Where and what students study affects their earning power, minister warns
By Alison Kershaw, Press Association
There are a clutch of under-performing degrees that are failing to boost earnings and provide students with value for money, the Universities Minister has warned.
Sam Gyimah said that the variability between courses and institutions in potential future salaries is a cause for concern.
In a speech to the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) annual conference in London, the minister said new research shows that the choices students make about what, and where to study, does matter.
"It is the variability among courses and institutions even when subject and prior attainment are constant that should give us cause for concern," Mr Gyimah said.
"The findings demonstrate that studying the same subject at a different institution can yield a very different earnings premium.
"The choices that students make about what, and where they study, does matter."
Mr Gyimah argued that the value of a university education does not "solely hang on its contributions to one's lifetime earnings".
"University should be an exciting and enriching stage in a young person's life," he said.
From a salary perspective, there are many institutions and courses that are delivering big benefits, Mr Gyimah said.
But he added: "There are a clutch of courses that seem not to be."
Figures show that women who study at the bottom 100 courses have earnings up to 64% less - around £17,000 - than for the average degree, after graduation, the minister said.
For men, the figure is 67% (£21,000).
Mr Gyimah also said that that findings on graduate earnings due to be published today, have "far reaching ramifications" for the debate on value for money in higher education.
"The clutch of under-performing degrees is a problem for students. It is likely to include many of the courses where students feel they are not getting value for money," he said, adding that they are also a problem for the taxpayer and the reputation of the higher education sector.
A report due to be published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies later today is expected to show that there are significant differences to graduates' earnings, depending on the institution they attended and the degree they studied.
This is the case even when factors such as students' backgrounds and prior achievement are taken into account.
It is likely to show, for example, that courses such as medicine and economics can have potential future earnings 20% above average graduate earnings.
The findings come amid an ongoing government review into post-18 education, which is looking at issues such as tuition fees and value for money.
Pic by Chris Radburn/PA Wire