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A fifth not happy with degrees: study

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/07/2016

A university degree might give graduates a leg up in the job market, but it's no golden ticket, a new study has found.

A look at the lives of about 6000 tertiary students across the country two-and-a-half years on from graduation has revealed those with degrees had good rates of employment, were getting paid about the national median income for their experience and were generally satisfied with their lives.

But while that might be good for some, the study from the University of Otago's National Centre for Lifecourse Research also found more than a fifth of graduates (21 per cent) didn't believe getting their degree had been worth it.

What's more, 34 per cent said they had been jobless at some point since finishing their study, with the average length of unemployment being six months.

And while unemployment among grads was only 2.7 per cent in total, compared to the national rate of 5.7 per cent in 2014, it's worth noting that - counting those studying again, travelling, raising kids or international students who had returned home - only 81 per cent were currently working in New Zealand.

Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said it was believed the study was the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

"Not only does it look at their careers and employment, which are important measures of success, but it also takes a more holistic look at their lifestyle, development, health and well-being," he said.

Mr Whelan said based on those criteria, the results confirmed the value of a university education.

"The data show that graduates are good citizens who make a tangible contribution to New Zealand economically. The vast majority are employed, pay taxes, are repaying their loans, and are healthy," he said.

The research, which was run independently but initiated by the country's eight universities, also found 89 per cent of grads were generally healthy, voted more often than those without degrees and had average students loans of between $10,000 and $15,000.

It looked at the lives of graduates from the class of 2011 - who did a baseline survey then - in 2014 through 600 questions.

The study will now be conducted at least twice to track the lives of the students up to a decade after graduation.

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