Most graduates are in jobs appropriate for their level of skills and training, a study suggests.
Research involving 4,500 students who graduated in 1995 shows 85% are "very or reasonably satisfied" with their career progress. Two-thirds said a degree had been required for their current job.
The report - by researchers at Warwick University and the University of the West of England - is based on interviews conducted in 2002.
'More careers advice needed'
More than 75% of the 1995 graduates were found to be in employment related to their long-term career plans. Immediately after graduation, 43% of those in employment were in non-graduate jobs. Seven years later, this had fallen to just 11%, according to the report, Seven Years On.
The research authors - Professor Peter Elias of Warwick University and Professor Kate Purcell of the University of the West of England - said this showed the need for a "long-term perspective" on careers advice.
Simply expanding higher education was not enough, they added.
The government wants 50% of young people in England to enter higher education by 2010, up from the current 44%. Opponents say this would lead to a "dumbing down" of standards and devalue degrees. The emphasis, many argue, should be on expanding vocational education instead.
A study published in March, by academics at Cardiff and Lancaster universities, said only one-third of the UK's 28 million jobs were "knowledge-based".
The Department for Education and Skills said starting salaries for graduate-level jobs averaged around £18,500 in 2002-03, according to Graduate Prospects.
Employers belonging to the Association of Graduate Recruiters are expecting to pay new graduates an average salary of £21,000 in 2004 - an increase of 3.9% on last year. But the figures compiled by the Cardiff and Lancaster researchers suggest the figure is based on "blue-chip" companies, taking on just one in 20 graduates. Average starting wages were actually falling, with last year's average of £12,659 down from £13,422 in 2002, they found.
However, the research based on the longer-term prospects of the graduates of 1995 says the "graduate premium" continues to hold up, with employers willing to pay more for employees with degrees. Higher education minister Alan Johnson said: "This report adds another nail to the coffin of the doom merchants who insist that more graduates means worse. "Despite the expansion of the 1990s, it is still a very good time to be a graduate - they have more opportunities and earn more for holding a degree. "Further expansion is an economic necessity and a social responsibility."
Source: 15/06/04 BBC Online