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Nearly one year on from London 2012, sports economists from Sheffield Hallam have shown for the first time that graduates who participated in sport at university earn an average £5,824 (18 per cent) more per year than their non-sporting counterparts.

New research carried out by the University's Sport Industry Research Centre, the team who came closer than anyone to predicting Team GB's gold medal haul, reveals that the current average salary of graduates who engaged with sport at university is £32,552, compared with £26,728 for those who did not.

And the positive effects of sports participation go beyond earning power, according to the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS)  Impact of Sport on Graduate Employability study. More than half (51 per cent) of graduates say sporting involvement has helped them develop team work skills and leadership qualities in the workplace.

The findings are great news for the 200 Sheffield Hallam graduates who volunteered for placements with LOCOG the London Olympic Games Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

The study finds that employers also recognise the benefits of sport in developing career-enhancing qualities, with more than nine in 10 (94 per cent) of those questioned identifying a clear link between university sport participation and valuable skills and strengths in potential employees.

Furthermore, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of graduates who did not play sport at university have experienced a period of unemployment at some point in their career, compared with just over one in five (21 per cent) of those who did participate in sport.

With 5,838 students and 112 of the UK’s top blue-chip graduate employers taking part in the study – the results prove employers view involvement in sport outside of academic courses as a hugely beneficial addition to the skill-set for an individual’s future value to their organisations.

Karen Rothery, chief executive of BUCS, said: “In a challenging economic climate, employers increasingly require candidates to demonstrate achievements beyond academic ability – key attributes such as team work, communication skills and leadership that can be developed through sport make a student stand out.

“The results of this research are proof positive that sport in higher education provides a recognised and valuable part of the student experience. Involvement in sport makes a real, measurable and positive impact not just on the student experience, but also on life beyond higher education.”

And the positive impact of sport on a graduates career prospects is not limited to participating and competing; sport also benefits those whose involvement spans coaching and refereeing, volunteering, being part of sports club committees and other support roles.

Our study shows students who play sport achieve better salaries

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Professor Simon Shibli, co-director of SIRC at Sheffield Hallam and one of the lead researchers involved in the study, identified attributes of sporting involvement that enable candidates to demonstrate the personal qualities contributing to their employability, such as drive, ambition, motivation and leadership.

“As the number of graduates increases, students need to do more than pass a degree to get their first job and to sustain their employability. The evidence indicates strongly that in the context of rising fees, engagement in sport is associated with providing a good career return on investment,” said Professor Shibli.

“There is also significant evidence from employers that engagement in sport is a recognised strength and a source of differentiation between top quality and average graduates. However, it's not just about playing sport it’s the involvement in volunteering and management aspects that can provide a competitive advantage in the jobs' market.

Paul Szumilewicz, director of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at HSBC, graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2003 where he was Team Captain and Secretary of the university’s football club.

He said: “Playing sport at any level gives you a great university experience and employers really do view it as demonstrating personal and behavioural capabilities beyond your degree.

“A rounded candidate who shows commitment, academic skills and a wide range of interests is a hugely attractive prospect to an employer, and the attributes gained from participating and volunteering within sport are transferable across many industries.”

For BUCS media opportunities, copies of the report and case studies please contact:

TVC Group 020 7380 8000

Natalie Jackson m 07535 704 694

Anna Young m 07415 646 555

For interviews with Simon Shibli: contact Laurie Harvey in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email