Grim future for graduates

Louise Wilson

Graduate unemployment is at its highest level for 17 years, with 8.9% of university leavers unable to find a job according to figures released earlier this month.

Of 2009’s graduates, over 21,000 were still unemployed by January 2010, six months after graduation. This is an increase of 1% on last year. The rate of growth in this area is slowing, as the previous year saw a rise of 2.4% in unemployment rates amongst 2008’s graduates compared to 2007.

A Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) spokesperson said that they expected this figure to have now peaked, and are likely to see a decline in short-term unemployment in next year’s figures, although with spending cuts proposed by the government in the public sector they were unsure of what the middle-term effects would be.

Graduate unemployment has not been this high since the last recession in 1993, when it hit 10.3%, whilst in 1992 it was higher still, setting a record 11.6% of unemployed graduates.

The figures equate to one in eleven graduates being unemployed, with IT, media and electrical engineering graduates worst off with a higher than average unemployment rate. The poll, which covered 82% of those who graduated in 2009, also revealed that those with a degree in Geography or Psychology faired slightly better than the average.

For those who have been successful in getting a job, only 62.4% are in graduate-level jobs as defined by the government. One in seven graduates have found short-term employment in catering and retail, a slightly higher figure than previous years.

The average annual salary of graduates has also decreased to just £19,695, however Scottish graduates earn slightly more at £19,965, placing them the second highest in the UK after London. Dentistry graduates are best off, earning around £29,805, whilst Celtic Studies students fared the worst.

A Scottish government spokesman was positive about the support the Scottish government will be able to give to it’s graduates.
He said: “Nearly 90% of those who qualify go into employment or further education/training. While we recognise that the job market is difficult, it is clearly the case that those who commit to Higher or Further Education stand a better chance of securing a job.

“Figures confirm that graduates from Scottish universities can expect higher average salaries and less debt than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. However, we are far from complacent and fully appreciate how tough it is to get into the job market. Our priority is to ensure that each and every graduate has the support they need – for as long as they need it – to move into long-term, sustainable employment.”

Employment in the public sector has seen a slight increase of 0.5% in areas such as healthcare and social work, however, the planned cuts in the public sector is likely to impact this.

The spokesman for the Scottish government also commented upon the effects of the planned 6.8% cut of the Scottish budget from Westminster, revealed last month.

He said: “Recent figures also demonstrate the need for full fiscal autonomy. The fact that £1.3 billion has been cut from our budget by the UK government demonstrates beyond doubt that Scotland must have the same financial and economic powers as other nations in order to grow our economy as an alternative to a decade or more of Westminster cuts.”

As expected, an increase in further study has been seen, with a growth of 1.3% to 15.4% pursuing postgraduate degrees or other academic routes. Further figures revealed that, on average, there are a huge 270 graduate applicants per job. The number of jobs is currently up by 18% on last year, after two years of continuous decline.


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