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Hard lessons for lifelong learners? age and experience in the graduate labour market

Purcell, Kate; Wilton, Nick; Elias, Peter


Kate Purcell

Nicholas Wilton
Faculty Academic Director - Strategic Partnerships

Peter Elias


The expansion of the higher education system and widening access to undergraduate study has led to growing diversity within the graduate labour supply, including increasing numbers who studied for their degrees as mature students. Analysis of graduates entering the labour market prior to the major expansion in the early 1990s indicated that those over the age of 30 had considerably more difficulty than younger graduates in accessing the career opportunities for which their education had equipped them. Is this still the case for more recent graduates? Drawing on a major qualitative and quantitative study of a class of graduates who completed their undergraduate degree courses in 1995, this paper explores early career development and employment outcomes according to age at graduation. Although we find considerable diversity among all age groups, mature graduates were more likely than their younger peers to experience difficulty in accessing appropriate employment, had a lower rate of earnings growth and expressed higher levels of dissatisfaction with their jobs. © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Purcell, K., Wilton, N., & Elias, P. (2007). Hard lessons for lifelong learners? age and experience in the graduate labour market. Higher Education Quarterly, 61(1), 57-82.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2007
Journal Higher Education Quarterly
Print ISSN 0951-5224
Electronic ISSN 1468-2273
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 61
Issue 1
Pages 57-82
Keywords age, inequality, graduates, higher education, labour market, employment
Public URL
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