• In 2013 there were 12 million graduates in the UK.
  • Steady increase in the number of graduates in the UK over the past decade.
  • In April to June 2013 graduates were more likely to be employed than those who left education with qualifications of a lower standard.
  • Non-graduates aged 21 to 30 have consistently higher unemployment rates than all other groups.
  • Non-graduates aged 21 to 30 have much higher inactivity rates than recent graduates.
  • Over 40% of graduates worked in the public administration, education and health industry.
  • Graduates were more likely to work in high skilled posts than non-graduates.figure2ofgrads_tcm77-337717
  • Annual earnings for graduates reached a higher peak at a later age than the annual earnings for non-graduates.
  • In 2013 those graduates that had an undergraduate degree in medicine or dentistry were the most likely to be employed and had the highest average gross annual pay.
  • Graduates from the top UK universities earned more than graduates from other UK universities.
  • Male graduates were more likely to have a high or upper middle skill job than female graduates.
  • Six in every ten people who lived in Inner London were graduates.figure3headlinelabourmarketfigures_tcm77-337727

Steady increase in the number of graduates in the UK over the past decade

The percentage of the population classed as graduates has been rising steadily from 17% in 1992, to 38% in 2013. This reflects changes to education since the 1970’s which has led to it becoming more common for people to undertake higher education and less common for people to have no qualifications.

Over 40% of graduates worked in the public administration, education and health industry compared to 22% of non-graduates

In April to June 2013 41% of all employed graduates in the UK were working in the public administration, education and health figure4unemploymentrates_tcm77-337743industry. In contrast only 22% of employed non-graduates were working in this industry.

The public administration, education and health industry is a common one for graduates from various educational backgrounds which may be due to the wide range of jobs available in this area. It was a particularly common one for those graduates with degrees in medicine/dentistry, education and subjects related to medicine. In fact 92% of those with a medicine degree worked in this industry, 81% of those with degrees in medical related subjects and 88% of those with degrees in education. This illustrates that graduates with these degrees tend to have a well defined career path.

Nearly half of recent graduates were working in a non-graduate role, while a third were working in a low skilled role

Professors Peter Elias and Kate Purcell at the University of Warwick have defined figure5inactivityrates_tcm77-337772a non-graduate job as one in which the associated tasks do not normally require knowledge and skills developed on a university degree course to enable them to perform these tasks in a competent manner1.   Examples of non-graduate jobs include receptionists, sales assistants, many types of factory workers, care workers and home carers.

Using this definition of a non-graduate job and focusing on recent graduates who were employed, the percentage of them who were working in one of these roles has risen from 37% in April to June 2001 to 47% in April to June 2013. Although this time series is variable, an upward trend is evident, particularly since the 2008/09 recession. This may reflect lower demand for graduate skills as well as an increased supply of graduates.

Commenting on the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics on graduates in the labour market, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While university leavers are still better paid and more likely to have a job than non-graduates of the same age, their prospects are worsening, just as their debts are soaring.

“Having got themselves tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt, nearly half of all recent graduates are doing lower-skilled jobs. This is in turn pushing young people who don’t have a degree out of work altogether.


“The government’s approach of making young people pay more to get less from highereducation is deeply unfair and makes no economic sense. Ministers should admit that ‘any old job’ is not good enough for heavily-indebted graduates and start prioritising high-quality job creation.”