More than a quarter of 2006/07 graduates were not in full time work three and a half years after leaving university, new figures show.

University leavers are also becoming more likely to be unemployed, the statistics suggest.

Key Points

  • Number of unemployed graduates has risen
  • 28% of graduates who left university in 06/07 not in full time paid work
  • Male graduates more likely to be on higher salaries

Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveals that 27.7% of UK graduates who left university in 2006/07 were not in full time paid work three and a half years later.

Some 8.8% were in part time paid or voluntary and unpaid work, while 5.3% were working and studying, and 6.5% were just studying.

But 3.6% were assumed to be unemployed, the statistics show. This is higher than in other years.

Previous HESA surveys showed that 2.3% of those who graduated in 2002/03 were assumed to be unemployed three and a half years later, along with 2.6% of graduates who left higher education in 2004/05.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), says it is "worrying" that the number of unemployed graduates has risen.

The figures are based on a snapshot survey taken in November of 49,065 students who left university in 2006/07.

Pay levels

The survey also reveals that men are more likely to be on higher salaries than women.

While 14% of men in full time paid work who graduated in 2006/07 were earning between £30,000 and £34,999 three and a half years later, the same was true for only 9.3% of women.

In comparison, 29.4% of women were earning £20,000 to £24,999, against 15.6% of men.

The figures also show that a fifth (21.5%) of those questioned said they did not think that university had prepared them for their career, with 6.4% saying it hadn't prepared them at all.

Around one in ten (11.1%) did not think their degree course was good value for money. However, overall, 84.2% said they were satisfied with their career to date.

Future change

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), says: "Times are tough for young people at the moment, with rising unemployment no matter how well qualified they are, and through its lack of support the Government risks losing a generation to low skills and high unemployment.

"The postcode lottery of financial support for students risks many turning to expensive commercial debt while they study. If jobs aren't available on graduation, things like overdrafts and commercial loans become incredibly toxic.

"Whilst this difficult jobs market persists, the Government should be working to open more training and learning opportunities to young people, like they have done with apprenticeships, and urgently commit to put more money in students' pockets."

Universities minister David Willetts says: "As these figures demonstrate, most graduates think their degree is financially as well as intellectually rewarding.

"In the future, we want universities to become even more responsive to their students. That is why we are improving the information available on different courses, strengthening the links between employers and universities and putting a new focus on student entrepreneurs."