York ‘graduate level’ employability 11% less than UK’s other top ten universities

The University of York graduate is just over 11 per cent less likely to achieve ‘graduate level’ employment than the graduating students of peer institutions

The long awaited graduation for University of York students is often marred by the the reality of low employment opportunities, especially for a top ten rated instituation such as York [Photo: Richard Eastwood]

The long awaited graduation for University of York students is often marred by the the reality of low employment opportunities, especially for a top ten rated instituation such as York [Photo: Richard Eastwood]

The University of York graduate is just over 11 per cent less likely to achieve ‘graduate level’ employment than the graduating students of peer institutions.

These figures have led to questions over whether the University is investing enough time and money in student job prospects.

The University of York is ranked among the top 10 universities in the UK, meaning its graduates should theoretically have similar employment prospects to the graduates of institutions such as Imperial College London and Bristol University.

Yet research by YUSU has found that universities such as Imperial and Bristol have more than 87 per cent of graduates going into ‘graduate level’ employment, while just 76 per cent of York graduates will follow suit.

Despite York’s high ranking, recent research by High Fliers Research Ltd has placed the University in 19th place when it comes to graduates chances of being targeted by top employers. Bristol University – whose ranking in the university league tables is similar to York’s – is in sixth place.

% of Graduates Entering ‘Graduate Level’ Employment


Others (Av. Imperial College London, Bath and Bristol)

This damning research has led the dim career prospects of York graduates to be described as the “fundamental fault” of the University.

As one first year student commented: “Aren’t careers the point of University? If the University is failing us in this respect, then what’s the point of being here?”

Funding, geography, York’s late term dates and the high number of York students who choose to take a year out after graduation, are seen as key to understanding York’s low performance in comparison to that of peer institutions.

Liz Smith, Director of the University Careers Service, says: “If we received double the funding we could do double as much [to help]. We’re not as good as we could be.”

Geography is also a key factor when considering York’s low graduate employment rate. Many students choose to remain in their university city for a year after graduation. As Smith points out: “Unless the students who stay want to work for the University, York Council or the NHS, there are no jobs here.”

Sunday Times Good University Guide Overall Rankings 2010

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Imperial College London
  4. University College London
  5. Universty of St. Andrews
  6. University of Warwick
  7. Durham University
  8. University of York
  9. LSE
  10. University of Bristol
  11. University of Bath
  12. University of Southampton
  13. King’s College London
  14. University of Nottingham
  15. Loughborough University
  16. University of Edinburgh
  17. University of Exeter
  18. University of Sheffield
  19. Lancaster University
  20. University of Leicester

York’s late term dates are also a significant factor. An Alcuin third year student, who asked to remain anonymous, stated: “Despite having raised this issue with the University on many occasions, we continue to finish our summer term so late that a lot of internships start before we have even finished our exams. This effectively excludes students from gaining places on any internships and is detrimental to their career prospects.”

York is a very small, academically driven institution. In comparison to students from other UK universities, the geographical location of York means students have less opportunity to travel. As one third year student said: “I will definitely take a year out after I graduate. York is a very intense experience. I want to take a break before I go into full time employment.”

The figures noted in this article are from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. This survey is run yearly by the department for Children, Schools and families. All universities are legally bound to survey at least 80 per cent of their graduates six months after graduation.

% for type of service used to find employment information

University Careers Service

The Internet

At this point, many students are still travelling, or taking a break before they look for ‘graduate level’ employment. They would then be classed as ‘unemployed’ or in ‘lower than graduate level employment’, hence lowering York’s graduate employment rate.

However, Smith acknowledges that there is a serious problem at York. She was appointed as Director just four months ago and was given the key task of improving graduate job prospects at York.

Yet the psych of the average students remains a problem. First year Langwith College student, Cem Turham, states: “Although I think about my future career all the time, going to the Careers Service seems a bit like going to the job centre.”

However, Turham concedes that the University does have a responsibility towards its graduates: “We’re at university for a career, so if it takes a budget increase for the Careers Service to get a better service, then that’s what should happen.”

Over the next year, Smith wants to extend the boundaries of the Careers service so that careers become integrated into university life: “We need to change the culture so staff and students see careers as part of the university package.”

Universities Targeted by the Top Number of Employers 2008-2009

  1. University of Manchester
  2. University of London
  3. University of Warwick
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. University of Oxford
  6. University of Bristol
  7. Durham University
  8. University of Nottingham
  9. University of Bath
  10. University of Leeds
  11. University of Birmingham
  12. University of Edinburgh
  13. University of Sheffield
  14. Loughborough University
  15. University of Southampton
  16. Cardiff University
  17. University of Glasgow
  18. University of Newcastle
  19. University of York
  20. University of St. Andrews

Indeed, this initiative of integration of the Careers Service and university life seems to fit in with students’ requirements. In a recent survey of York students run by YUSU, just 3.6 per cent of students said they looked to the Careers Service as a source of information on employment options, while 76.2 per cent looked to the web.

In the same survey, 71.4 per cent said they had been involved in various University societies. This suggests that the incorporation of the formal and informal could be key to increasing the graduate prospects of York students.

Smith commented: “It has been acknowledged by the University that they need to do something about the lack of jobs going to York students”

She continued, stating that she belived that: “Our initiatives for the future include increasing the use of the web as a communication tool and working more with colleges and societies to get our message woven in.

“You don’t need to come to the Careers Service, the Careers Service needs to become a part of everyday university life.”


  1. Good job with the pie charts there… Am I supposed to read the numbers or the pie?

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  2. “As one first year student commented: “Aren’t careers the point of University?”

    For some people; many others fortunately have a far less instrumentalist attitude towards academic knowledge.

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  3. #1 define ‘graduate level employment’. Many careers (e.g. media) require working from the ground up.
    #2 I wonder how many of these ‘graduate jobs’ are in investment banking, accountancy, IT and consultancy. Certainly 75% of the jobs advertised on careers websites seem to be. Perhaps York’s students are simply less interested in these careers than at other comparable institutions.
    #3 As rightly pointed out, if you stay in York after graduation, graduate employment opportunities are extremely limited.
    #4 Just because York isn’t specifically targeted by ‘top graduate employers’ doesn’t mean its students should be put off from applying to them.
    #5 The careers service does a great job, it’s just severely underused.
    #6 6 months after graduation is an absurdly early time to survey students on whether they are in a graduate-level position.

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  4. pie chart fail. I would have expected Nouse could at least correct the online version after realising their pitiful performance. It happens twice too! (in the Ethics & economics article by Chris Young)…

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  5. 23 Feb ’10 at 6:25 pm

    Sara Waszkiewicz

    That last pie chart has been fixed so now you can read the numbers and the pie.

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  6. I’m worried by how much is being read into this survey by various groups of people – the definition of graduate level employment probably doesn’t extend far beyond the graduate recruitment schemes, yet almost all of the people I encountered whilst applying in my final year had already finished university and were passing the time in a fairly basic desk job while they set about starting their career – but this survey is taken just 6 months after graduation (i.e. January – halfway through the application process).

    Instant graduate recruitment – contrary to what I believed when I was in my final year – is not the be all and end all. My grad job hasn’t worked out and now I’m back at square one, but no less qualified and much, much wiser for it. To class people like me as a statistic in this “damning research” is totally misleading.

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  7. 24 Feb ’10 at 10:13 am

    Jermaine McSporran

    Shouldn’t it be 11 percentage points less than UK’s other universities? 11% less would give York a figure of roughly 14% in the ‘don’t’ column. It’s little wonder why employers are reluctant to come here.

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