University and course options – potential impact on lifetime income and prospects

University and course options – potential impact on lifetime income and prospects

 In my last article, I wrote about a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which highlighted the fact that certain universities are running degree courses that lead to no graduate premium. This means that students who study those courses do not earn higher income over their lifetime in comparison to non-graduates; in fact, in some cases they actually earn less than non-graduates.

In this article, I reveal some basic facts and figures and also make recommendations on subjects to study and the order of preference by employers for the university a prospective employee attends.

Some basic key information surrounding graduate premium

  • 47% of graduates are underemployed – doing jobs that a degree is not needed to do
  • About 50% of students will not be able to pay back the student loan as they will not get a job that enables them to earn enough money to pay it off
  • It is only in Medicine, Engineering and some other professions that graduates earn over £100,000 more than non-graduates over their lifetime.
  • £44,000 is the average student loan that a graduate will incur while studying for a degree
  • Many degree courses from certain universities lack graduate premium
  • According to Fraser Nelson from Spectator magazine, the Institute of Fiscal Studies conducted a survey that shows some degrees from certain universities actually leave graduates worse off than if they were non-graduates.


Recommendations from Excel in Key Subjects

  1. A university education is worth its weight in gold in terms of life prospects, confidence and the experience gained
  2. Universities are not all the same as some are more reputable than others
  3. It is important for the young person to ask him or herself the question about what they want from a university education before proceeding onto a degree course
  4. Certain university courses, preferably studied at one of the top universities, provide the potential to increase life earnings significantly in comparison to others
  5. Choose the university that you go to very carefully. If you have other options, ignore a less reputable university who may be offering you financial incentives to study with them, as you may be worse off in the long run
  6. The order of preference by employers for the university from where a degree is obtained is: Oxbridge; other Russell Group universities; Red Brick universities; other universities including the former polytechnics
  7. The courses that the top universities prefer for admission are A-level, IB (International Baccalaureate) and Cambridge Pre-U. A-level is the most well known but both the IB and the Cambridge Pre-U are of a much higher standard than A-level
  8. It is ok to study a degree course that you are passionate about at a university of your choice; however, do your research and be aware of existing statistics about job prospects before you make a decision on that course
  9. If you are determined enough you will succeed in life irrespective of if you go to university or not and which university or degree you study. You only need to work much harder to succeed in the certain choices you made at key stages of your life

Next week the GCSE results are released and my blog article will focus on subject choice at A-level, as this is vital in deciding which course a student studies at which university. Watch this space!

Some useful links:

BBC news referred to in the article:


Cambridge University list of acceptable subjects:

Sutton Trust:

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