Graduate earnings have suffered a downward trend according to a new report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

According to the department’s first paper on the graduate labour market, the median salary of £31,000 for graduates follows a decrease of £1,000 year-on-year.

Graduates’ earnings may be slipping but they still do significantly better in their careers than non-graduates, raking in £9,000 per year more on average despite the narrowing earnings gap. Postgraduate salaries are £9,000 per year on top of that, with average annual earnings of £40,000.

Graduates and postgraduates continue to dominate high-skill careers, with 68 per cent and 78 per cent respectively filling graduate jobs. This compares with 22 per cent of non-graduates in high-skill employment – if they can find employment at all. Unemployment rates for the working age population stand at 2.5 per cent for postgraduates, 3.5 per cent for graduates and 7.4 per cent for non-graduates.

Among the population aged 21 to 30, graduates earned £24,500 per year on average, whereas postgraduates earned £28,000 and non-graduates earned £18,500. The report attributes this narrower graduate premium to the inexperience of young graduates.

Greg Clark, Universities, Science and Cities Minister said that these figures show attending university is a ‘great investment’.

‘There are clear benefits to graduates and to the country from higher earnings and high levels of employment’, he said. ‘The reform of student finance more generally has allowed this Government to be the first to fully implement the Robbins Report by removing the cap on student numbers that served for decades as a cap on aspiration’.

With record numbers of students starting university in 2014/15, more than ever are from disadvantaged backgrounds. According to UCAS, the proportion of students attending university from the most advantaged areas remains steady in comparison, suggesting that the gap between rich and poor is therefore closing.

The Government has also announced the extension of student loans to include those studying master’s degrees. The costs of further study can be a barrier to many disadvantaged students. A new postgraduate loans scheme should help widen access to higher education and the high-skilled labour market. Though the graduate salary premium is decreasing, it still remains. An increase in disadvantaged pupils studying is a step in the right direction of prosperity for all.