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Is Mass Higher Education Working? Evidence from the Labour Market Experiences of Recent Graduates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2020

Peter Elias*
Affiliation:
Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick
Kate Purcell*
Affiliation:
Employment Studies Research Unit, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

Abstract

This paper uses a variety of recent sources of information to explore the labour market experiences of those who gained a degree in the 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, we address the issue of ‘overeducation’ — the view that the expansion of higher education in the 1990s created a situation in which increasing numbers of graduates were unable to access employment that required and valued graduate skills and knowledge. Two complementary approaches to this issue are adopted. We review available evidence on the graduate earnings premium and change in the UK occupational structure, and we conduct a detailed examination of the earnings and characteristics of jobs done by a large sample of 1995 graduates seven years after graduation.

We conclude that, while there may have been a decline from the high premium enjoyed by older graduates, for those who graduated in 1995 the average premium was holding up well, despite the expansion. Although we found differences between established graduate occupations and the newer areas of graduate employment, our evidence suggests that the development of new technical and managerial specialisms and occupational restructuring within organisations has been commensurate with the availability of an increased supply of highly qualified people.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 National Institute of Economic and Social Research

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