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28th April 2022

What the current buoyant job market means for universities

We look into how the demand has changed for postgraduate study now that the job market has picked up

The postgraduate marketplace has seen significant shifts over the last few years. The pandemic brought an influx of new students with numbers increasing by 16% in 20/21 compared to 19/21. With the job market in chaos, students decided to invest in study, retraining and development. While we come out the other side and the graduate job market in particular is buoyant, there is now less urgent need to upskill. Its fair to say that Universities will need to work harder this year to bring in the PG numbers.

It was the older market that saw the greatest growth with those aged 30+ growing by 20%. Growth for 25–29-year-olds was way above trend at 24% in 2020/21. Although the lifelong learning entitlement may keep numbers strong in the future, the surge in interest is very likely to be short-lived.

However, its not all doom and gloom. According to The Student Room, 45% of current undergraduates who were recently surveyed were either ‘quite or very likely’ to consider PG study in the future. This still presents a huge opportunity for providers and especially within their own UG student base. IDP have also reported continuous YoY interest in PG study YoY.

It is worth reinforcing that research does start early. Although research for specific intakes increases dramatically circa 9 months prior to an intake, research tends to start to build from 20 months prior to a September start (IDP). TSR also see significant interest from first and second year students. It is simply a big decision and process that takes time.

According to a recent survey by TSR the top five biggest deterrents to prospective postgraduates are:

  • The cost of tuition fees
  • Being able to cope with the level of study
  • Loss of earnings while studying
  • The delay in entering the workforce
  • Balancing study with work/family


There is also a general lack of understanding around PG study on the whole with 24% in the study saying they felt ‘not at all informed’. This presents a huge education opportunity. Equally there was little understanding around the application process and funding options.

In terms of subject demand, not all regions in the UK attract the same audience. For example, IDP have seen drops in Nursing interest (-9.3%) in London whereas the rest of the UK is up 6.8%. Teaching is down 13% UK wise yet up over 4% in London. The main subjects to see interest growth YoY across all areas are Computer Science, Art Studies, and Health Care Management/Health Studies. With growth at UG level as well as PG in Computer Sciences and Art studies, we can expect this growth to be sustained over the coming years. Psychology at PG level remains the single largest subdiscipline but has seen the largest decline YoY. Recruitment this year is likely to be more challenging for providers.

Key take outs for universities:

  • Target own students as well as UGs and career changers
  • Engage early. Interest starts early.
  • Emphasise ROI. Finances play a major role in decision making and are a huge barrier to entry.
  • Offer extensive advice and info on funding and the application process.
  • Link up with employers, build connections, and job opportunities for PG prospects
  • Keep communicating!


Source: HESA

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