Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that more than a quarter of graduates were paid less than the £11.10 average for those on work-based training schemes last year.
It also emerged that low-earning graduates are more likely to find themselves in part-time jobs.
The data – obtained by Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead – follows warnings that too many school leavers are being pushed towards higher education without considering the alternatives.
The last government set a target of encouraging half of young people into university but the move has sparked claims that many graduates have been left with useless degrees that fail to meet the needs of the economy.
The ONS data showed that average pay for graduates between April and June last year was actually higher than those in apprenticeships – £15.18 an hour – and they were slightly more likely to be in work overall.
But Mr Field, who has previously carried out a Coalition review into the causes of poverty, suggested that apprenticeships may be more worthwhile for many school leavers after debts were factored in.
A report last year estimated that the average student will leave university owing between £40,000 and £50,000 following an increase in tuition fees.
“Successive generations of young people have been shoehorned into universities on the promise of improving their lifetime earnings,” he said.
“But, as well as being saddled with eye-watering levels of debt, more than a quarter of them now work in part-time roles earning lower wages than workers with an apprenticeship under their belt.”
He added: “We need to encourage more young people to think hard about the best ways of achieving their goals in life. The Government must call for a major rethink on the present pattern of university education and set in hand a working party to take the debate on from these crucial breakthrough statistics.”
Today’s figures compared the number of former university students in the workforce with school leavers who took an apprenticeship.
It found that 26 per cent of relatively-low paid graduates worked in part-time roles compared with 11 per cent of apprentices.
Figures also showed that 27 per cent of graduates earned less than the average wage enjoyed by apprentices.
But the data found that 87 per cent of graduates were in work, compared with 83 per cent of those taking worked-based training courses.
Source: Daily Telegraph online.