Students have an unrealistic expectation of their job prospects on graduating, a British survey has found. The Student Employability Index, which questioned 4,000 students at 20 universities, finds amost three-quarters (79%) expect to be in a graduate-level job within six months. But government figures show that only only around half (53%) of those who graduated within the past five years are in such jobs.

Men are even more confident than women: 83% of men and 77% of women expect to be in graduate-level employment within six months. 

But students are more realistic when it comes to money

Students‘ salary expectations are more realistic, however, with most expecting to be earning between £15,000 and £24,999 within six months, in line with real graduate earningsAaron Porter, director of external affairs at the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) and author of the report, says the findings are surprising: “You can hardly fail to pick up a newspaper over the last five years and read how competitive it is to get a job, yet the overwhelming majority of students retain an optimistic view of how quickly they’ll reach graduate-level employment.”

They choose university for the labour prospects and practice experience they offer

The survey also finds that students‘ choice of university is influenced by future employment prospects. While the quality of their preferred course is the most important factor in choosing an institution, 62% say they were influenced by job prospects after graduation. More than a third (36%) say that earning potential was an important consideration – though more so for men (42%) than women (32%).

Students are acutely aware of the importance of work experience and internships in helping them gain a job: 93% describe gaining an internship or work experience as either “essential” or “somewhat important” in helping them secure a job in their preferred sector. They’ve started to understand that success beyond university isn’t just about grades, it’s also about having a set of job-related skills, and the best way of demonstrating that is through work experience.”