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Earning by Degrees

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Summary

Despite increasing numbers of young people going on to higher education, a university degree still confers a substantial advantage in the labour market. However, not all degrees are created equal. This report examines how graduate career outcomes differ depending on the subject they studied and the university they attended.

Key findings

  • The career outcomes of graduates differ markedly depending on their university and degree subject
  • Graduates from Oxford and Cambridge enjoy starting salaries approximately £7,600 (42%) higher per year, on average, than graduates from post-1992 universities. They also earn starting salaries approximately £3,300 higher than graduates from other highly selective Sutton Trust 13 (ST13) universities.
  • Differences by subject are even more substantial, with graduates from medicine and dentistry courses (the highest earning subject) earning starting salaries approximately £12,200 higher than those studying design and creative arts (the lowest earning subjects). Engineering and technology (the second highest earning subject) graduates earn on average £8,800 higher than design and creative arts graduates.
  • Large differences between universities remain even after removing the effects of graduates’ demographic characteristics, social backgrounds, A-level grades, degree classes and their choice of subject.
  • All these things being equal, the advantage of Oxbridge graduates over other ST13 universities in starting salary is approximately £2,455 per year (12%). Their salaries are also approximately £3,349 (17%) higher than those of graduates from other Sutton Trust 30 universities, £4,207 (22%) higher than those of graduates from -pre-92 universities and £4,760 per year (25%) higher than those of post-92 graduates.
  • Accounting for graduate characteristics and which university they attended, differences by subject also remain large. Graduates from medicine and dentistry courses enjoy gross starting salaries around £8,000 per year (48%) higher, on average, than graduates from psychology, English or design and creative arts courses.
  • On average the top earning courses were medicine and dentistry; engineering and technology; economics; computer science; and education. The lowest earning courses were psychology; English; design and creative arts; biological sciences; and history and philosophy.