“Misleading” statistics are disguising the poor job prospects facing graduates, a vocational education charity claims.
In a new report published to coincide with A-level results day, the Edge Foundation accuses HE bodies of manipulating figures to make it seem graduates have a better chance of finding work.
It says that according to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), around two thirds (68 per cent) of working graduates had a "professional" job six months after graduating in 2014.
However, Edge claims the true figure is closer to 40 per cent - and that graduates in some disciplines fare even worse.
Edge’s acting chief executive David Harbourne said Hesa statistics include a range of non-graduate jobs in their definition of professional occupations, including dispensing opticians, police constables, estate agents and fitness instructors.
He said this “flies in the face” of Office for National Statistics (ONS) occupational classifications, which says associate professional and technical occupations can be done by people with vocational qualifications.
“For a long time vast numbers of graduates have found it hard to find a graduate-level job,” Mr Harbourne told TES.
“So many of the professional occupations listed by Hesa can be accessed by people without degrees, who have vocational qualifications or who have worked their way up via an apprenticeship.
“The chances of getting a graduate job are far worse than official statistics make it seem.”
Mr Harbourne said going to university at 18 no longer offered a fast track to employment, and other paths, such as apprenticeships, might be better.
“We need much better and more transparent information,” he added. “We can’t continue with misleading information from Hesa.”
A Hesa spokesman said employment leaver data, from the Destinations of Leavers from HE (DLHE) survey, classified jobs according to the ONS standard occupational classification.
This is grouped into nine high level codes, and Hesa defines the top three as professional.
The spokesman said: “Hesa does not attempt to define ‘graduate jobs’ and does not suggest that all occupations in the ‘professional’ category require degree level qualifications, although many clearly do.
“In the latest DLHE survey 66 per cent of employed graduates stated that their degree was either a formal requirement or gave them an advantage obtaining their current job.”