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The average graduate starting salary has climbed by £1,500 to higher than predicted levels, according to the latest report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).University leavers can now expect to earn a median starting salary of £26,500 – up from the £26,000-level forecast by employers in the AGR’s last bi-annual survey.The new rate represents a 6 per cent increase on the three-year salary standstill of £25,000 from 2009 to 2011.
The survey of 215 graduate employers also revealed an average of 73 applications per vacancy in the 2011/12 recruitment season, a fall from the unprecedented high of 83 applications per role in 2010/11.The figures also suggested that graduate vacancies would dip by only 0.6 per cent this year, down from the previous report’s predication of 1.2 per cent. Accountancy continued to be the sector attracting the highest proportion of vacancies – with 17 per cent of all graduate positions - while London had the largest amount of graduate vacancies, with 39 per cent of the total.
A 2:1 degree classification remained the most common selection criteria used by graduate recruiters, the report showed, with 76 per cent using it as minimum entry standard, compared with 73 per cent last year.Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: “It is reassuring to see that employers are investing in graduate talent. The significant rise in starting salaries to £26,500 will be very good news indeed to students, who are bracing themselves to take on higher levels of debt as tuition fees rise to £9,000 from September this year.”He added that organisations which chose to develop engaging graduate schemes would benefit from graduates’ commitment in the long term.“While graduate recruitment and development programmes are part of employers’ long-term strategy, the graduate job market is inextricably linked to business confidence,” Gilleard continued.
“With the continuing uncertainty in the Eurozone, it is encouraging to see that employers are still talent-planning for the future and that the number of graduate vacancies is remaining constant.”Professional services firm Ernst & Young – which recruits around 700 graduates from 12,000 applications each year – said that graduates should “take heart” from the AGR survey findings.“It’s undoubtedly still a very competitive jobs market, but there are opportunities out there,” said Stephen Isherwood, head of graduate recruitment at E&Y. “Our industry needs bright, well-rounded and motivated individuals, regardless of background, so we recruit from over 70 different universities.” Ian Powell, chairman and senior partner at PwC – the UK’s largest graduate recruiter – added: “It is promising to see that the quality of applications is improving and our own experience mirrors this. We have made a conscious decision to start the conversation with students earlier, to support talented students as early as possible. We're helping them understand more about the skills, experience and options they have, and what we're looking for as a business.”
Graduate salaries do cover a broad range and this report is heavily skewed to the larger, London based, graduate scheme recruiters. Taken in a wider context when mixed with other graduate recruiters you will find salaries coming in at less than £26,500. Let’s not forget though that there are plenty of non-financial benefits that companies offer that graduates value.