YOUNG people who opt not to go to University may find their decision is a costly one, according to new data on graduate salaries across Europe.
A degree is now a serious investment both of time and money and many students face debts after completing their course.
But graduates can expect to earn £100,000 more over their working life after tax than teenagers who get a job after A-levels, according to the government.
Others put the premium higher; UK graduates earn on average 157% more than non-graduates, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD research shoots down suggestions that those with university degrees are pushing out those without from a fixed set of jobs, and says that countries that have done well in raising the proportion of highly-skilled workers have also seen better employment prospects for the lower skilled as job opportunities filter down.
Undergraduate Alex Mbaya, from London, who is on a chemistry degree, is convinced he will fare better in the jobs stakes because he has been to university. "It is true at the end of this degree I will have £28,000 worth of debt but having done science I am certainly one of the winners. I can go into finance or I can transfer to law or even stay in science," he says.
Final-year student Sophie Richardson also took her French degree because she was interested in the subject. Even with a debt of £36,000 the 22-year-old does not regret her decision: "I think I will be able to get into a higher level of job than I would have without a degree," she said. "I hope so."
Analysts believe the graduate premium is strongest in sectors where demand is likely to be stay high, such as business services, IT, computer services and the creative and cultural sector.
More than just money!
Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, says going to university is about more than the financial rewards, including the network of friends made and the broader experience it brings: "Although graduates are leaving university with record levels of debt," he says "people should not be put off applying as they are likely to face a better economic outlook."