Khilen Shah blog avatar
Khilen Shah
Feb. 20, 2017
Khilen Shah
Feb. 20, 2017
Dec. 13, 2023

What Does The Future Hold For Graduates

For many students across the UK, university in their mind is the next natural destination after completing college. That mind-set usually stemming from a longstanding personal ambition or through the expectation of their families/carers. Either way, it represents a major mile-stone in any young individual’s life. With the associated costs of going to university ever increasing and expensive, students are not only under immense pressure to choose the right institution but also pursue a course which best reflects their future career desires. Despite this ever apparent urgency, a lot of student’s unfortunately feel unsure or undecided as to what to study.

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Whilst the future implications of a certain decision can never truly be accurately predicted, it is possible to indicate where a certain path may take someone. A very recent report released by the Government’s Department for Education beneficially does just that.

The report periodically looked at the employment and earnings outcomes of those students who graduated with an undergraduate degree in the 2008/09 academic year. All the graduates included in the report and its results were only from English higher educational institutions (HEI).

With the report providing a depth of coverage, which included breaking data down by different graduate characteristics and subjects, here are the most comprehensive and interesting findings:

Male Vs Female Graduates

According to the report, female students are more likely to be in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ fives year after graduating.

From the 2008/09 graduates, 79% of the females were in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ compared to 76% of the males five years on from their graduation. Focusing specifically on ‘sustained employment only’, both males and females were on a level playing field at 67% each five years after graduating.

In terms of earnings, male graduates had the upper hand. Five years on from graduating, males had a median annual salary of £27,500 as oppose to females, whose was only £24,500. The pay gap difference between the genders was therefore £3000 in favour of male graduates.

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Young Vs Mature Graduates

The report differentiated between them by classifying each into two different age specifics. Those 2008/09 graduates when starting their first year at university who were below the age of 21 were in the context of ‘young’ while those 21 or above classed as ‘mature’.

Five years after graduation, 79% of young graduates were in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ compared to 74% of the mature graduates. When focusing on a single variable, 69% of the young graduates were in ‘sustained employment only’ in contrast to 62% of the mature graduates. Conclusively, indicating that young students are more likely to be successful in their quest to gain employment or go into further study than mature students upon graduation.

A possible reason attributed to this is that since older graduates are at a different life stage, they inherently end up have more responsibilities in their lives. One of the most prominent, as highlighted by the report, being childcare.

Additionally, young graduates also had more earning potential in the long run. Five years on from graduating, young graduates were on a median salary of £26,000 whereas mature graduates were on £24,500. Young graduates were thus pocketing £1,500 more annually than their mature counterparts.

Prospects By Region

The West Midlands, East Midlands, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber all equally had the highest percentage of students in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ five years after graduation at 80% each. London, perhaps surprisingly, had the lowest percentage (73%) of individuals in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ five years on from graduation.

When viewing the stats for ‘sustained employment only’ - East of England, East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber all had the highest percentage at 69%. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all had the lowest percentage of students in ‘sustained employment only’ five years after graduating at 62%. The report did note that with a focus on English higher educational institutions (HEI), there were a lower proportion of students from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the report, so the finding may not be entirely generalisable to the graduate population from those three cities explicitly.

When examining earnings by region, London and the South East of the UK gave students the best opportunity to make the highest amount of monies five years on from graduation, with both having median earnings of £27,500 annually. Students working in the North West of the UK, five years after graduation, received the lowest median earnings at £23,500 per year.

Subjects In Relation To Prospects

Biological sciences was the subject which had the highest percentage (81.1%) of graduates in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ five years after graduation. Biological sciences was followed by education (80.9%) and then mathematical sciences (80.7%). The subject which had the lowest percentage of graduates in ‘further study, sustained employment or both’ was creative arts & design with 71.5% five years on from graduating.

When excluding any further education taken beyond under-graduate, the findings do differ. Education had the highest percentage (74.1%) of individuals in ‘sustained employment only’ five years after graduating. After education was economics (73.4%) and business & administration studies (73.1%). Subjects allied to medicine had the lowest percentage (59.3%) of individuals five years on from graduating in ‘sustained employment only’. Medicine & dentistry had slightly more with 59.9%. Medicine and those subjects allied to it are often extensive in their studies and training beyond gaining undergraduate qualification. With that in mind, it could potentially explain the lower figures in employment for medicine and those subjects allied to it. Similarly, due to its difficultly and the dedication required, many do end up deciding to switch career path or take an avenue less intensive.

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Subjects In Relation To Earnings

Those who studied medicine and dentistry had the highest median earnings five years after graduating at £46,500. Economics graduates were then the next big earners at £37,500 per year.

Creative arts & design graduates had the lowest salaries five years after graduation, with median earnings of £20,000. Mass communication & documentation graduates had marginally higher median earnings at £22,500.

The difference between the highest (medicine and dentistry - £46,500) and lowest (creative arts & design - £20,000) median earnings five years after graduation was therefore an astonishing £26,500.

With regards to gender, medicine & dentistry provided both males and females the highest scope to earn at £48,000 and £45,500 respectively. For males and females, the joint next best subjects which provided favourable opportunities to earn high salaries five years after graduation were economics and veterinary science. Though males did make more from both disciplines – Veterinary Science (Male - £38,500, Female - £36,000) and Economics (Male - £38,500, Female - £35,000).

Highest and Lowest Earning Potentials Of Subjects

The report also provided understanding as to what a graduate’s salary could be depending upon their role within the sector they were working in. This data was signified through upper and lower quartile earnings for each subject.

Economics was the subject which had the largest difference between the highest (£52,000) and lowest (£27,000) possible salary five years after graduation, with a massive gap of £25,000 between the two earning potentials. Mathematical sciences and combined honours both had the next shared biggest difference between the highest and lowest possible salary five years on from graduation, with an earnings split of £20,000 between the two earning quartiles.

The subject with the smallest difference between the highest (£40,500) and lowest (£29,500) possible salary five years after graduation was veterinary science, which had a £11,000 gap between the upper and lower quartile.

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Expert Views

“University is undoubtedly a huge commitment. When it comes to picking a course to study, careful research and decision-making is always recommended. Despite this, what I have found is that graduates often end-up having post buyer’s remorse few years after graduating because their employment and earnings prospects have not meet their personal expectations. Having spoken to many graduates first-hand, some have revealed to me that given the chance again, they would have followed a different pathway at university had they know the outcomes of their current undergraduate degree. Having research like this is definitely handy for current as well as upcoming college students, because it provides them with something to refer to when making the tough decision of what to study at university and once qualified, a rough indication of their long-term future” – Roger Blackley, a Career Advisor from London

“College student nowadays are not only under enormous pressure to do well academically but also make a firm decision with respect to their higher education aspirations. With more uncertainty in the world than ever before and the costs of going to university constantly rocketing, the importance of selecting the right course for future job prospects and prosperity is definitely high. With the stress ever-impending, many students find themselves in the position of being unsure as to what to do. The findings from this research do provide clarity as to what paths different learning avenues at university will pave in the long-run. With some disciplines expectedly as well as unexpectedly providing better outcomes few years after graduation, the insights gained are invaluable” – Naomi Aharony, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Reboot Online Marketing Ltd

Student Perspective

“I am currently in my AS year but the time is getting closer and closer to make a solid decision as to what I really want to study at university. If I am entirely honest, I am not really sure and don’t have my heart set on one specific discipline. With it being easy to make a quick decision without considering the long-term implications on employment as well as personnel earning prospects, the findings do provide a great indication as to what trajectory different subjects may take me in the future. The findings will not only assist me in my decision making but also every student facing similar dilemmas” – Lisa (17) a Year 12 College Student from Brighton

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With no one in the world having the handy ability to predict the foreseeable future, this report does provide great foresight as to what current, upcoming and prospective university students can expect in the long run upon graduation. Whilst it’s always best advised for young individuals to select a course which they have a genuine interest or passion for, the findings do suggest that certain subjects will give students lower employment as well as earning prospects in relation to their own personal expectations. The report consequently provides young individuals valuable information to integrate into their thought-process and improve the chance of them making the ‘right’ further education choice for them.