According to research conducted by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University, the job prospects for new university graduates are steadily declining.
The research found that between 2008 and 2014, the number of new graduates in full-time employment dropped from 56.4 per cent to 41.7 per cent.
Adjunct Professor, Dr Tom Karmel said that when current university students graduate, they will most likely struggle to find employment, as they will also have to compete against other students who graduated before them.
“That’s not to say they won’t get a job, but people do have to start thinking about the return that they get on their degrees,” he said. “There certainly has been a huge increase in the supply, but what you would expect over time is for the labour market demand side of things to adjust, and that hasn’t happened sufficiently over that period of time.”
However, Dr Karmel also said the student-to-work success ratio differs depending on the field of study and employment. “Nobody would be surprised to know that in 2008 almost 100 per cent of graduates from medicine had a job – 97.5 per cent,” he said. Research shows that this figure decreased to 95 per cent by 2014, but it was still positive in comparison to other fields of study.
“In 2008 only 22 per cent of graduates in language and literature had a full-time job, and that’s dropped to 12 per cent,” he added.
Dr Karmel believes the over-supply of university graduates could be the cause of these issues. Despite the 20 per cent decline in graduates finding full-time employment from 2008 to 2014, the amount of students commencing higher education increased from just under 20,000 to over 27,000.
“There’s been no doubt that universities have been very keen to expand their enrolments,” Dr Karmel said. “There’s a clear financial incentive to do so but I think they’re going to be under more and more scrutiny in terms of the outcomes for the graduates. If they can’t provide good outcomes, I think it’s going to be very difficult for those universities to recruit at the margins.”
Andrew Norton, higher education program director at Grattan Institute agreed. “We all need to think carefully about whether some of the students who are at university would be better off doing a vocational diploma or certificate three or four course,” he said.
Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, however, rejected these suggestions. “On the whole, the labour market has absorbed the very substantial increased numbers of graduates with very little difficulty over the past 30 to 40 years,” she said. “It’s also demonstrated that unemployment rates for graduates still remain well below other groups.”