Graduate demand `to keep on rising'

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YOUNG PEOPLE should ignore gloomy predictions about an over- supply of graduates and still go to university, says a government-funded survey.

Degree-holders will take virtually all new jobs created over the next decade, including those traditionally done by those with "sub-degree" level qualifications.

"In the future we won't have fitters mending machines, but graduates with sophisticated programming ability," says the report's author, Neil Blake, director of the research group Business Strategies.

Dr Blake debunks a large body of existing research, which predicts that there will be too many university-leavers chasing too few jobs. "People who can do degrees should not be put off by any shortage of employment. The jobs are still going to be there and they'll be much better jobs than those available to other parts of the population," he says.

To the apparent surprise of the Department for Education and Employment, which funded the research, the supply of graduates will be matched by demand, Dr Blake says.

The report accepts that some of the extra demands for graduates may be prompted by "qualification inflation", where degree-level attainment is not actually required to do the job.

However, Dr Blake emphasised there is a genuine need for more graduates because jobs are becoming increasingly more complex. He cites the example of senior secretaries, most of whom are now involved in far more than just typing and clerical work.

The study, Tomorrow's Graduates, points out that while graduates earned 68 per cent more than those without a qualification in 1979, the latest figures showed they earned 97 per cent more.

Dr Blake asserts that employers would not be paying proportionately more for degree-holders if their expertise was not being used or if there was an "over supply".

Business Strategies forecasts that by 2006, the demand for highly qualified people will have risen to about 7.3 million, up from 5.8 million in 1996.