September 2008

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85% of all employed graduates have university-level functions

Editorial staff - AQU Catalunya

Since 2001, AQU Catalunya has been coordinating labour insertion studies every three years for the social councils of the Catalan public universities in order to obtain data and references on the quality of the labour insertion of the Catalan university system's graduates.

In June 2008 AQU Catalunya made public the results of the third edition of these studies on employability, adequacy of university studies to employment, annual earnings and satisfaction with the degree courses completed, highlighting the fact that university studies are an investment in the future and an assurance of labour insertion. Interestingly, the results contradict some of the information appearing in the press.

The following universities participated in the third edition of the labour insertion study: University of Barcelona (UB), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), University of Girona (UdG), University of Lleida (UdL), Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and University of Vic (UVic). The reference population was formed by 23,023 graduates of the class of 2003-2004 (except in the case of the degree course in Medicine, which comprised the graduates of the class of 2000-2001). The sample obtained is of 12,258 respondents, calculated in order to account for a sampling error per degree course and university of no higher than 8%.

82.5% of the employed graduates required a university degree to obtain their jobs

Two aspects were analysed in reaching this conclusion:

  • whether graduates needed their specific degrees, any university degree or no university degree in order to obtain their present jobs
  • whether graduates carry out functions in accordance with the respective degree requirements (functions of the specific degree or university-level functions) in their present jobs, regardless of the requirements to obtain such jobs.

The combination of these two variables has allowed the detection of situations of maximum adequacy (specific degree and functions proper to the degree) and of maximum inadequacy (no degree was demanded and neither is any degree necessary to carry out the present job), as well as intermediate situations.

On this basis, the study evidences the fact that 83% of the graduates employed three years after obtaining their degree were required to hold a university degree (specific or non-specific) for their present job, a figure which is 8 points higher than three years ago. Of this total, 63% are in a situation of maximum adequacy: the graduates were required to hold a specific degree and they carry out functions proper to their degree. This figure is also more positive than in 2005, when it was 59%. Consequently, it may be affirmed that, in our economic context, a degree is a key factor for labour insertion. Of the remaining 17% of employed graduates, 6% carry out university-level functions, even though a degree was not required to obtain their jobs. Lastly, in overall terms, the survey shows that 85% of the graduates carry out university-level functions,1 regardless of whether or not a university degree was required to obtain their present jobs.

By areas, the situation of maximum adequacy ranges from 86% in Health Sciences to 42% in Humanities. Inversely, the situation of maximum inadequacy ranges from 25% in Humanities to 3% in Health Sciences. The high adequacy in Health Sciences is due, to a large extent, to the existence of normative frameworks which regulate the access to jobs. The following chart shows the evolution of overall adequacy:


On a scale of 1 to 7, the employed graduates rated their general satisfaction with their present jobs with a score of 5.47. Likewise, with respect to the various aspects of their jobs, the graduates considered their job content to be the most satisfactory aspect and the usefulness of their knowledge to be the least satisfactory.

93.5% of all graduates hold a job three years after completing their studies

The employment rate is 3 points higher than in 2005 and 2001. Consequently, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed graduates have decreased.

Just as was observed in previous editions of the labour insertion study, the overall results show some differences according to the typology of the university studies concerned. It may thus be seen that Health Sciences and the Technical Area are the two areas of study with the highest employment rates (95%), while Humanities is the area with the lowest rate (89%). Inversely, unemployment is highest for Humanities (6%) and lowest for the Technical Area and Health Sciences (2%). Inactivity, that is to say, the situation of persons who are not looking for work, is highest in Experimental Sciences (7%) and lowest in the Technical Area and Health Sciences (3%).

It should be pointed out that 65% of the inactive graduates find themselves in this situation because they are continuing their studies (82% in the case of Experimental Sciences).

Contracting in the public sector has increased during the last three years. In accordance with this, while 29.4% of the graduates were working in the public sector in 2005, this figure reached 35.6% in the year 2008. In the last decade, public contracting has increased 71%. With respect to the figures for 2005, the only two sectors of economic activity in which the respective figures have increased significantly are education and health.

With respect to employment stability, almost 60% the university graduates have a permanent employment contract. The contractual situation is more stable for the graduates who work full-time (88% of those with employment), with 64% holding permanent employment and 29% holding temporary jobs, while 36% of the graduates who work part-time have permanent contracts and 52% have temporary contracts.

Another aspect which is taken into consideration on analysing labour insertion is the process of finding a job. 76% of the graduates find their first job three months or less after graduating. Consequently, although only 24% take more than three months, it should be noted that this figure has risen slightly over the course of the three studies (from 19% in the study of 2001 and 22.5% in that of 2005). It would appear, therefore, that the time taken for the graduates to find their first job has undergone a minor increase. The primary insertion pathway continues to be personal contacts (34%), but the Internet, for its part, has now become a consolidated insertion pathway (13%).

Only 17% of the employed graduates earn less than €15,000a year in their first jobs

Because the type of working day has a clear effect on annual income, the analysis of wages has focused on the 88% of employed graduates who, three years after completing their studies, work full time. Of this total, 40% earn over €24,000 per annum, whereas only 17% earn less than €15,000.

The study associates directly the phenomenon of "1,000-euroism" (the earning of wages of 1,000 euros a month) with part-time employment. Indeed, 66% of the workers with part-time jobs have wages of this type.

Gross monthly earnings for full-time and part-time jobs

  Part-time jobs Full-time jobs No. of graduates
Up to 1,000 euros 64.6% 16.8% 2,465
Up to 2,000 euros 25.9% 44.6% 4,684
Over 2,000 euros 9.5% 38.6% 3,878
Total 100% 100% 11,027

74% of the graduates would study the same degree course

The graduates value positively their university studies. There are five degree courses which over 90% of the surveyed graduates would study again if they had the choice: Odontology, Medicine, Preschool Teacher, Physical Education Teacher and Special Education Teacher.

Graduates consider that the five most necessary skills to be unfolded at work are problem-solving, teamwork, decision-making, critical thinking and computing, while the five skills in which the graduates show the greatest shortcomings in the performance of their work are languages, computing, decision-making, problem-solving and leadership.

61% of the university graduates are women

Men and women are distributed differently by degree areas. Accordingly, only 10% of the female graduates studied degree courses in the Technical Area as opposed to 43% of the male graduates. Bearing in mind that the Technical Area shows the highest labour insertion, it would be appropriate to apply gender equality policies long before the start of university studies, strengthening orientation actions at such points as the choice of educational pathways in Compulsory Secondary Education or Upper Secondary Education, the choice of university studies, etc.

There are no gender differences with respect to the graduates' labour situation but such differences have been observed in relation to gross annual earnings and employment stability, in both cases in favour of male graduates.


Related information:

1 This percentage includes the following categories: the graduates who were required to hold a specific degree, those who were required to hold any university degree and who carry out university-level functions, and those who were not required to hold a degree in order to obtain their jobs but who nevertheless carry out university-level functions.


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