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Restructuring of the labour market has led to changing demand for skills and concern about potential mismatch between needs of employers and competences developed in higher education courses. This paper extends analysis of the Great Expectations survey of UK final-year undergraduates in 1996 to explore the development of skills and competences in different disciplinary areas and the anticipated career trajectories of students. A detailed assessment is undertaken of the extent to which respondents appear prepared, both in terms of the employment-related skills they consider they have developed as undergraduates and in their expectations, for the changes which have taken place in the labour market in the latter part of the twentieth century. While findings from transitional early careers need to be interpreted cautiously, it does appear that expectations varied less than emerging outcomes for this cohort in the vanguard of mass higher education. Subject and gender differences in expectations and outcomes were significant and ‘non-traditional’ graduates were more likely than others to report that they were experiencing difficulties in the transition from education to employment. The graduates themselves had a flexible approach to the labour market but it seems that employers may have more inflexible recruitment graduate practices. Further research is required but there is clearly a danger that wider access may not lead to correspondingly wider career opportunities.