Students who recently graduated from a master programme have less difficulty finding a job than two years ago. Nevertheless, 18 months after graduation, seven percent of young academics are still unemployed, according to the new employment market survey published by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). Two years ago, ten percent of the academics were still looking for paid work 18 months after graduation.

Many new job seekers do have difficulty finding employment at their academic level. Unemployment figures are lowest for academics with Technical degrees (some 3 percent), and highest for graduates from Language & Culture programmes (14 percent). There has been a particularly sharp drop in unemployment among legal specialists – from 15 percent to less than 10 percent.

69 Percent employed at the academic level

These figures touch on a sensitive issue, since for many years the low unemployment rates among academics formed one of the arguments for abolishing the basic student grant. Highly-educated graduates were more or less assured of a job, argued the proponents, meaning it would be easy for them to repay their student loans.

The report shows that of all recent graduates, 69 percent find a job at their academic level – a 3-percent increase compared to two years ago. Moreover, 21 percent works at an hbo (higher professional education) level. One in ten works at mbo (senior secondary vocational education) level or was unable to answer the researchers’ question.

Not impressed by preparation for job market

The beginning of this year saw some commotion regarding young academics’ prospects on the employment market: the information included in the study guides turned out to be incorrect. University graduates found it harder to land a job at their level than had been suggested by the guides. The situation was particularly disheartening for Psychology graduates: they often had to content themselves with unpaid internships and ‘work experience placements’.

The universities do not intend to ignore this point completely in the report. They emphasise that only 70 people (0.8% of all respondents) indicate that they are currently doing a work experience placement, internship or volunteer work. “Although this concerns a limited number of respondents, it is striking that the majority are graduates of Educational Theory, Psychology and Sociology programmes,” notes the report.

Apart from this, the report does not have that much to say about these three programmes, although it does make a salient point about the ‘Behaviour & Society’ domain in general. It turns out that graduates in this domain are far from enthusiastic about how the programme prepares them for the employment market: nearly one in four of them believe the programme does little to nothing to prepare them for finding a job. The only group that paints an even gloomier picture is the Language & Culture contingent.

Researchers contacted close to 38,000 recent graduates of master programmes last year for this survey. More than one-fifth of the alumni participated, i.e. over 8,000 recently-graduated academics.