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Disabled graduates' labour market prospects better than assumed, finds AGCAS report

AGCAS has published the latest edition of What Happens Next? A Report on the First Destinations of 2014 Disabled Graduates. The report compares the employment outcomes of disabled and non-disabled university leavers six months after graduation and draws upon the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. This edition of What Happens Next? includes, for the first time, data on postgraduate leavers.

Background to the report

The DLHE includes analysis of data from the 341,760 graduates from first degree, higher degree (taught) and higher degree (research) qualifications who responded to the 2013/14 survey. Of this total number of graduates, 11.3% (38,770) identified themselves as having either a disability or learning difficulty during their period of study. The report not only answers questions about the destinations of disabled graduates, but also offers an insight into how students found out about their jobs, the reasons they had for taking them, and how well they felt their university experience prepared them for employment, further study or self-employment.

What Happens Next? has been produced annually by AGCAS for 14 years. The report provides real evidence on the effect of a disability on a graduate’s prospects in the labour market. It is produced and written by members of the AGCAS Disability Task Group, which exists to help shape the careers and employability support available to disabled students in higher education through resource development, training delivery and sharing of good practice.

While this annual report has unearthed that disabled graduates’ prospects in the labour market are better than assumed prior to the report’s inception, it still remains the case that graduates with disabilities are likely to be less successful in the labour market than their non-disabled peers.

Key findings

At all qualification levels, non-disabled graduates were more likely to be in full-time employment than disabled graduates; disabled graduates were also more likely to be unemployed. However, when figures for first degree graduates were compared with the previous year’s figures, this 'gap' in full-time employment had decreased.

From examining the destinations of graduates with different disabilities at each qualification level, the data reveals that there was an increase in the proportion entering part-time or full-time employment with a postgraduate degree (taught) and, more markedly, postgraduate degree (research).

The proportion of graduates disclosing a disability decreased with level of qualification, despite the fact that only slightly fewer disabled graduates than non-disabled graduates progressed to full or part-time study after their first degree. In fact, there were greater proportions of disabled graduates pursuing second degrees and further study.

When asked how they had heard about the job they were in at the time of the survey, graduates at all qualification levels with a social or Autistic Spectrum Disorder condition were least likely to have come across the vacancy via a source from their university or college. Considering that this group are the most likely to be unemployed, perhaps university and college careers and employability services should reflect on how they can maximise the engagement of graduates from this disability group.

Reaction to the report

Mark Allen, Chair of the AGCAS Disability Task Group, commented:

"It has been interesting to incorporate, for the first time in the history of the report, the destinations of higher degree taught and research qualifications, to be able to compare not just the differences in full-time employment between these groups, but also other variations such as how differing groups at different levels initially found their jobs."

Elaine Boyes, AGCAS Executive Director, said:

"The AGCAS Disability Task Group develops and supports best practice in careers advice and guidance for students with disabilities. This year’s What Happens Next? report builds on the collective knowledge of the AGCAS community and finds that while disabled graduates are doing better than assumed, they are still behind non-disabled graduates in full-time employment. The report also finds that, collectively, we need to develop best practice to encourage maximum engagement of disabled graduates with their careers services."

Overall, the report has revealed an improvement in disabled graduates’ prospects in the labour market, yet there still remains a long way to go. Further improvement has especially been identified for those suffering from social and Autistic Spectrum Disorder conditions.

Download the full report

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© Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services 2017