High-flyers look for more than money

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The Independent Online
The BBC and British Airways are the most popular employers with high-flying students, according to a major survey published today.

The United Nations and Marks & Spencer come next, while the National Health Service, the Civil Service and the European Commission also make the top 10.

Self-employment is the third most popular category. Despite the recession, some students are still in search of the unconventional and adventurous. The Mafia, the Vatican, the Masons, Playboy, the Sultan of Brunei and the Baptist Mission in Haiti all feature in their career plans alongside the more traditional student ambition of joining M15.

However, three-quarters of students do not intend to start a graduate job at all after completing their course. They want to travel, to do voluntary or temporary work or to take postgraduate courses. Ten per cent have no plans at all.

The research into the views of more than 10,000 final-year students at 24 universities was carried out by High Fliers Research, with the support of the Association of Graduate Recruiters and was sponsored by the Independent. It shows that many students are over-optimistic about the salaries they will earn. On average they expect to earn pounds 14,200 for their first job and pounds 26,100 after five years.

Those at Oxbridge are aiming even higher. They expect a starting salary of pounds 16,000 rising to pounds 29,000 after five years, while students at Liverpool and Belfast expect Initial salaries of only pounds 11,000 to pounds 12,000.

Martin Birchall, the survey's director, said that students all seemed to assume they would get the sorts of salaries only the minority who went into, say, top City banks, would achieve. "There you might start on pounds 20,000 and rise to pounds 40,000 in five years, but in many jobs a rise of 17 per cent each year would seem outrageous."

The average graduate starting salary is between pounds 14,000 and pounds 15,000.

Mr Birchall said the 24 universities had been chosen because they were those employers rated most highly for the production of high-calibre generalists. No former polytechnics are included and only a handful of newer universities.

However, employers also target students on individual courses at other universities.

One-third of students leave university without work experience, the survey shows.

Mr Birchall said: "A lot of the more traditional universities are still saying it is more important to get a 2:1 or a first. But employers are now looking for work experience. Academic achievement is no longer enough."

Aston and Surrey had the highest proportion of finalists with work experience and Liverpool, Leeds and St Andrews the lowest.

Mr Birchall said the students who secured the best jobs started looking early. "If you want to get on a management development programme and be accelerated you need to start early, organising work experience and using the careers service."

The survey found only a low level of interest in job- hunting among final-year graduates. Only about 40 per cent put in one or more job applications during their final year and the 10 per cent with no definite plans were just three months away from graduation when they were interviewed.

Favoured employers

The top ten, according to degree students


2 British Airways

3 Self-employment

4 United Nations

5 Marks & Spencer


7 Proctor & Gamble

8 National Health Service

9 Civil Service

10 European Union