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Universities UK (UUK) - The value of going to university

New data published by UUK is based on two Censuswide surveys of 3,505 graduates, who left UK universities on or after 2008 and are now established in their careers, and 3,506 UK business leaders. The questions in the polls, carried out in June, cover a range of topics including: employment, salary, industry knowledge and skills, transferrable skills and social mobility. Eighteen case studies from institutions across the UK are also featured.

Headline figures can be found here

UUK has also made available to Advance HE two word documents with the full survey findings:

Development Economics, Graduate Survey Report

Development Economics, Senior Managers Survey Report 


  • Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of UK graduates responding to the poll credited going to university with enabling them to find the job they wanted in under a year
  • Over three quarters of responding graduates (76 per cent) said going to university helped to build their self-confidence
  • Nearly 80 per cent of graduates said going to university enabled them to build skills that have proved professionally valuable
  • Crucially during a cost-of-living-crisis, two-thirds (64 per cent) of graduates said that going to university has improved their job security
  • A slightly larger proportion of females than males reported that going to university had a positive effect, even though the average starting salary for males (£34,030) was around 29 per cent higher than the equivalent for females (£26,375)
  • Over a quarter (28 per cent) of graduates first gained employment through a direct connection to their university or degree course
  • 97 per cent of senior managers polled revealed that graduates reach managerial positions faster, as a result of going to university
  • Those who were the first in their family to go to university had a slightly higher average starting salary than those who were not the first to attend: £30,111 compared with £27,754
  • More than 70 per cent of business leaders  believe that going to university enables graduates to build vital transferable skills, and a similar proportion believe it introduces graduates to peers who can help them build their careers
  • 71 per cent of business leaders who are graduates said that going to university opened doors to companies for them
  • 51 per cent of business leaders who were the first in their family to go to university said it helped them fast track their career

Implications for governance:

Graduate outcomes have always been a key priority for governing boards, not least because they feed into university league table rankings. Following the introduction of the B3 conditions on continuation, completion and employment, they are now part of the regulatory framework and so have gained even greater significance.

The benefits of gaining a degree, according to the findings of the research, are numerous – from getting on the employment ladder, job security and career ambitions, to greater earnings and more social mobility.

Reassuringly, the findings show that senior managers and business leaders are positive about the skills, capabilities and confidence of graduates coming into the workforce and nearly all report that these recruits reach managerial positions faster. The full report of senor manager responses outlines some differences across sectors: for instance in public services, the creative industries, hospitality and leisure and construction, the benefits are less pronounced.

At a time when a number of big recruiters are hiring more school leavers, apprenticeships are being promoted at the highest level and the value of a degree is being questioned, the UUK data and individual case studies are a timely reminder that a university education can still transform lives.

The UUK’s headline messages, along with data held by universities about their own graduate employment successes, could be helpful to marketing and widening access teams to help convey to potential students and the wider public the benefits that gaining a degree can bring.

Particularly pertinent at a time when cost of living pressures are upmost in people’s minds is the increased job security mentioned by graduates.

The findings could be useful to help governors consider institutional level data, for instance on the time taken for graduates to secure a job that reflects their career ambitions, and on how graduate perceptions and experiences can differ depending on subject studied, as shown in the full graduate survey report.

Examples in the UUK report of career support initiatives undertaken by a number of universities will make interesting reading for governors. Help from careers offices to secure summer internships, which can act as a career springboard, were highlighted by a number of case studies, as were the skills gained in work placements. Apprenticeship degree programmes, where students combine work and study and go on to full time careers, are also mentioned.

Governors may want to consider the timing and extent of careers support provided by their own universities to ensure all students and new graduates are engaged and receiving the help they need.

Data in the full UUK report on graduate salaries across different subject areas may also be of interest given the government’s request to the OfS to investigate how graduate earnings might be taken into account in its quality regime.

As the OfS continues its monitoring of compliance with B3 conditions - with outcomes of the first B3 investigations due to be published this autumn - graduate level employment data and initiatives to improve it may well be a standing item on governing board agendas for some time to come.

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