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Improving graduate prospects – lessons from ‘The Complete University Guide’ top 10 universities

Top 10 universities for ‘Graduate Prospects’ – The 2019 rankings.

  1. St George’s University of London

  2. Imperial College London

  3. University of Cambridge

  4. London School of Economics

  5. University of Birmingham

  6. University of Dundee

  7. University of Bath

  8. University of Oxford

  9. Lancaster University

  10. University of Exeter

What does it take to improve graduate prospects?

We know that three of the key elements to improving graduate prospects are:

  • Support students to develop their employability skills during their studies, to help prepare them compete for graduate jobs.
  • Share our industry links to help students gain meaningful placement experience, and to help graduates connect with graduate employers locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Help universities to provide continuing employability support to graduates throughout their careers, not just during their studies.

We’ve contributed to improved graduate prospects and improved rankings. Looking at top universities for graduate prospects, we can see that their focus and drive is also the basis for their success:

1. St George’s University of London: Consistently leading the way, this is the 4th year that St George’s has been ranked top university for Graduate Prospects.

‘We encourage our students to start thinking about their career options early, and to develop their employability skills during their time at St George’s, both independently and through curriculum-based activities. Our careers service, offered through the University of London, works closely with all of our courses to make sure the best support is given to students at all levels of study. There is also individual support for students throughout their study.’ ( 2018 ‘Boost your career’ [ONLINE] Available here)

In 2017 The times website noted that ‘A new biomedical science curriculum was launched this year to broaden students’ career options and allow them to graduate with degree titles reflecting their chosen specialism.’  ( 2017 ‘St George’s named top for job prospects’ [ONLINE] Available here)

2. Imperial College London: ‘In a competitive employment marketplace, being in possession of an excellent degree is not a guarantor of an excellent job. Companies seek graduates who are employable: those who possess an excellent scientific background, professional skills and personal transferable skills. The degree course in Chemistry provides many opportunities for skills development. Professional skills are incorporated into the many and varied elements of the degree course and acquired alongside and during the study of Chemistry.’ ( 2018 ‘Employability and professional skills’ [ONLINE] Available here)

3. University of Cambridge: ‘The [Careers] Service’s website carries over 5,500 graduate-level vacancies across all employment sectors, from investment banking to a career in academia, from publishing to think tanks. Many of these employers visit Cambridge, attending one of the Service’s 14 careers events held every year. They are keen to meet you, to give you the opportunity to interview them before they interview you.’ ( 2018 ‘Careers Service’ [ONLINE] Available here).

4. London School of Economics: ‘Many of the world’s leading experts can be found at LSE; individuals who are at the forefront of developments in the social sciences. Their expertise is called upon by governments, companies and media around the globe and they share their real-world experience with the School’s students.’

‘[LSE] enjoys an easy interchange of ideas with the external environment – Westminster, the City, the Law Courts and the media are all on the School’s doorstep.’ ( 2018 ‘The London School of Economics & Political Science’ [ONLINE] Available here).

5. University of Birmingham: Earlier this year, Birmingham was ranked second as one of the universities most targeted by top employers in the UK in High Fliers Graduate Market 2018 report.

‘The Alumni Leadership Mentor Programme offers a number of students the opportunity to receive one-to-one mentoring from high profile Birmingham alumni, including former Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson and Green Wing actress Tamsin Greig.’

‘The award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) enables students to gain accreditation in a range of leadership, management and life skills that are essential for the modern workplace.’ ( 2018.’University of Birmingham’ [ONLINE] Available here).

6. University of Dundee: Students at Dundee can continue to use the Careers Service after graduation, including events, careers fairs and support from Careers Advisers. Graduates also have access to the MyCareerPlan which includes resources insights from graduate employers. Their careers service also generously offers some help to graduates from other universities. ( 2018 ‘Welcome to the Careers Service’ [ONLINE] Available here).

7. University of Bath: ‘Our regular contact with employers means we are very aware of the kind of skills and personal attributes graduate recruiters are looking for.  Our position within the University makes us aware of the range of opportunities available to students which can help them develop these skills and attributes. ( 2018 ‘Employability’ [ONLINE] Available here).

8. University of Oxford: ‘We’ve surveyed employers and they tell us that Oxford students are ‘more likely’ or ‘much more likely’ than the average UK student to possess high-level employability skills – such as problem solving, leadership, and communication.

‘All Oxford graduates’ impressive skill-sets are highly sought after by employers, so whatever degree course you study, you will have a very wide choice of careers’.( 2018 ‘Future Prospects’ [ONLINE] Available here).

Subject-specific graduate support is also offered by some departments: ‘The Faculty of Philosophy runs a placement scheme which supports graduate research students pursuing an academic career from their final year until they secure a tenure track or permanent position. The Department of Chemistry runs an annual careers conference for graduate students. Many other departments offer their own tailored advice and guidance.’ ( 2018 ‘Specialist careers support from academic departments’ [ONLINE] Available here).

9. Lancaster University: Among many employability initiatives at Lancaster, students are encouraged to work towards the Lancaster Award which recognises participation in extra-curricular activities, helping them gain experience and develop valuable skills.

Students in their final years of study also have access to the Lancaster mentoring programme, which provides an opportunity to learn from time spent with an industry professional, who can give the student insight into their work and the career path they took to get there.

( 2018. ‘Career Mentoring’ [ONLINE] Available here).

10. University of Exeter: Students are able to access Exeter’s Career Zone team  for up to three years after graduation and students can access international opportunities through their Global Employability Team.

While studying at Exeter, students are encouraged to strive for the Exeter Award, which can be customised to suit a specific career or industry sector. ( 2018 ‘The Exeter Award’ [ONLINE] Available here).

Top 10 universities overall – The 2019 rankings

The top 10 universities overall remain the same as last year, however there’s been a bit of a reshuffle since the 2018 results:

  1. University of Cambridge

  2. University of Oxford

  3. London School of Economics (up from 4th)

  4. Imperial College London (up from 5th)

  5. University of St Andrews (down from 3rd)

  6. Durham University

  7. Loughborough University (up from 10th)

  8. Lancaster University (up from 9th)

  9. University of Warwick (down from 8th)

  10. University College London (down from 7th)

How we can help your graduates

Our particular expertise is providing employability support that complements and enhances your existing careers services. Working closely with your students and graduates, we equip them with the employment skills to gain their chosen graduate role and we also give them the confidence to progress in their careers. Ultimately, we enable your students and graduates to take control of their own future.

For more information about how Exemplas can support your existing employability service, call 01707 398290 or email

Enjoyed this article?

Earlier this month, we looked at how effective employer engagement and placement support contributed to higher rankings in the The Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2018. Read more.