As the deadline for completed Central Applications Office forms is reached today, new Higher Education Authority (HEA) data shows that over half of Irish graduates had taken up jobs within nine months of leaving college.
Of the record total of 46,158 students who received awards (degrees, certificates and other academic qualifications) in 2003 (up 10pc on the previous year), 54pc were in employment in Ireland or overseas six to nine months after graduation. This is a 3pc rise on the previous year.
The breakdown was 49pc employed in Ireland (up 4pc on 2002) and 5pc overseas (down 1pc), according to the HEA’s preliminary findings on the first destination of award recipients.
The findings also show that the numbers seeking employment in April 2004 (six to nine months after graduation) rose overall by 1pc to 4pc compared to 2002. The data for primary degree holders show a fall of 1pc to 3pc.
According to a spokesperson for the HEA, the “vast majority” of those who did not enter the workforce or who were actively looking for work — 42pc of the total — became engaged in further study.
Commenting on the results, HEA chief executive Tom Boland said,
“This impressive performance strongly endorses the importance of a higher-education qualification in enhancing employment prospects. The continued growth in participation in Irish higher education is important for the individuals concerned, who are assisted to realise their potential and have an enhanced quality of life. The skills and knowledge of our citizens are also our most enduing source of competitive economic advantage internationally and this continued rise in graduation levels is a vital contribution to that advantage.”
He added: “The results though positive, give no grounds for complacency. Ireland still ranks at only average levels in OECD terms for graduation rates and poorly in terms of post-graduate graduation – well below those key ‘knowledge economies’ that are our direct competitors. Studies have shown that Ireland faces a deficit of some 100,000 in higher education graduates into the next decade,” Boland said.
He also pointed to the fact that HEA research has identified continuing strong demand for participation in higher education.
“We have the demand for graduates and we have the people. It is imperative that we put in place the necessary infrastructure to support them, if we are not to deny some of our own citizens access to the benefits of our economic success.”
The full report on First Destination of Award Recipients in Higher Education 2003 is being finalised by the HEA and will be published in the coming weeks.
By Brian Skelly