Unemployment & underemployment
Unemployment – and underemployment – has been one of the most significant problems for university graduates and their non-graduate peers alike since the financial crisis of 2008. The unemployment rate for young people has dwarfed that among older people, running at a level nearly three times as high – the largest gap in more than 20 years. And the latest data show that 631,000 young people aged 16-24 are unemployed – or 13.7% of the total. In June 2015, some 16,730 graduates – 7% of the graduate population who had completed their first degree in the 2013/14 academic year – were found to be out of work six months after leaving higher education (HE), according to statistics published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. What’s more, many graduates are underemployed – forced to take jobs that are inappropriate to their level of education. In fact, a third of working graduates took low-paid, low-skilled jobs such as cleaner or road-sweeper. This situation is particularly troubling in light of the high cost of university education. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has put the average student debt at £24,754 and predicted this would rise to £44,035 as a result of the cap for tuition fees being lifted to £9,000. With this cap set to be raised as part of the package of reforms announced in the government’s May 2016 HE white paper, future increases in debt are also likely. It’s clear that the employability agenda will stay high on the list of priorities for HE.
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