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Graduates: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL1184, tabled on 16 June 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the Office for National Statistics Graduates Report Graduates’ labour market outcomes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: occupational switches and skill mismatch, published on 8 March; and what assessment have they made of the finding that over 25 per cent of employed graduates are employed in unskilled or low-skilled roles.

Answered on

29 June 2021

The government understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on students graduating this year, and we recognise that some graduates may face particular challenges gaining employment because of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the UK labour market and economy. Students have responded to the pandemic with formidable resilience and motivation, demonstrating a clear ability to adapt and to learn at pace at a challenging time.

As part of the government’s Skills Recovery Package Plan for Jobs, we are investing an additional £32 million in the National Careers Service up to March 2022. This investment will support delivery of individual careers advice for over 500,000 people whose jobs or learning have been affected by the pandemic (by the end of the 2021/22 financial year). This represents an increase of 22%.

Recent findings from the Office for National Statistics’ Graduates Report has highlighted that there is a higher proportion of graduates who have switched occupation as a result of the pandemic. We have worked with a range of institutions across the higher education sector to understand what more we can do to support graduates who are looking to enter the labour market at this challenging time. We have also worked closely with the Quality Assurance Agency, professional bodies, and the Office for Students to ensure students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work, and allow them to progress in life.

To provide additional support, we have developed the ‘Graduate employment and skills guide’, aimed at students who are about to graduate, which was published on 10 May on the Office for Students’ website. The guide directs graduates to public, private, and voluntary sector opportunities to help them build employability skills, gain work experience, or enter the labour market, as well as providing links to further study options and resources on graduate mental health and wellbeing.

We have also worked with Universities UK to develop a Sector Statement of Support, which was published on 10 May 2021 on Universities UK’s website. The statement outlines what higher education providers and the government are doing to support graduates and encourages graduates to take advantage of the support and resources available.

We have also engaged with higher education providers to produce a collection of graduate employability case studies. Published on the provider-facing pages of the Office for Students’ website, these case studies showcase the breadth of innovative work and range of new measures that university and college careers services have introduced to support final-year students and recent graduates as they transition from university to graduate life.

Where securing work is challenging, graduates may be able to access financial support. Graduates can apply for Universal Credit immediately after finishing a degree, and they can check their eligibility at

The government wants every student to know that, when they undertake a higher education course, they can be confident that it has a strong chance of improving their life outcomes. A key element to assessing the quality of higher education courses is ensuring that graduates are achieving outcomes consistent with the higher education courses that they have completed. Our landmark Skills and Post-16 Education Bill makes clear the power of the Office for Students to enforce minimum expectations of student outcomes for universities, helping them to tackle low-quality provision and drive up standards. This is central to the approach taken by the Office for Students, which is currently consulting on setting minimum numerical baselines that providers will be expected to reach. We welcome that consultation and we expect it to lead to results.