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UK graduate recruitment seen at highest since 2007

Major employers plan to recruit around 1,200 extra U.K. graduates this year, sending recruitment in the country to a seven-year high, according to a report out on Monday.

Following a survey of 100 leading public and private and non-governmental organizations, High Fliers Research found that graduate recruitment would rise by 8.7 percent in 2014, the biggest annual gain in four years. Companies surveyed include FTSE 100 and Dow mainstays such as General Electric, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, BAE Systems, Barclays and Tesco.

People stand outside the Job Centre in Chatham, in south-east England
Adrian Dennis | AFP | Getty Images
People stand outside the Job Centre in Chatham, in south-east England

"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," said Martin Birchall, the managing director of High Flier Research, which specializes in student and graduate recruitment research.

Employers in 11 out of 13 major employment areas are preparing to take on more new graduates this year, with the biggest increases seen in recruitment at public sector employers, accounting and professional services firms, investment banks, retailers and engineering and industrial companies.

The largest individual recruiter of graduates will be Teach First, an initiative that recruits graduates to teach in disadvantaged schools, which will have 1,550 vacancies to fill. "Big four" professional services firms PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and Deloitte will offer 1,200 and 1,000 places respectively.

On the downside, the median starting salary for new graduates remains unchanged at £29,000 ($47,664) for the fifth year running. The most generous salaries are offered by investment banks (median of £45,000), banking and finance firms (£33,000) and energy companies (£32,500).

The highest published graduate starting salaries for 2014 are at the European Commission (£41,500) and German supermarket chain Aldi (£41,000).

(Slideshow: The Top 10 Universities for Billionaire Alumni)

Employers said that over one-third (37 percent) of this year's entry-level positions would be filled by graduates who had already worked for their organizations, either through paid internships, vacations jobs, or industrial placements. More than half of the recruiters warned that graduates with no work experience had "little or no chance" or receiving a job offer.

However, Birchall said increasing numbers of companies were offering university students paid work placements.

"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."

The High Flier report will come as welcome news to U.K. students, who have suffered since the 2008-09 recession from the scarcity of graduate jobs, which has been acerbated by increasing numbers attending university.

(Read more: One in 10 young Brits 'have nothing to live for')

According to Britain's Higher Education Statistics Agency, only 54.7 percent of 2012 graduates were in full-time employment six months after leaving university. The number of graduates working in non-graduate roles has also risen, standing at 47 percent for recent graduates in the second quarter of 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, recent data has pointed to an improvement in the U.K. economy, including its labor market. Last month, the ONS said the jobs picture was improving, with unemployment down 121,000 on the year in the third quarter of 2013.

(Read more: UK unemployment falls, putting rate hike in focus)

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato. Follow her on Twitter: @KatyBarnato

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