Graduate recruitment at Britain's top employers is set to rise sharply in 2014, taking vacancies for those leaving university this summer to their highest level since 2007, according to a report.
Employers are stepping up their graduate intake by 8.7%, the biggest annual rise in recruitment for four years. Graduate vacancies were cut at the start of the recession by 6.7% in 2008 and 17.8% in 2009, but increased by 12.6% in 2010 and 2.8% in 2011. Graduate recruitment dipped again by 0.8% in 2012 before recovering by 2.5% in 2013.
Market research company High Fliers Research carried out a s tudy of graduate vacancies and starting salaries at the country's 100 leading employers, and found that e mployers in 11 out of 13 major employment areas are preparing to take on more new graduates in 2014, with the biggest increases in recruitment at public sector employers, accounting and professional services firms, City investment banks, retailers and engineering and industrial companies, which together expect to recruit almost 1,200 extra graduates this year.
The median starting salary for new graduates is set to remain unchanged at £29,000 for the fifth year running.
The report also highlights that graduate employers are offering a record number of paid work experience places this year for university students and recent graduates, through a comprehensive programme of paid internships and industrial placements, with an increasing number of places available for first year undergraduates.
The largest individual recruiters of graduates in 2014 will be Teach First (1,550 vacancies), PwC (1,200 vacancies) and Deloitte (1,000 vacancies).
More than half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years - that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process.
A quarter of top graduate programmes will pay new recruits more than £35,000 when they start work and 10 organisations are offering at least £40,000 to this year's graduates.
Managing director of High Fliers Research, Martin Birchall, said: "This very significant increase in graduate vacancies at Britain's top employers means the job prospects for graduates leaving university this year are the best they've been since the start of the recession seven years ago.
"And there are more opportunities than ever for university students to get paid work experience with the country's most sought-after graduate employers - together they are offering over 11,000 paid internships and work placements this year for first and second year undergraduates."