Project 2.3

The heterogeneity of the graduate labour market in UK and Europe

The aim of this project is to investigate how graduate jobs and the underemployment of college graduates are distributed across countries, and to study recent trends in the dispersion of returns to higher education.

Project team


Recent decades have witnessed a massification of higher education, with participation increasing in almost all countries throughout all regions of the world. Labour forces have never been better trained and the trend towards higher average levels of education is not going to abate.

Even if participation were to remain stable, an unlikely scenario, the stock of graduates in the labour force would rise as the inflow of young, highly-educated workers replace less-educated retiring workers. The juxtaposition of this growing supply with an uncertain future for high-skills demand in the labour market forms the backdrop for this project.

This project will study the deployment of college graduates in employment, the distribution of graduate jobs, and returns to graduation in the UK and across European countries. In particular, the project will focus on the dispersion of returns among different groups, and how this dispersion is changing over time, following the widespread rapid growth of participation in higher education. While the focus is international, the position of the UK will be compared with similar countries.

Conventional econometric methods will be used to analyse secondary data from national and international sources. The data will at a minimum cover education achievement, earned income or occupation, and basic demographic details, and will span several years so that changes can be established.

The study is motivated and framed by an institutional economics approach drawing both on educational economics and labour economics literatures, but also on sociological perspectives on education and society. We will interpret findings using a political-economic perspective.