PEOPLE educated to degree level earn up to a quarter more than those who leave school at 18, according to new research.
A new report from Universities UK, the vice-chancellors umbrella body, shows there are "substantial" economic benefits of going to University, as well as the obvious cultural and personal benefits.
The report shows earnings are on average between 20% and 25% more for individuals with a higher education qualification than for those with two or more A-levels.
That’s an additional £160,000 over a lifetime after student loans have been accounted for.
Low earners benefit most
And those who benefit most, according to UUK, are men from lower socio-economic groups or from families from lower levels of income.
It also states that: "The benefits associated with HE qualifications increase as graduates get older, graduates are more likely to be employed and are more likely to return to employment following periods in unemployment or economic inactivity."
The benefits of going to University are also felt by society as a whole, it says, in terms of health, reduced crime rates and social cohesion. Diana Warwick, Chief Executive, Universities UK said: "We already know that graduates in the UK enjoy one of the highest financial returns of any OECD country.
"This report provides evidence that despite the expansion of higher education, the graduate premium has been maintained. Higher education is still clearly a worthwhile investment for the individual."
NUS says report 'helpful'
National Union of Students President Gemma Tumelty said the figures were encouraging but there was much more to a degree than earnings: "Given that critics of the 50% target claim degrees have been devalued it is helpful that UUK have highlighted no reduction of the overall premium of degree education since the expansion of the sector and increased access," she said.
"We want to see more students, particularly from non-traditional backgrounds gain access for it's own sake as well as to skill themselves for a graduate job."
- The research was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in association with London Economics. The report will be available at http://bookshop.universitiesuk.ac.uk from Wednesday 7 February 2007.