One in eight graduates starting work last year had a salary of more than Pounds 17,000, according to the latest Graduate Review from the Institute for Employment Studies.
But these high salaries were to be found among the largest recruiters; starting salaries among smaller companies were often significantly less.
Most new graduates in 1995 received starting salaries in the Pounds 13,000-16,000 range, with a median starting salary of Pounds 14,362.
Possession of a degree is, however, no guarantee of a job, and certainly not of the traditional "graduate job".
"For many graduates the initial post-graduation period is marked by job insecurity and 'career turbulence'," says the review.
Six months after completing their course, only 58 per cent of first-degree graduates in 1995 were in full-time employment, the review shows. A further 6 per cent were in other forms of employment, such as part-time or voluntary work, more than one-fifth was undertaking further studies and 9 per cent were unemployed.
A difference in the employment pattern of male and female graduates was once again evident. Women (traditionally more flexible about the jobs they will take) were more likely than men to be in employment or further studies.
Graduates from ethnic minorities were less likely to be in employment and more likely to be unemployed than their white peers.
The institute points out that the recent rapid expansion in higher education has produced a student population that is now older, more varied in background, and more female. (In 1995, for the first time, women constituted just over half of the intake to first-degree courses.) Employers will have to focus their recruitment activities to select the graduates they want from a much more diverse supply, it warns.
Although there is little sign of general shortages, the number of complaints from major recruiters about difficulties with finding suitable graduates has risen for the third year running, says the institute, especially in information technology and finance.
Is a degree still worth having? Helen Connor, an associate fellow of the IES and co-author of the review, said: "A degree does not guarantee a better job, or even any job, but it does give a distinct advantage in the labour market to most people in terms of opening up career opportunities, better earnings, and the lower likelihood of being unemployed, when graduates are compared with non-graduates."
The IES Annual Graduate Review 1996-97, I La Valle, N Jagger, H Connor, S Rawlinson. IES Report 324, 1996. ISBN 1-85184-252-7. Pounds 27.00. Report available from BEBC, PO Box 1496, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset BH12 3YD, tel 01202 715555