I've been thinking a lot recently about how we communicate LMI to the people who need it.
It's partly motivated by some of the things going on in a live chat at the Guardian about research communication, and partly by a piece I am writing for somewhere else (all will be revealed) on one of my favourite bugbears.
The new High Fliers report demonstrates the issues. Students expect a starting salary of £22,600 this summer. Now, this is a standard High Fliers report. It's interesting in its own way, but it takes a small sample of students from a small sample of universities, so a far better way of expressing it is 'Some students, who are not representative of the student body, expect to earn a starting salary of £22,600'. And some of them think they'll be earning £100,000 at the age of 30.
And the fact is that some of them will earn £22,600, but that many of them probably won't, because the avarage starting salary for graduates has been stuck just below £20k for three years and wage increases are such that they're unlikely to shoot up this year. And £100k at the age of 30? Well, good luck with that, guys, but let's be blunt. Anyone who manages it that is very much the exception and not the rule.
Somehow, students are getting these ideas, and it's great that they're enthusiastic about the labour market and good that some of the ridiculously overblown negativity about graduate employment is being set aside temporarily.
Most graduates get decent jobs and make a good living. Currently, average graduate earnings peak at around 35, and a salary of £34,500. Even in the finance industry, average earnings peak at £37,300.
It's exciting to focus on the big earners and talk about 'rumours' of £50k starting salaries (some new graduates might earn that this year), but we need to make sure people realise that most graduates get perfectly good jobs that don't earn anywhere near that much; and many will make perfectly respectable fulfilling, rewarding careers and never earn so much, and that that is ok.
So, how to get that message out more effectively?