Of the 45,000 students who left higher education in 2010-11, 55.6 per cent secured full-time work in the UK, figures from the Scottish Government show – a 2.2 per cent rise on 2009-10.
Overall, 88.5 per cent of graduates went into further study or some form of employment, while 5.9 per cent were believed to be unemployed.
Students with degrees in medicine and dentistry were most likely to find a job, according to the figures, with 86.3 per cent in permanent employment within six months of graduating. In contrast, only 37.1 per cent of those graduating in languages, and 40.5 per cent of those completing studies in humanities, found permanent work.
Education secretary Mike Russell said: “These figures confirm the value of our universities and a Scottish education. Last week’s budget confirmed the importance placed on higher education by the Scottish Government and we will continue with free higher education and protected student places for Scots and EU students.”
But Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “Graduate unemployment of any level represents a huge waste of talent, and the number of graduates in permanent employment finding graduate-level jobs has essentially remained static.”
Yesterday’s figures were released as MSPs were warned Scotland’s college sector faces falling student numbers and an “incredibly worrying” future after swingeing budget cuts.
While Scotland’s universities have benefited from increased Scottish Government funds in recent years, helping close a “funding gap” with institutions in England, the country’s colleges will see a budget cut for the coming year which unions say amounts to £34.6 million.
Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Mr Parker said: “It’s incredibly worrying. Students really want to see politicians across the parliament work to improve that budget.”
Emma Phillips, regional organiser for Unison, said the cuts were beginning to hit student numbers in Scotland’s colleges, while staff cutbacks were making it difficult for students to get access to funding and support.
She said: “Our experience is that there are fewer students and it is our experience as well that students are dropping out as soon as they’re in their courses.”
Lib Dem education spokesman Liam McArthur, a member of the committee, said: “Ministers need to be wary of allowing a dangerous gap to develop between the way they treat our colleges and our universities.
“These graduate figures from Scotland’s universities are welcome, but ministers need to take heed of the warnings from our college sector.”