Students from independent schools are more likely to study for a postgraduate degree than state school students, although students from the same class and background from state schools are more likely to get a good university degree than similar students at independent schools.
These findings are contained in an interim report for the Sutton Trust carried out by Stephen Machin and Richard Murphy of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. The study published today (Thursday) is looking into the question of whether the boom in postgraduate courses in the UK over recent years has had a negative impact on intergenerational mobility. Their first report suggests that there is a small but significant imbalance in favour of undergraduates who have been privately educated.
The study, which is feeding into the Government’s review into postgraduate education, found that the number of postgraduates studying in the UK increased by 48% from 129,700 in 1995 to 248,400, and the proportion of foreign postgraduates has increased from 30% in 1995 to 55% in 2008. Full and part-time postgraduates pay at least £2.75 billion in university fees a year.
One in six (17%) of those studying six months after graduation were educated privately as compared to 14% of undergraduate students and 7% of school pupils.Thirty per cent were from higher managerial or professional families as compared with 27% of undergraduates and 13% of the population.
68% of independent school educated university students obtained a First or Upper Second class degree (the usual requirements for pursuing a postgraduate course) in 2008 compared with 64% of state educated students. However, comparing like-for-like students (from the same university subject of degree, ethnic group, and family background), those educated at independent schools were 4% less likely to achieve a First or Upper Second class degree than otherwise similar students educated in state schools.
The survey also found that postgraduates with a Masters degree earn on average £1.75 million over their lifetimes, while postgraduates completing a PhD earn on average £1.9m – 15% and 23% more respectively than a university graduate with £1.5m in average lifetime earnings. The average starting salary for a home postgraduate was £24,000 in 2008 compared with the average starting salary for a home undergraduate of £19,500.
The researchers say: “Comparing students with the same characteristics, and averaging over the years 2004/06/08, those educated in independent schools are found to be 1.2% more likely to carry on to postgraduate education than their state educated counterparts. This difference is small but it is statistically significant. It is also present despite the fact that university students educated at independent schools were found to be slightly less likely to achieve a First or Upper Second class degree than otherwise similar students educated in state schools.”
The report also found that three quarters (76%) of independent school pupils who went to university (in the years 2004-2008), graduated from a leading research university, compared with four in ten (39%) state school pupils who went to university.