The University has published statistics on graduate employment which reveal that, six months after graduating, more people worked as waiters or bar staff than worked as mechanical or civil engineers.
Of the students who replied to the survey, 49.5 per cent were in work only, six per cent in study and work, and 31.8 per cent in study only, with 5.9 per cent unemployed. In comparison, the most recent figures suggest that the national graduate unemployment rate is currently 20 per cent while the general national rate is 8.4.
Will Heard who graduated from Jesus in 2010 commented, “Oxford graduate unemployment is only just below unemployment rate in the UK. Shocking.”
The director of the Oxford University Careers Service, Jonathan Black, told Cherwell that one reason for a lower unemployment rate than the national average is that Oxford students are a “Highly desirable group of people, sought out by employers. They have fabulous transferable skills.”
However, Black added that employers, “Do mark Oxford students down on teamwork and business awareness.”
Emily Jamieson, a 2010 history graduate from Jesus, commented, “At other universities far fewer people are going to choose to keep on studying, or even have the option available to them. So the fact Oxford has low unemployment is maybe more a reflection of people carrying on study than being able to go straight out and find work.”
Those studying medical sciences were most likely to find a job six months after leaving university, with only 2.2 per cent of them unemployed, none of whom were undergraduate medics. In the humanities, this figure jumps up to 7.8 per cent, with 13 per cent of graduates from the Oriental Studies Faculty unemployed.
While Magdalen had only 2.4 per cent of students claiming to be unemployed, Mansfield has the highest unemployment rate of 10 per cent.
However, Susanna Elliott, an Oriental Studies student from Mansfield, commented, “I’m not particularly worried about my employment prospects – which degrees are most valued come and go in phases. Having a good degree from Oxford, in whatever subject, is still a solid basis for gaining employment.”
Joshua Felberg, another Mansfield student reading Oriental Studies, commented, “While I am confident about my prospects in the future, I am worried that this disparity between colleges comes down to nepotism within other colleges. An Oxford degree should be worth the same whatever college it is from.”
According to the report, science undergraduate students were the best paid, with materials scientists claiming an average salary of £35,300. Those who graduated from the English Faculty were the worst paid, with an average salary of £18,700.
Univ English student, Louise Carey, commented, “I’m taking this degree because I love the subject rather than because I think it will land me a great job. I find English fascinating and rewarding so I wouldn’t say it’s been useless to me. If I’d wanted to maximise my employability I would have taken PPE or something.”
Keble undergraduates had an average salary of £35,900 six months after leaving, whereas those who graduated from Wadham were paid an average of £20,700. The college with the most students going on to further study is Merton, at 54.3 per cent. New College had the highest percentage of undergraduates finding employment, with 59.6 per cent of all students securing a job six months after leaving.
The largest employer of Oxford students is the NHS, which employed 281 graduates over the last three years. Oxford University employed 266 six months after their graduation. Thereafter, the major employers are financial services firms such as Deloitte, PwC and Deutsche Bank.
40 per cent of those with undergraduate degrees earned less than the student loan repayment threshold of £21,000.
Considering graduates of both graduate and non-graduate degrees, 51 per cent of humanities students were paid less than this figure, whereas only 15 per cent of the Medical Sciences division had a salary less than this.
The figures also highlighted a significant gender divide in salary levels. In the Social Sciences, 62 per cent of male undergraduate students earn the median wage of £24,500, whereas only 37 per cent of female students earn that amount sixth months after graduating.
Marta Szczerba, a 2011 PPE graduate from St John’s, and now a management consultant, claimed that there was “a definite advantage” from studying at Oxford. She asserted that many companies only visit Oxbridge, LSE and Imperial so students from those universities are much more likely to be employed in those services. She also said that an Oxford education was a “signal” to employers, making Oxford students “more credible candidates”.
She added, “I think the job situation was much better for those in my year who got a job in third year, even for industries such as banking and management consultancy. Those of my friends who did not find work in third year are finding it a lot harder to get a job now.”
Matthew Robinson, a 2008 Law graduate who was employed by McKinsey after leaving Oxford and then co-founded a technology company, commented, “I think Oxford graduates have the same level of workplace-related skills as other graduates. However, it does give a huge advantage in how employers perceive you.
“There is an increasing value in technology skills which make businesses more efficient, and degrees which give these skills or rigorous maths-based skills are more valuable. The exception to this is PPE, which employers believe gives a suitably broad skill-set.”
Oliver Moody, a journalist who graduated last year from St Anne’s, said, “I think it is easier for Oxford students to find jobs – as long as they focus. If you know what you want to do, build up a half-decent CV and think hard about where you want to go after university. You can make an Oxford degree work for you.”
However he continued, “There were a lot of people who just assumed that an Oxford degree would magically confer a perfect, well-paid job without any real effort or thought. They didn’t do so well. There are a lot of hungry, focused students at less prestigious universities who are serious competitors in the marketplace, and, as employers are increasingly looking for the finished article, they have the edge over Oxford students who don’t get around to looking beyond university.
He added, “Of my friends from Oxford, about half have just started white-collar professional jobs, and the other half are still living with their parents.”