Horses for Courses: Subject Differences in the Chances of Securing Different Types of Graduate Jobs in the UK

Wil Hunt, B. Baldauf and C. Lyonette (2023), Journal of Social Policy

Analysis of the 2010/11 Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey shows that overly-simplistic conceptions of graduate success underestimate the value of obtaining a degree in some subjects. Using a skills-based classification of graduate jobs the research finds that maths and vocationally-oriented subjects associated with higher earnings returns (Belfield et al., 2018a, 2018b) – engineering, architecture, computer science and nursing – increase the chances of having an ‘Expert’ job compared to the average for all graduates. However, more generalist subjects that have been linked with lower earnings such as creative arts, languages and mass communication and documentation are better for accessing graduate jobs where creativity and ability to communicate is key. The research demonstrates the value of using a more nuanced conception of graduate jobs and shows that debate about the value of higher education needs to move away from a narrow focus on earnings.

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