Considerable interest has been shown in recent years in the relative success of newly qualified graduates from UK universities in the job market.1 Inter-university comparisons of the ‘job-getting’ ability of new graduates have been made by using data drawn from the First Destination Record, which provides information about the status of graduates at the end of the year in which they have graduated. The First Destination Record is collated from information obtained from the annual survey of each new crop of graduates undertaken by the Careers Advisory Service at each institution. Yet little research into the job-getting ability of graduates from different universities has so far been done. As far as we are aware, the only previous work at the institutional level has concentrated entirely on examining inter-university disparities in the unemployment rate of graduates.2 The present paper extends this earlier work by focusing on inter-university disparities in two first destinations which reflect the success of graduates in obtaining a satisfactory first destination. These are the proportion of each institution's graduates who obtain a permanent job and the proportion proceeding to further education or training. In effect, this means that a more detailed statistical analysis of the success or otherwise of each university's graduates in obtaining a satisfactory first destination is undertaken in the present paper than in earlier work. This is an opportune moment to investigate inter-institutional differences in the success of graduates in obtaining a satisfactory first destination since the Government has recently made it clear that the success of graduates in the job market is an important indicator of the performance of the university sector. The 1987 white paper, for example, argues that: ‘the subsequent employment patterns of students provide some indication of the value of higher education courses to working life’ (DES, 1987a, p. 18). Moreover, ‘Institutions receiving public funds are accountable for the uses to which the funds are put and for the effectiveness and efficiency with which they are employed’ (DES, 1987b, p. 1). The implication is clear. Universities are being strongly encouraged by the Government to improve their performance along various routes, one of which is the success of their graduates in the job market. The questions which this paper seeks to answer are as follows. Do differences between universities in the success of graduates in obtaining a satisfactory first destination accurately reflect corresponding differences in their performance? Are universities, which have a high proportion of graduates proceeding to permanent employment, more efficient and more effective than universities with a low proportion? Indeed, can we rely on the first destination data for comparing the performance of graduates from different universities in obtaining a satisfactory first destination? The remainder of this paper is in five sections. Section I describes and evaluates the first destination database. Section II shows that the first destination of graduates differs considerably between UK universities and Section III presents some a priori explanations for these differences. Multiple regression analysis is used in Section IV to investigate the extent to which inter-university variations in the first destination of graduates can be explained. Finally, Section V presents the main conclusions.