A new study by the Bridge Group has found that unpaid internships, geographical immobility and a lack of investment in Careers Services are driving the gap in earnings between students from higher and lower-income families.
The report has been written by the Bridge Group on behalf of the UPP Foundation, and is informed by interviews with careers service professionals, a literature review, and builds on previous Bridge Group research. It includes several recommendations for careers services and employers to support students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Shining a light on the factors likely fuelling the gap in graduate outcomes, the study finds a marked link between a student’s participation in extra-curricular activities such as unpaid internships and work experience, and their earning power after graduating. Calling for a four-week legal limit on unpaid internships, the study finds that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds participate less in activities that have ‘high-currency’ amongst employers.
A student’s understanding of ‘career-readiness’ before entering higher education is also shown to have an impact on earning power, with careers education in England described as a ‘post-code lottery’. The research finds that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to move away from home to study and, if they do, are more likely to return to their home region upon graduating – and much less likely to move to London, where many of the most competitive graduate jobs are to be found.
Also compounding the issue, according to the research, is a lack of institutional investment in careers services by universities. The study finds that despite some excellent practice happening in the sector, scale and reach are problematic at many institutions. Calling for a dedicated member of academic staff in each department to partner with careers professionals, the research recommends greater emphasis on careers education and management more widely.
You can read the full report on the Bridge Group's website.