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Myths and realities of the labour market outcomes of university graduates

AQU Catalunya

In 2001 AQU Catalunya and the seven public universities in Catalonia (University of Barcelona, Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), Pompeu Fabra University, University of Girona, University of Lleida and Rovira i Virgili University) carried out the first joint survey on the labour market outcomes of university graduates. This project, which for the first time took in all of the public universities in Catalonia, brought into line the different graduate labour market outcomes that were already being carried out.

Given the importance of the data provided by the first survey, the decision was made to carry out a survey once every three years (2005 and 2008) in order to produce records that could be used to analyse the ongoing trends and developments in the labour market and employment outcomes of university graduates. In the last survey, the University of Vic and the Catalan Open University (UOC) were also included. The social councils of the universities have played an important role in funding the surveys.

With more than 35,000 records, Catalonia has one of the largest databases in Europe, which is of enormous interest for Catalan society.

The main results from the 2008 survey are as follows:

  • The university is not a factory of the unemployed: 9 out of 10 university graduates were in employment at the time of the survey.
  • Entry into the labour market takes place quickly: 7 out of 10 graduates find a job within three months, and 9 out of 10 within a year.
  • There is a good education-job match: 8 out of 10 graduates have qualified jobs.
  • Problem solving, teamwork and decision-making are the most highly assessed competences/skills.
  • 7 out of 10 graduates would take the same degree again.

The most recent studies

AQU Catalunya has had several studies carried out that have been based on the results of the various surveys. As a result, considerable knowledge has been acquired over the last ten years that breaks with certain socially established myths. Two of the most recent studies that have been presented are:

PDF document Catalan universities as a factor of equity and professional mobility. An analysis of the relationship between family status, academic background and professional employment in 2008 of graduates who completed their studies at Catalan universities in 2004, by Jordi Planas and Sandra Fachelli, Education and Employment Research Group (GRET), Department of Sociology, Autonomous University of Barcelona

From the results of this study it can be concluded that Catalan universities fulfil a role of social advancement, which is contrary to the belief that the universities tend to reproduce the differences stemming from young people’s social origins.

The main findings from this research are that 6 out of 10 graduates are female, 7 out of 10 graduates are children of people with no university studies, and that the children of university graduates have more than twice the possibility of going to on to university themselves.

In relation to social mobility, from a comparison between the occupation of the parents and their children, within just three years of having entered the labour market over 50% of the children occupied a higher position than that of their parents. With regard to equity, the study concludes that family origin does not affect a graduate’s academic performance and it has a low level influence on job quality.

Table 1. Job duties of graduates in relation to those of their parents

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Lastly, it was established that half of all graduates in Catalonia from universities outside the Barcelona metropolitan area had parents who either only had primary level studies or did not complete their studies. These universities have played a key role in the social democratisation of study at university.

PDF document The match between university education and graduate labour market outcomes (education-job match). An analysis of three graduate cohorts in Catalonia, by Enric Corominas Rovira, Carme Saurina Canals and Esperança Villar Hoz, University of Girona

The study shows that the match between public university education and graduate jobs (education-job match) in Catalonia improved from 1998 to 2004. Whereas only 6 out of 10 graduates were in employment in 1998, by 2004 this figure had increased to almost 9 out of 10. One of the explanations for this figure is that university graduates who entered the labour market in 2004 did so at a peak time in the economic cycle.

Table 2. The education-job match of public university graduates in Catalonia

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This study also shows that 7 out of 10 graduates continued to study after completing their undergraduate degrees and that 1 out of 10 graduates (including engineering graduates) went on to take a doctorate degree.

Through the application of the job quality index, the study concludes that the variable that most conditions graduate job quality is the degree programme studied, and that graduates who continued their university education had better employment outcomes in relation to those who did not.


Generalitat de Catalunya

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© 2010 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008