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Jobs & Careers

Best UK universities for graduate employment

Some unlikely candidates have snatched the top spots for the best graduate employment rates this year – is your university among them?

oxford university with graduate caps

Credit (background): ryanking999 – Depositphotos

As great as university can be, we all reach the stage where we keep getting asked the same question: what are you doing next?

In fact, thinking about the future will probably be a huge part of your whole university experience, and will likely affect which universities you apply for. While factors like location, university facilities and course content can obviously sway your decision, career prospects play a major part in where prospective students send their applications.

Although the main university league tables offer very few surprises, with Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities usually bagging the top spots, this table brings a refreshing new perspective.

Thinking about life after uni? Check out the list of the highest paid graduate jobs.

Which universities have the best graduate employment rates?

UniversityGraduate employment rate
Leeds Beckett University93.6%
Robert Gordon University93.2%
University of Huddersfield93%
King's College London86.4%
University of Leeds84%
Cardiff University83.7%
University of Liverpool83.7%
Northumbria University81.7%
University of Aberdeen81.4%
University of Glasgow80.1%
Oxford Brookes University79.6%
University of Reading77.3%
University of Portsmouth77.2%
Queen's University Belfast77.2%
The University of Sheffield76.1%
University of Southampton76.1%
Lancaster University75.6%
University of Dundee75.6%
University of St Andrews74.9%
Loughborough University74.4%
University of Nottingham72.4%
University of Cambridge72.4%
University of Bath68.4%
University of Leicester68.4%
University of Oxford68.4%
Heriot-Watt University67%
University of Hull66.4%
University College London (UCL)65.4%

As part of its Graduate Employability Rankings, QS publishes data revealing how likely graduates from each university are to find a job within 12 months of completing their degree.

In 2020 it's a pretty close run thing between the top three, with all three sending at least 93% of their graduates into employment within a year of saying their farewells. Leeds Beckett University (93.6%) takes the gold medal this year, just pipping Robert Gordon University (93.2%) and the University of Huddersfield (93%) to the top spot.

King's College London and the University of Leeds round off the top five, scoring 86.4% and 84% respectively.

Although there was only data available for 28 UK universities, it's still somewhat surprising that both Oxford (68.4%) and Cambridge (72.4%) are towards the lower end of the table.

More surprising still is that the prestigious University College London (UCL) is rock bottom of the universities featured, with just 65.4% of its graduates securing employment within a year of leaving uni.

Some notable names are missing from the table altogether, including the likes of Durham, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics (LSE).

This shows that, while overall league tables are still useful, it is important to look at different perspectives and think about what is most important to you when choosing a university.

How to prepare for life as a graduate

graduates throwing hats into air

There is no one set recipe for preparing to graduate. It's a change and a new challenge, but one that doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems.

Perhaps the most important advice to remember is not to compare yourself to others. Just because your friend has a job lined up and you don’t, don’t think any less of yourself. Wish them well, then focus on you.

There are some practical steps you can take too, such as opening a graduate bank account and starting to save your pennies wherever possible. Even if you don’t have a specific plan, who knows when you'll need that extra dollar.

If you're wanting to start the job search you could start researching what graduate schemes are on offer and get used to what job applications might require you to do.

Above all else, make sure you don’t sacrifice your studies in place of dreaming about the future. Planning graduate life can always wait until you’ve done your exams!

What are the alternatives to graduate schemes?

the apprentice alan sugar and aides

Credit: BBC

It is easy to think graduate schemes are the only choice for you when you have finished university.

Now, don't get us wrong – graduates schemes are great. They usually offer anything between one and three years of work in your chosen industry alongside other graduates, often with the chance to try out different roles, learn, and sometimes get professional qualifications while you work.

However, they're not for everyone. Sometimes the type of job you want to do doesn't really have a graduate scheme option, which is fine because there are plenty of other possibilities.

You might decide to do further study, like a master's, to hone more specific skills before moving into a job. If you want to pursue something vocational, you'll likely have to train for it before you can start making money.

Alternatively, you could apply straight for entry-level jobs. These can vary widely, with some offering comprehensive training (just as a graduate scheme does), while others could be more hands-on.

Sometimes graduates decide to travel or work abroad to strengthen their employability prospects, especially if this gives them the chance to learn a new language.

Or what about setting up your own business? If you have a passion to be your own boss, why not begin now? You can always work part-time while you’re getting started!

Essentially, the point is this: there isn't a right or a wrong way to approach life after uni – so don't panic if you don't fancy the routes all your friends have taken!

Check out the average graduate salary for your degree!


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