More research is needed in order to reverse the trend of poorer employment outcomes for disabled graduates, according to a new report by Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).

The report What Happens Next? is written by careers and employability professionals who are members of the AGCAS Disability Task Group and examines the effect of a disability on a graduate’s employment prospects. 

It recommends that more research is needed to to better understand how disabled graduates make career decisions, including decisions about location of employment and basis of employment, and the barriers they face in achieving their career ambitions.

There also needs to be more research to know what is effective in improving the outcomes of disabled graduates and then appropriate resourcing of university careers services to put effective interventions in place at-scale.

Nearly 15% of all graduates surveyed identified as having a disability or a learning disability

The report used data from the Graduate Outcomes survey to understand the outcomes of disabled graduates and of 265,385 graduates across all qualification levels who responded to the survey, 39,185 (14.8%) identified themselves as having a disability or learning difficulty during their studies.

There has been a year-on-year increase in the proportion of graduates disclosing a disability at each qualification level: undergraduate, postgraduate (taught) and postgraduate (research). As in previous years, the greatest proportion of graduates disclosing a disability at all qualification levels had a Specific Learning Difficulty.

The proportion of 2018 graduates at first degree level disclosing a mental health condition (22.0%) is higher than 2017 graduates (18.5%), which is in turn higher than the proportion of 2016 (15.6%) and 2015 (13.0%) graduates. In comparison, the number of graduates disclosing other disabilities has remained relatively stable year-on-year.

Full time employment prospects for people with autism or a specific learning difficulty

At all qualification levels, the proportion of disabled graduates in full time employment was lower than the proportion of non-disabled graduates in full time employment. The figures indicate that there is little change in disabled graduates’ employment prospects between six and 15 months after they graduate. Higher proportions of disabled graduates at all qualification levels were unemployed than non-disabled graduates. At all qualification levels, there are slightly higher proportions of disabled graduates employed on a short-term contract, a temporary contract or zero hours contract than non-disabled graduates.

At all qualification levels, graduates disclosing autism were least likely to be in full time employment and were most likely to be unemployed. The proportion of unemployed graduates with autism was higher at postgraduate (research) level than postgraduate (taught) or first degree level. At all qualification levels, graduates with autism are the least likely of all disability graduates to be employed on a permanent contract and are most likely to be employed on a fixed term, temporary or voluntary basis.

These graduates were also least likely to indicate that their qualification level and subject had been required for their job role and were least likely to have supervisory responsibility in their job role.

At every qualification level, graduates with a Specific Learning Difficulty were most likely to be employed and were most likely to indicate that their qualification was either required or useful in gaining their current job role.

Patrick Johnson, Disabled Students' Commission, said: “The Disabled Students’ Commission welcomes this report and looks forward to continuing the vital work with AGCAS, and the AGCAS Disability Task Group, specifically to engage stakeholders and ensure the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled graduates continues to narrow.”