Research released today (Thursday) by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) has found that 79% of students expect to be in graduate level employment within six months while the nearest comparable government statistics show that just 53% are working at such a level within five years.

While recent reports have suggested an upcoming increase in graduate recruitment this is unlikely to match the employment expectations of students. Despite such overly optimistic expectation about the level of responsibility they will have on graduation students were more realistic about their salaries with 51% saying they expected to be earning between £15,000 and £24,999 a year within six months. According to HECSU the average salary for a graduate in full-time employment six months after graduation is between £18,345 and £22,535.

The NCUB survey of over 4000 students found that while job prospects were a factor in choosing their course for nearly two-thirds (62%) of students only 6% used advice from employers when making their choices, less than half the amount that consulted Facebook (13%).

There were large disparities between the jobs students said they were thinking of working in after graduation and the numbers of students who eventually working those occupation. For example, 44% of Business Studies students surveyed said that they were interested in working in ‘Marketing/market research, advertising and PR’ but according to HECSU figures only 18.2% of those business and management graduates who are working six months after graduation are ‘Marketing, PR and sales professionals?’.

Aaron Porter, NCUB Director of External Affairs, said: “Employment opportunities are an important motivator for most students and if they are to fulfil their ambitions they need to seek out and have access to greater information about the skills that employers want.

“Employers tell us that they are looking for adaptable employees who can move across job roles and sectors. This could lead to great opportunities for graduates who find are more flexible and who know what potential employers are looking for before they graduate.

“Universities and employers, as well as students themselves, have a role to play in making sure that students have the information they need before they choose and institution and as they plan a career.”

Robin Mills, Managing Director of Chartwells, the education sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland said: “This research demonstrates how important employment prospects are for school leavers, students and graduates. We work with many universities to support their students through CV and interview workshops as well as providing work experience and employment opportunities across our wider business.

“As an employer of more than 60,000 people in the UK and Ireland we are passionate about supporting young people to gain meaningful work experience. This is why we continue to invest in important initiatives such as our new graduate programme and why we were keen to work with the NCUB on the commissioning of this research.”