Educating youngsters to degree standard earns Government extra £180K over working lifetime, Manchester congress hears

By Matt Jones

Graduates will fill the Government’s coffers by an extra £180,000 over a working lifetime compared to someone with A-levels.

These are the findings of a report commissioned by the University and College Union, who are currently holding their annual congress in Manchester.

They have shown that while it costs the state around £5,000 to put a pupil through a two-year A-level course, compared to almost £19,000 to send them to university, the return to the wider economy of A-level students is around £47,000, just over a quarter of their university educated counterparts.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The UK must invest now in the next generation if we want to maximise that return because if we lose the race to educate our kids we will lose the race for economic growth too.

“This research shows the huge contribution A-level and degree holders make to our economy and instead of cutting places at college and university, ministers should be looking to fast-track learners into the industries of the future.”

Findings show that there are great personal and financial benefits from gaining higher level qualifications as a degree will earn you £98,000 more over your lifetime compared to someone with two or more A-levels.

This is referred to as a ‘graduate premium’, and although they will fall as tuition fees treble to a maximum of £9,000 this autumn, graduates will still end up £79,500 to £86,000 richer.

The study also stresses that it is vital for UK to meet the demand for skilled workers in innovative and growing industries.

Compared to the rapidly increasing proportion of graduates in emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India, the outlook for British students is at best uncertain and at worst troublingly bleak.

In an interview for the report, Nissan vice-president Jerry Hardcastle said: “In India they are churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates and we are churning out a small number and that will restrict our ability to expand.

“We can’t have any shrinking of mechanical engineering graduates – we need more engineering graduates. If they’re not available here, the jobs will move to India, Brazil and China.”

Ms Hunt added: “Unless we produce more highly skilled workers quickly we will haemorrhage jobs abroad and lose any chance of building a competitive advantage in new low-carbon industries.”

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