Here’s what getting a degree is really worth

The expense of getting a degree might not always outweigh the benefits, according to a new study which found that some U.K. graduates earn less than their non-graduate peers 10 years after leaving university.

Oxford University students arrive at the Exam Schools building to take examinations
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images
Oxford University students arrive at the Exam Schools building to take examinations

The study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) also found that those from richer backgrounds on average earned around 10 percent more than students fwith less wealthy parents.

"The 10 percent highest-earning male graduates from richer backgrounds earned about 20 percent more than the 10 percent highest earners from relatively poorer backgrounds even after taking account of subject and the characteristics of the university attended," the report found.

"The equivalent premium for the 10 percent highest-earning female graduates from richer backgrounds was 14 percent."

On the whole, graduates were more likely to be in work and earn more than non-graduates, but there were exceptions.

At 23 institutions for men and nine for women, the median graduate earnings were less than those of the median non-graduate 10 years on.

The study noted however that it was important to put this finding in context.

"Given regional differences in average wages, some very locally focused institutions may struggle to produce graduates whose wages outpace England-wide earnings, which include those living in London where full-time earnings for males are around 50 percent higher than in some other regions, such as Northern Ireland," it said.

Medical students were the highest earners 10 years on, followed by those who studied economics. Those studying the creative arts earned the least; no more on average than non-graduates.

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