Can this year’s graduates really expect record salaries?

New research suggests that the median starting salary for graduates will reach £30,000 for the first time this year.

New research suggests that the median starting salary for graduates will reach £30,000 for the first time this year

Yesterday High Fliers Research published a report that seemed to finally show some good news for students.

The annual Graduate Market report, which surveys the country’s top 100 graduate employers, found that the average starting salary for graduates would reach £30,000 for the first time this year.

The graduates of summer 2015 will include some of the first students to pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

The study, conducted in December, found that employers increased their graduate recruitment by 7.9 per cent in 2014, and will expand the available vacancies for university leavers by 8.1 per cent this year.

This is welcome news for students, who have been hit by staggeringly high tuition fees in recent years. Furthermore, over a quarter of graduate vacancies were cut in 2008 and 2009, and graduate recruitment fell again in 2012.

2012-13 was the year in which new tuition fees came into effect, resulting in a 17 per cent drop in UK undergraduates.

The research group names the largest individual recruiters of graduates as Teach First, PwC and Deloitte, offering 2,060, 1,570 and 1,100 graduate vacancies respectively.

However, it is important to note that the picture is not a universally positive one. The biggest salaries in 2015 will be those on offer from investment banks (a median of £45,000), law firms (median of £40,000), banking & finance firms (median of £36,500) and oil and energy companies (median of £32,500).

This is the same group that led in 2014, and the same leading individual recruiters as the past three years. Recruiters in the public sector and creative industries are still not able to offer job security to graduates, despite the fact that creative and design studies, social sciences and nursing consistently appear in the top ten most popular degree courses.

The difference in likely future salaries is not reflected in tuition fees.

The companies surveyed by High Fliers said that they were much more likely to employ graduates who had already completed internships or work experience with them.

In fact, three-quarters of the graduate vacancies advertised this year by City investment banks and half of the training contracts offered by the leading law firms are likely to be filled by graduates who have already completed work experience with the same employer.

As the data shows, employers look in a small pool for recruits, whether for work experience or for jobs.

“For the 2014-2015 recruitment season, the majority of top graduate employers have targeted between 10 and 25 universities each  although thirteen employers are currently visiting more than thirty campuses annually for their graduate promotions.”

There are more than 140 universities offering undergraduate courses in the UK. Manchester, Nottingham, Warwick, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Bristol, Imperial College London, University College London and Leeds were the universities most frequently targeted by recruiters.

Of course, recruiters many employers will not have the resources to recruit at more than a handful of universities, but the result is that the majority of students are not given the opportunity to engage with the top paying employers.

Manchester, Nottingham, Warwick, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Bristol, Imperial College London, University College London and Leeds were the universities most frequently targeted by recruiters.

Graduates are still entering a very difficult, highly competitive jobs market. Most people who paid the huge new tuition fees will not feel the improvement; although the numbers are getting bigger, they continue to impact only a small group.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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