Jamie Roberts


Here in the UK, we are twelve months beyond the first recorded case of Covid-19. Its spread has left national economies suffering the consequences as the UK struggles with on-going lockdowns.

Many people have lost their jobs or seen incomes cut. The most recent unemployment rate – for September to November- in the UK was reported at 5%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Research conducted by the Centre for Micro Social Change (MiSoC) based at the University of Essex would suggest that the number of graduate-level vacancies was at 77% of the 2019 average, demonstrating a significant impact on recent graduates. In May 2020 a survey of 179 student employers suggests that 40% fewer internships and placements were going to be available to those currently enrolled in Higher Education.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the job market and it will only exasperate existing differences in the unemployment gap between ethnicity, socio-economic status and subject groups.

However, there is some good news among Social Science graduates, and to those specifically working towards a Politics degree. The Graduate Employability agenda is increasing in its importance. But we cannot forget that universities have a pivotal role to play in equipping their students with the skills and knowledge to contribute positively to the wider world beyond their economic productivity.

The annual What do graduates do? report has been published, the first edition to use the new Graduate Outcomes data which examines graduate destinations after 15-months rather than the traditional six.

The report suggests that 55.5% of graduates are in full-time employment with another 7.2% working part-time and 11.6% going on to further study. Of the Social Sciences, Politics sits second-highest for those employed in professional-level jobs (74.8%). Arguably, most important was the outcome that 81.7% of social science graduates agreed or strongly agreed that their current activity was 'meaningful' – higher than graduates from humanities, engineering, or maths.

Further study is still a popular route amongst all social science graduates and with the current job market, this is likely to continue. Again, there is good news for Politics graduates. Of those who went into full-time work, Politics graduates saw the highest average salaries of social science graduates – also above the average for across all subject areas.

As emphasised by the British Academy’s Qualified for the Future Report Social Science graduates are highly employable. Of the ten fastest-growing sectors, in the UK economy, eight employ more Arts, Humanities and Social Science graduates than other disciplines.

Politics is a subject that gives graduates the tools to understand how society functions, how to critically analyse the past and tackle the challenges we currently face. Politics is a subject that teaches communication skills, qualitative and quantitative research skills, independence, and critical thinking.

As our discipline grows, we need to ensure we celebrate what makes our subject different welcoming evidence that demonstrates how well students can do in terms of their prospects.

Jamie Roberts is the PSA's Membership and Programmes Manager responsible for our Early Career, Teaching and Learning, Undergraduate and Schools programmes of work. If you have any questions on this article or feedback on these areas of work feel free to contact her via jamie.roberts@psa.ac.uk