The value of graduate destination survey data in understanding graduate unemployment: A focus on the universities of technology

  • Andre Kraak University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: graduate unemployment, higher education, Graduate Destination Surveys (GDSs), intermediate skills


This article contributes graduate destination survey (GDS) evidence to the debate about graduate unemployment in South Africa. There has been lively contestation on the topic for several years, including several contributions from the commercial press arguing that graduate unemployment is very high. In contrast, academic evidence (based on national labour force data for the period 1995–2011) has been presented suggesting that the unemployment of graduates in South Africa is minimal, on average only 4.9% in 2011. New evidence has emerged from two recent GDSs – one comprehensive survey of all 2010 graduates across all qualification levels at all four universities in the Western Cape, and a second focusing only on the 2012 Bachelor of Technology (BTech) graduates at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng. These two studies, using the same methodology and online questionnaire, provide a more accurate picture of the graduate unemployment problem in two important economic regions of the country. The results show that although rates of unemployment are low at the elite University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University (SU) (graduate unemployment is between 3 and 6%), rates are much higher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) – a former historically disadvantaged technikon – with 15.8% unemployment among CPUT students. African unemployment at CPUT reached 20.2% among all first-time entrants (as compared with 4% for whites), suggesting the continuation of a racially stratified labour market for highly skilled labour long after apartheid’s demise. Similarly, unemployment rates among the BTech VUT graduates of 2012 reached 18%. This is an extremely high rate for fourth-year graduates of a polytechnic-type institution whose primary mandate is to place qualified graduates in jobs in the mainstream economy.