Tough competition for graduate jobs means that more than three quarters of employers require at least a 2:1 degree grade, a survey suggests.
The Association of Graduate Recruiters says there are more graduates chasing fewer jobs – with vacancies down by 7%.
Applications have soared, with an average of 69 people chasing each graduate job.
In response, 78% of employers are now filtering out applicants who have not achieved a 2:1 degree.
About two thirds of students achieve either a first class degree or a 2:1 – so this means the remaining third, who will still have passed their exams and paid their tuition fees, will not even be considered by these employers.
“While this approach does aid the sifting process it can rule out promising candidates with the right work skills unnecessarily,” says the AGR’s chief executive, Carl Gilleard.
“We are encouraging our members to look beyond the degree classification when narrowing down the field of candidates to manageable proportions.”
The AGR survey suggests that opportunities for university leavers are getting worse. The current average of 69 applicants for a job contrasts with only 28 in 2006.
But last week, another survey of the graduate jobs market, from High Fliers, found a mixed picture – with a resurgence in vacancies in banking and finance and a decline in vacancies in the public sector.
At the weekend, research from the Higher Education Policy Institute showed that graduate unemployment had risen from 11.1% to 14% – but that it was male graduates in particular who were failing to find jobs.
And the stiff competition for young people starts long before embarking on a degree course, with the high number of sixth formers achieving high grades making the fight for a university place even tougher.
Research commissioned by ACS International Schools suggests university admissions officers are struggling to identify the best students because of “inflated” A-level grades.
The survey of 40 UK admissions officers and 20 from the United States found 53% thought “grade inflation” made spotting the best candidates harder.
Last year, more than one in four A-level exam entries (26.7%) were awarded an A grade.
Concerns about a tough jobs market for graduates comes as a review considers whether universities should be allowed to charge higher tuition fees.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, warned that spending cuts could cause even greater difficulties for university leavers.
“We are concerned that the savage cuts to the public sector will create further unemployment, and will make the lives of graduates tougher in an already difficult jobs market,” he said.
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Skills, said: “The job market remains challenging for new graduates, as it does for others. But a degree is still a good investment in the long term, and graduates have a key role to play in helping Britain out of the recession.”
Government cuts and proposed higher fees for resident students means that Universities will need more non-EU (Tier 4) students to survive.
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