UK Graduate Statistics: Employment Details

Graduates play a significant role in the UK economy, job market, and workplace. With their specialized knowledge and skills, they contribute to various industries and sectors, driving innovation and growth. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into various graduate statistics in the UK, providing you with up-to-date information on the number of graduates, gender splits, dropout rates, employment figures, salary trends, and more. Let’s explore the fascinating world of UK graduates.

Table of Content

Graduate Numbers in the UK

Number of graduates per year in the UK

The UK boasts a substantial number of graduates each year. As of 2022, it is estimated that there were around 36.4 million graduates in the country. This figure has steadily increased over the years, with a 7% increase in undergraduate figures from 492,355 in 2019/20 to 527,070 in 2020/21. Furthermore, postgraduate numbers also saw a significant increase in 2021/22, rising by 12.9% from 345,700 to 390,585. These numbers highlight the growing importance of higher education and the increasing demand for graduates in the UK.

Gender split of graduates

In terms of the gender split among graduates in the UK, women have made a significant contribution in recent years. In 2021/22, women accounted for 57.6% of higher education graduates, with a total of 530,170 women graduating. This number reflects a 13.5% increase since 2019/20. On the other hand, male graduates have also seen a steady increase, rising from 332,925 in 2019/20 to 387,690 in 2021/22, representing a 16.4% increase. The gender split data highlights the growing participation of women in higher education and their significant contribution to the graduate pool in the UK.

Which course has the highest number of graduates?

When it comes to the most popular courses among UK graduates, business studies takes the lead. In 2020, a total of 141,125 graduates achieved degrees in this field. Following closely behind is science subjects allied to medicine and biological sciences, which awarded degrees to 159,520 students in the same year. These figures indicate the high demand and popularity of business studies and science-related disciplines among students in the UK.

Undergraduate enrolment by ethnicity

Ethnic diversity among undergraduate students is an important aspect of higher education in the UK. As of 2021, 72.9% of undergraduates identified as white, while Asian students accounted for 12.2% of the student population. Black students made up 8.3% of the undergraduate cohort, followed by individuals with mixed ethnic backgrounds at 4.5%. These figures signify the multicultural nature of higher education in the UK and the importance of fostering inclusivity and diversity in academic institutions.

Graduate achievements by ethnicity

When examining graduate achievements by ethnicity, there are some notable patterns. A higher proportion of white graduates (38.2%) achieve first-class honours, followed closely by those with mixed ethnicity (33.3%). For Asian graduates, 30.3% achieve first-class honours, while for Black graduates, the figure is 19.1%. These statistics show that there are still some disparities in degree classifications among different ethnic groups. However, it’s worth noting that the percentage gap between white and Black graduates achieving a first-class or upper second degree decreased from 26.3% in 2015 to 20.0% in 2021, indicating progress towards more equitable outcomes.

Student dropout rates in the UK

University dropout rates are an important factor in evaluating the effectiveness of higher education institutions. On average, 6.3% of students in the UK drop out of university, which translates to around 48,548 students each year since 2014. This statistic highlights the challenges some students face in completing their degrees and the importance of providing adequate support systems and resources to ensure their success.

Universities with the highest dropout rates in the UK

While most universities strive to provide a supportive environment for students, some institutions have higher dropout rates than others. According to recent data, Arden University has the highest dropout rate in the UK, with 32.3% of students no longer in higher education. This is followed by Point Blank Music School (19.2%) and SAE Education Limited (18.5%). It is crucial for universities to identify the reasons behind high dropout rates and implement measures to support students in their academic journey.

Universities with the lowest dropout rates

Conversely, several universities in the UK boast low dropout rates. The Royal Veterinary College leads the pack, with an impressively low dropout rate of 0.4%. The University of Cambridge and the University of St Andrews closely follow, both with a dropout rate of 0.6%. These institutions demonstrate their commitment to providing a supportive and nurturing learning environment for their students.

Undergraduate courses with the highest dropout rates

Certain undergraduate courses tend to have higher dropout rates than others. Courses such as computer sciences (9.2%), business and administrative studies (8.6%), and mass communications and documentation (7.6%) have the highest dropout rates. These figures indicate the need for universities and course providers to assess the curriculum and offer appropriate support to students studying these subjects to ensure their academic success.

Universities in the UK

Which universities have the best grades in the UK?

The annual awarding of first-class honours qualifications is an important indicator of academic excellence. In 2022, the University of Manchester awarded the highest number of first-class degrees in the UK, with 2,855 graduates achieving this distinction. Following closely behind are the University of Leeds (2,750 first-class degrees) and the Manchester Metropolitan University (2,730 first-class degrees). These universities have consistently demonstrated their commitment to academic excellence and nurturing their students’ potential.

UK universities with top employment figures

Employability is a critical consideration for students when choosing a university. Some universities have established strong connections with employers, resulting in impressive employment figures for their graduates. The University of Cambridge takes the top spot in terms of employability ranking for the 2022 academic year, followed by the University of Oxford. These institutions’ reputations, combined with their rigorous academic programs, contribute to their graduates’ high employability rates.

Which universities have the best career prospects?

Career prospects play a vital role in students’ decision-making process when selecting a university. Several universities in the UK have a reputation for providing excellent career opportunities for their graduates. Five London-based institutions, including Imperial College London and King’s College London, ranked in the top ten for the best career prospects in the country. These universities’ strong links with industry, internships, and career development support contribute to their graduates’ successful career outcomes.

Best UK universities for business founders

For students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and business founders, certain universities have a track record of producing successful business leaders. The University of the Arts London takes the top spot in this category, with 15.83% of its graduates becoming business founders. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) closely follows with 14.03% of its graduates venturing into entrepreneurship. These universities provide the necessary support and resources for students to develop their entrepreneurial skills and launch their ventures successfully.

Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes: what are they?

Graduate schemes offer recent graduates the opportunity to gain industry experience while earning a competitive salary. These programs are designed to provide structured training and development opportunities, enabling graduates to explore different areas of a business and develop valuable skills.

Who is eligible for a graduate scheme?

Eligibility criteria for graduate schemes vary depending on the company and industry. In most cases, a minimum degree classification of 2.1 or higher is required. Some companies may also consider specific degree disciplines or additional qualifications relevant to the role.

How many graduate schemes do students apply for?

Recent reports suggest that students apply for an average of 29 graduate schemes, demonstrating the competitiveness of the job market for graduates. However, it’s important to note that graduate scheme applications vary depending on the field, with some sectors receiving a higher number of applications than others.

What is the average graduate scheme salary?

The average graduate scheme salary varies depending on the industry and company. On average, graduate scheme salaries start at £19,000 and can reach up to £40,000, with a median average of £29,500. These figures highlight the potential for competitive salaries and career progression offered through graduate schemes.

How much do graduate jobs pay by region?

Graduate job salaries can vary across different regions in the UK. London, being a major hub for employment, offers the highest starting salary for graduates at an average of £27,256. The South East follows closely with an average starting salary of £24,254. In contrast, Northern Ireland has the lowest average starting salary at £21,645. These regional variations reflect differences in economic factors and living costs across different parts of the country.

Which graduate schemes pay the highest?

Certain graduate schemes in specific industries offer higher salaries than others. For example, private finance roles at Rothschilds offer the highest graduate scheme salary in the UK, starting at £65,000. Investment banking positions with J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs also provide high salaries, with graduates earning £58,000 and £52,000, respectively. These figures indicate the potential for substantial earnings within certain industries and top-tier companies.

Graduate Employment Statistics

How many undergraduates gain work experience?

Work experience is highly valued by employers, and many undergraduates recognize its importance. Studies show that around 64% of undergraduates undertake some form of unpaid work experience, with 41% participating for at least one month. These figures highlight the proactive approach of students in gaining practical exposure and enhancing their employability.

How long does it take graduates to secure a job?

The timeline for graduates to secure a job can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances and the job market conditions. Studies suggest that it can take anywhere from three to 18 months for graduates to secure employment. Factors such as industry dynamics, job availability, and individual job-seeking strategies all play a role in this timeframe.

Graduate outcomes and employment figures

Graduate outcomes and employment figures are essential metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of higher education. In 2022, 79% of UK graduates from 2020 were in full-time or part-time employment, indicative of the positive employment prospects for recent graduates. Furthermore, 89.1% of graduates were either in employment, further study, or engaged in other activities such as travel or caring for loved ones. These outcomes signify the overall success of graduates in transitioning to the job market or pursuing advanced education.

Degrees with the highest employment in the UK

Certain degree fields have higher employment rates than others, reflecting the demand for professionals with specialized skills. Science-based subjects, such as medicine, dentistry, and subjects allied to medicine, have the highest percentage of high-skilled graduates employed in the UK, with an employment rate of 93%. Other fields with high employment rates include architecture, engineering, and information and communication professionals. These figures demonstrate the importance of STEM-related disciplines and the demand for graduates in these fields.

How many graduates are self-employed?

Self-employment is an option chosen by some graduates, allowing them to pursue entrepreneurial ventures or freelance work. As of 2021, 12,130 graduates from 2018 onwards were self-employed, representing 0.78% of graduates in that period. While self-employment offers flexibility and autonomy, it is important to note that the majority of graduates opt for traditional employment opportunities.

What is the average graduate salary?

The average graduate salary in the UK is £30,000, and this figure has remained consistent since 2015. However, it is important to consider that salaries may vary depending on factors such as industry, location, and level of experience. Graduates starting their careers can expect gradual salary growth as they gain more experience and progress in their respective fields.

UK graduate salaries per subject area

Salaries for graduates can differ depending on their chosen degree subject. Science-based subjects, such as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, typically command the highest salaries for high-skilled graduates, ranging from £31,000 to £35,000. On the other hand, subjects like creative arts and design and education generally have lower starting salaries, averaging around £21,000 to £24,500. These variations in salary reflect the economic value placed on different disciplines and the market demand for specific skill sets.

Best universities for high salaries in the UK

Several universities in the UK are associated with high graduate salaries. The University College of Estate Management (UCEM) tops the list, with 29% of its graduates earning a salary of £51,000 or more. London School of Economics (LSE) follows closely behind, with 12% of its graduates achieving the same salary milestone. Other prominent institutions with graduates earning high salaries include the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the University of Cambridge. These universities’ strong track record of producing graduates who excel in their respective fields contributes to their graduates’ higher earning potential.

Gender pay gap for graduates

Gender pay disparity persists among graduates in the UK. Male full-time high-skilled graduates with first-class degrees earn an average of £26,000, while their female counterparts earn an average of £24,500. The gender pay gap is evident across various industries and career levels, with male graduates typically earning more than their female counterparts. Addressing this pay gap and promoting gender equality in the workplace remains an important challenge for society.

How many unemployed graduates in the UK?

Unemployment rates among graduates in the UK vary from year to year. As of 2021, the graduate unemployment rate stands at 3.2%, indicating a positive employment outlook for recent graduates. However, it is worth noting that a subset of graduates who obtained their degrees in recent years (2019 onwards) face a higher unemployment rate of 12%. This translates to roughly 96,041 unemployed graduates each year. These figures underscore the importance of providing support, resources, and job opportunities for recent graduates to navigate the job market successfully.

How many jobs do graduates apply for?

Graduates face a competitive job market, with many applying for multiple positions to secure employment. On average, graduates apply for around 25 job roles, and the ratio of receiving an interview invitation to job applications can be as high as twenty to one. These statistics highlight the importance of a proactive and persistent job search approach in securing desirable employment opportunities.

Degrees with the highest unemployment in the UK

While graduates generally experience positive employment outcomes, certain degree subjects may have higher unemployment rates. Media and cultural studies rank at the bottom, with students rating its job prospects at 2.5 out of 5. Other subjects, such as European studies and psychology, also have relatively lower employability ratings. It is important for graduates in these fields to leverage their transferable skills and seek opportunities where their expertise can be applied effectively.

The Pandemic and Graduates

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the job market and career prospects for graduates. Many graduates experienced a decrease in available opportunities, leading to heightened uncertainty and reduced confidence about their future. The pandemic also resulted in a skills mismatch, with a significant number of graduates in roles that do not require their acquired skills. Additionally, mental health and well-being were adversely affected, with lower life satisfaction reported among graduates compared to their peers. These challenges highlight the need for additional support, career guidance, and resilience-building initiatives for graduates as they navigate the evolving post-pandemic job market.

Student Finance and Student Loans

Student finance statistics in the UK

Student finance in the UK has evolved over time. The introduction of tuition fees in 1998 and subsequent increases have impacted the cost of higher education. In 2012, fees rose to £9,000 per year, and students began taking on higher levels of debt to fund their education. It is crucial to be aware of the financial implications and options available when considering higher education.

How much is the average student loan debt in the UK?

The average student loan debt in the UK varies depending on the region and tuition fee structure. In England, where tuition fees are typically higher, the average student loan debt is over £45,000 for a four-year degree program. Other regions, such as Wales and Northern Ireland, have relatively lower average student loan debts at around £27,000 and £24,000, respectively. These figures emphasize the importance of careful financial planning and understanding the long-term implications of student loans.

When does a student debt have to be paid off?

Student loan repayments in the UK are dependent on the graduate’s income. Repayments begin once the graduate’s annual income exceeds a specific threshold, which varies by country. In England, repayment starts at an income of £27,295 per year, while other regions have slightly lower thresholds. The student debt must be repaid within 30 years, with remaining balances written off after this period. Understanding the terms and conditions of student loan repayment is essential in managing personal finances effectively.

How long does it take a graduate to pay off their student loan?

The time taken to fully repay a student loan can vary depending on individual circumstances and income levels. On average, it takes graduates around 29 years and 4 months to pay off their student loans. This timeline is influenced by factors such as income level, repayment rates, and changes in individual circumstances. Graduates should carefully manage their finances and consider the potential long-term impact of student loan repayment on their financial plans.

Outstanding student debt

As of 2021, the outstanding student loan debt in the UK exceeded £177 billion, with the majority of the debt accumulated in England (£160 billion). These figures reflect the scale of student loan borrowing and the long-term financial implications for individuals and the government. Projections suggest that outstanding student loan debt in the UK could reach £560 billion by 2050. Managing this debt responsibly and providing support for graduates in repayment is crucial for ensuring sustainable financial well-being.


Graduate statistics in the UK provide valuable insights into the country’s higher education landscape, employment prospects, and student finance. The increasing number of graduates, gender disparities, dropout rates, and employment figures all shape the graduate experience and the broader economy. Understanding these statistics allows students, universities, policymakers, and employers to make informed decisions and implement strategies that enhance graduate outcomes, promote inclusivity, and support graduates as they transition into the job market. Ultimately, graduates play a vital role in shaping the future of the UK, contributing their skills, knowledge, and expertise to drive innovation and economic growth.


Office for Students: Equality, diversity, and student characteristics data.

UK Gov: Undergraduate degree results

Debut: Degree Dropouts

HESA: UK Higher Education Performance Indicators –

Published by Sarah Samson

Sarah Samson is a professional career advisor and resume expert. She specializes in helping recent college graduates and mid-career professionals improve their resumes and format them for the modern job market. In addition, she has also been a contributor to several online publications.

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