By Marcus Leach

Graduate starting salaries are predicted to rise this year after an unprecedented period of stagnation, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which today (Thursday) publishes the winter edition of its bi-annual survey.

The average starting salary for a graduate is predicted to increase by 4% to £26,000 this year. It had remained at £25,000 since 2009. Between 2006 and 2008, salaries increased by an average of 2% a year. This predicted rise is the largest since 2005, when starting salaries increased by 7%.

“The predicted increase to graduate salaries is significant and sizeable, particularly given the context of starting salaries remaining stagnant for the past three years. This will no doubt be welcome news to the Government and the higher education sector, but moreover to graduates themselves,” Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the AGR, said.

The survey also shows that the number of graduate vacancies increased last year by 1.7%, whilst this year vacancies are predicted to drop by 1.2%.

“The findings show that the market is predicted to remain relatively stable, which is a relief and should be seen as good news against an uncertain national, European and global economy. With the job market intrinsically linked to business confidence, I am cautiously optimistic for graduate recruitment in 2012 and it is encouraging to see that only a slight drop is predicted,” Gilleard continued.

A number of key issues for graduate recruiters were also explored in the survey, including their attitudes to two year degree programmes. This condenses the academic content of a standard three year degree into two years of study, and has been introduced by several universities this academic year.

Half of AGR recruiters had not heard of two year degree programmes, whilst the ones that had were concerned students will be prevented from developing skills due to heavy workloads.

“Employers predict two year degrees will prove popular with students. However, employers do value graduates that have work experience, and those students that have undertaken a year in industry as part of a four year degree. Consequently, there are genuine concerns surrounding students undertaking two year degrees as they do not have as much time to gain workplace experience,” Gilleard continued.

The survey also explores recruitment marketing activities and found that nearly all recruiters (96%) are planning to use online promotions, such as social media, job boards and company websites, to target students. Despite this, the vast majority (89%) are still planning to visit universities and be on campus.

The AGR is the leading voice of graduate recruiters and developers and its bi-annual survey provides the most extensive and detailed insight into the state of the graduate jobs market. Today’s edition is based on the responses of 214 AGR members in the UK across 20 sectors, which recruited 21,325 graduates in 2011. The research was carried out by education research specialists CFE in November 2011.

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