Figures obtained by The Oxford Student point to a great disparity between levels of graduate unemployment across undergraduate courses.
Of students graduating since 2009 only 2.9 percent of History & Politics students were out of work, while a staggering 14.3 percent of students graduating with a
BA in Oriental Studies remain unemployed.
Although figures for all undergraduate courses, obtained from the Oxford Careers Service, remained considerably below the record 20 percent graduate unemployment in the third quarter of 2010 published by the Office of National Statistics in January, the disparity continues to raise questions about the comparative value of undergraduate degrees.
Average graduate salaries were also shown to fluctuate greatly from department to department, the worst performing being the English Faculty with an average
graduate salary years of only £18,700 a year.
A second year Wadham English student said: “I don’t think it’s really a surprise to anyone doing English, I mean it’s kind of a given that the only real career that an English degree leads onto is alcoholism.
“I can’t imagine there are really a whole load of people studying literature in the hope of scooping up a job at Goldman Sachs. We do it because we’re too lazy to do PPE but not quite lazy enough to do History”
Not everyone was so blasé about the statistics though. Laurence Mellit, a prospective Oxford Physics applicant from East London said:
“I genuinely think those statistics will make an impact of the course I choose when I apply next year. I never expected that Physics would have such a high
unemployment rate” (13.8 percent unemployment after two years).
“The last thing I want is to work my arse off applying, work my arse off even harder for three years to get a degree, and then find out that I can’t even get a job by the end of it. To be honest, by the looks of this I’d be better off doing Maths”. A course that has only a 7.6 percent unemployment rate for graduates since 2009.
“I mean, my first love is physics, but to a certain extent we live in the real world and sometimes you have to be pragmatic. I think a lot of people kid themselves that if they get into Oxford that means they’re going to be a researcher”.
One second year Oriental Studies student was equally disgruntled by the statistics saying “I can’t understand how graduate unemployment is so high for Orientalists. The majority of us have to not only study the history and literature of the region we have chosen but also a language and alphabet that is completely new to us.”
“I just don’t see how those skills can’t be useful on the job market, and, to be honest, if it is the case that a lot of us can’t find work when we graduate I would have thought it’s more because of poor career advice than a problem with the course”.
A spokesperson for the Law Faculty, one of the best performing in terms of its graduate employment statistics, with only 3.1 percent of students without employment graduating since 2009, commented on why they felt their students
performed so well compared to other departments:
“The fact that the Law Faculty provides plenty of the opportunity for all law students, whether they wish to pursue legal careers or not, o think about the options that are available to them from an early stage in their university life.
“This is through providing space for general careers sessions in the Faculty (eg careers talks for first year law students and another for second year law students), as well as one to one guidance interviews with a Careers Adviser and relevant careers information which reaches the students in a timely fashion.”
It is not only between departments though that there is a disparity between graduate employment statistics. Between colleges also there are notable differences in the figures.
While graduates of New College and St John’s have an average unemployment rate after two years of only 2.8 percent, the University’s worst performing colleges have more than triple that. At St Catz as many as 11.2 percent of graduates since 2009 remain unemployed, while Oriel and Exeter are both level with 9.2 percent.
As in the case of the courses in which students graduated, the colleges attended by graduates were also suggested to have a major impact on the average salaries of the alumni of the last two years.
Big Earners were the graduates of Keble and LMH, earning average salaries of £35,900 and £32,700 respectively. Bringing up the rear where Wadham with an average salary of £20,700 and St Hilda’s with an average of £20,800.
A Keble third year said: “I’m not really all that surprised that Keble graduates do well. Keble, as far as I’ve been able to tell in the last two years, does seem to put a lot of emphasis upon networking and that sort of thing”
One Wadham Second Year was unphased by the information: “Man, I think people worry way too much about this kind of stuff. Sure, if I’d wanted to get a job out of my degree I’d have gone to Merton or something, but I didn’t, I wanted an annual chance to cross-dress, wine served by the pint and reasonably priced narcotics. Wadham’s done me proud on all three counts so frankly I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about”