A new survey has revealed that there are now 83 applicants for every graduate job – but industry experts have stunned Graduate Fog by insisting the new figures are not cause for concern, with one even saying he is “cautiously optimistic” about today’s findings.

Accoding to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the number of people applying for every graduate vacancy has doubled since 2009, as three successive years of university graduates have struggled to find a spot for themselves in today’s tough job market. This number is now at its highest level since records began. But two leading experts have warned that the numbers are misrepresentative of the reality for graduate job-seekers – and that the graduate job market is making a good recovery.

Graduate Fog begs to differ. Regular readers will know that we have been concerned for a long time about what is really happening to graduates when they leave university. For months we have warned of a looming graduate unemployment crisis. Too many graduates + too few vacancies + too many unpaid internships = potential for disaster.

In the last year, the mainstream debate has focussed on student tuition fees – and the media, politicians and universities have been ignoring what is happening to young people after graduation. As Graduate Foggers know only too well, it is a fact that many of you are really struggling to find proper, paid permanent graduate jobs. Or, in fact, any jobs. Many of you say that all there is are unpaid internships which promise to lead to paid work – but somehow never do.

Yet somewhat bizarrely, despite these new numbers, nobody seems to be admitting how bad things really are. Carl Gilleard – the Chief Executive of the AGR and the ‘godfather’ of graduate jobs – insisted that today’s new figures showed that there were “some very encouraging signs for graduates”:

“Not only have starting salaries increased, albeit slightly, the number of vacancies continues to increase which can only be seen as a good sign. I am cautiously optimistic about today’s findings, which provide a welcome indication that the graduate recruitment market is beginning to overcome the impact of the recession.”

Eh? Are we looking at the same numbers, Carl?

Meanwhile, Martin Birchill of High Fliers told the Independent that he put the new figures down to students and graduates being more organised about their job hunt – and applying for more vacancies. He insisted:

“The reality is that the graduate job market as a whole is making a good recovery. Vacancies for graduates have now increased for two years running and although recruitment may not be quite back to pre-recession levels, all the signs are that this growth will continue.”

Really? Is it just me or is the backlog of graduates who have been unable to find work in the last couple of years starting to look like the ‘elephant in the room’? Are they really going to keep denying that you lot exist in huge numbers? And that you’re really angry about what’s happened? It seems so.

The only news Graduate Fog is encouraged by today is that universities minister David ‘two brains’ Willetts has finally properly acknowledged that a degree is not always worthwhile investment for young people. (Has the second brain been squashing the first one and preventing either from working up until now?) He told BBC Breakfast this morning:

“There are some courses that are far better at preparing young people for the world of work than others. At the moment, the student finds it very hard to get that information… All that information should be out there, and we are insisting for the first time that it should be available for prospective students.”

Wow, he really is a genius. When students are paying nine grand a year, I guess it is only fair to give them the information they need to make sure they don’t end up buying a lemon. However, this is major progress. Until now Willetts has continued to trot out the fib that graduates earn £100,000 more in a lifetime than non-graduates – an ancient stat that Graduate Fog understands was statistically iffy right from the start.

While Ministers have singled out computer gaming studies as an example of one such ‘dead end’ course which might require ‘naming and shaming’ on the planned league tables, my concern is for the mushrooming number of places on ‘sexy’ courses like journalism and media studies, which are easy for universities to ‘sell’ – but which too rarely lead to paid jobs in those professions for their graduates. It is my opinion that when universities sell these courses knowing that only a miniscule proportion of graduates will find paid employment in these industries that is tantamount to theft.

I am also confused to learn from the AGR’s statistics that the ‘average’ graduate staring salary is about to hit £25,500. Where are all the graduates earning this kind of money?

Most of the graduates I hear from are starting on salaries closer to £18,000, even in London. I suspect this new figures is skewed by the graduates who go into very high paying sectors like finance. I think a median salary would be a more accurate reflection would be a more accurate reflection of what’s really going on out there.

*Are politicians and experts ignoring the growing problem of graduate unemployment?
Are these new figures a sign that something is seriously wrong in the graduate job market – or are you convinced by their argument that things are looking up? And do you know anyone whose starting salary was £25,500?

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