Over a quarter of graduates from the class of 2007 are not in full-time work, three-and-a-half years after leaving university, new figures have revealed.

Only 72.3 per cent of people who left university in 2007 were employed or self-employed on a full-time basis in November 2010, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA).

Of that year’s graduates, 8.8 per cent were now in part-time or voluntary work, 5.3 per cent were combining work with further study, while 6.5 per cent were devoting their time exclusively to further qualifications.

In the survey of 49,065 university leavers, 3.6 per cent of respondents gave their destination response as “other”, while the outstanding 3.5 per cent of the sample were assumed to be unemployed.

This represented a rise on the respective 2 per cent and 2.6 per cent of graduates who were unemployed more than three years after leaving university in 2003 and 2005, according to previous HESA studies.

The University and College Union (UCU) described the latest survey results and the emerging unemployment trend as “worrying”.

“The jobs market is now even tougher and new students entering a system with the highest public university fees in the world deserve better prospects,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. “The countries investing in graduates and high skills are the ones who will prosper in the long run.”

The research also found that the median salary of graduates from 2007 was £25,000, but suggested there could be an emerging pay gap between men and women.

While 14 per cent of male respondents now in full-time work earned between £30,000 and £34,999, the same was true for only 9.3 per cent of women.

By comparison, 29.4 per cent of women were earning £20,000 to £24,999 three-and-a-half years after graduating, against 15.6 per cent of men.

Eighty-five per cent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their careers to date, and the same number felt their qualification had been “helpful”, “important” or “necessary” to get their current job.