New research by Prospects at Jisc reveals that an increasing number of graduates from a minority background feel that their ethnicity, gender, social class, or disability is hindering their job search.

Prospects’ annual Early Careers Survey 2024, released on May 30, surveyed over 6,000 students and graduates.

It found a significant rise in respondents feeling disadvantaged due to personal characteristics, with marked increases among male and ethnic minority graduates.

More than half (54%) of graduates from ethnic minority backgrounds reported feeling disadvantaged in the job application process due to their ethnicity, up from 43 percent in 2023. This sentiment was particularly pronounced among graduates from Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British backgrounds (61%) and Asian or Asian British backgrounds (53%), compared to 51 percent and 49 percent in 2023, respectively.

There was no change among white graduates, with 8 percent feeling disadvantaged.

What about gender disparities?

Gender disparities also emerged in the survey. While female graduates were more likely (15%) than male graduates (10%) to feel held back due to gender when applying for jobs, the proportion of men reporting this setback more than doubled from 4 percent in 2023.

Social class also appeared to be a significant barrier. Graduates whose parents did not attend university were more likely to feel disadvantaged (26% in 2024, up from 24% in 2023) compared to those whose parents had attended university (17% in 2024, up from 15% in 2023).

Additionally, 20 percent of neurodivergent graduates reported feeling held back in job applications, an increase from 14 percent in 2023. The percentage of graduates feeling disadvantaged due to a disability rose slightly to 14 percent. Reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation also increased, with 7 percent feeling hindered in 2024 compared to 5 percent in 2023.

60% more job applications

The ethnic disparity in job applications is further highlighted by a Nuffield College report, which found that applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds need to send 60 percent more job applications to receive a positive response from employers compared to their white counterparts.

Chris Rea, a graduate careers expert at Prospects for Jisc, expressed concern over these findings: “It’s concerning that more graduates are feeling the odds are against them and that there are stark differences emerging. We have also found young people, particularly disadvantaged groups, are struggling with motivation. The jobs market is particularly competitive and that could be having an impact on how they’re feeling.”

Rea emphasised that despite these feelings, graduates should not be disheartened. “Most employers strive to be more inclusive and see the benefit of diverse teams, and it’s important that we get this message through to young people. Employers can help by being transparent about recruitment processes and any support they offer.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.