Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 00:10 UK

Students fear harsh jobs market

Final year student Chris Sims: It's rather demoralising'

More than 25% of final-year students at top UK universities plan to stay on for further study as the recession bites, a poll of 16,000 students has found.

The research by High Fliers found 52% thought the prospects for new graduates were very limited and 36% did not expect to get a graduate job this year.

Nearly half (48%) feared they may be made redundant within a year of work.

The survey found teaching was the most popular career choice in 2009, having been the third most popular last year.

Investment banking has slipped from second most popular career choice (as rated by 13% of finalists surveyed) in 2008 to ninth place (with only 9% of those surveyed in 2009 considering it).

Graduate recruitment agency High Fliers conducted face-to-face interviews with 16,357 finalists at 30 universities across the UK this year.

Interviewers spoke to 15 to 20% of final-year students at each university, although those studying medicine, veterinary science, pharmacy or dentistry were not approached, as their careers were considered to be separate from mainstream graduate recruitment.

Starting salaries

Students graduating from English universities this year are the first cohort to have paid higher tuition fees (up to £3,000 a year) throughout their university career, following the introduction of the higher charges in 2006.

Teaching 13.7%
Media 13.6%
Marketing 12.6%
Charity or voluntary work 10.4%

Students graduating this summer expected to owe an average of £15,700, up more than a third from the average debt of £11,600 in 2008.

The average expected starting salary for graduates was £22,300, down £400 on last year.

This was the first year that expectations for starting salaries had not increased since the High Fliers survey began in 1995.

More than a third of finalists believed employers would cut starting salaries this year and 42% feared, if they did get a graduate job, the offer would be withdrawn by the employer before they started work.

But despite these concerns, 97% of final-year students said they had enjoyed being at university and would recommend the experience to others.

More than 90% thought the university they had studied at would stand them in good stead with employers.

Media 13.1%
Investment banking 12.6%
Teaching 12.4%
Marketing 11.4%

Fewer than one in seven said they would not have gone to university if they had known how tough the employment market was going to be.


Managing director of High Fliers Research, Martin Birchall, said the survey showed final-year students were "gloomy and frustrated" about their employment prospects.

"Although many students began their job search earlier than usual and made an increased number of applications to employers, noticeably fewer have been successful in securing a graduate position than last year," he said.

"Having invested an average of £15,000 on their degrees, tens of thousands of finalists are now set to leave university without a job offer and feel they have little prospect of finding work in the immediate future."


The survey comes as the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius) begins a new "graduate talent pool" as part of its internship programme.

The online talent pool will link employers with graduates to help them build up work experience.

Higher Education Minister David Lammy said graduates were still less likely to be unemployed than other people.

"While this report is based mainly on perceptions of what might happen, we are committed to providing graduates with practical support to help them get a job or further their education," he said.

"That is exactly why we have launched the next stage of our graduate internship initiative which will sit alongside other internship schemes and additional graduate opportunities such as postgraduate study and volunteering."

Interviews were conducted at the following universities:

Aston, Bath, Belfast Queens University, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London Imperial College, London King's College, London School of Economics, London University College, Loughborough, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, St Andrews, Strathclyde, Warwick and York.

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