% in the past year.

Many complained they only saw the same types of job descriptions and application forms, so they often 'copied and pasted' application answers.