Written by Joanna Hughes

A recent report from the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reveals new insights into which degrees offer the most significant financial returns. Here’s a closer look at the findings, as recently reported by The Guardian.

Coming Out Ahead

Using education and taxation information, the data reveals that students with degrees in economics and medicine from British universities are paid approximately 20 percent more than the average. Additionally, grads with business, computing, and architecture degrees saw 10 percent higher wages than the average graduate earnings.

“Average graduate earnings are around £26,000 to £30,000 five years after graduation, and so these differences could amount to earnings differentials of more than £10,000 a year. If these persist over the life cycle, this could represent a significant difference in lifetime income,” says IFS.

Even more noteworthy? That students across all backgrounds and school types saw these benefits “outstripping even the considerable advantages enjoyed by private school students or people from the wealthiest backgrounds,” reveals The Guardian.

Other Key Takeaways

While graduate earnings were twice the average for the highest earning degrees, other areas of studies trailed behind. Creative arts, in particular, paid 15 percent less than the average. Not only that, but students from disadvantaged backgrounds in this field made even less.

Said IFS senior research economist and author of the report, “Family and background has an important impact on graduates’ future earning, but subject and institution choice can be even more important.”

Meanwhile, higher education minister Sam Gyimah pointed out the “far-reaching ramifications” of figures like these. “The clutch of underperforming degrees is a problem for students -- it is likely they include many of the courses who students feel they are not getting value for money,” he said at a Higher Education Policy Institute conference.

But it’s not just students who are impacted by low-performing degrees. “And they are a problem for the reputation of the sector. They are the inconvenient kernel of truth underlying critiques of mass higher education,” Gyimah continued.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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