Graduates can now expect to earn just £100,000 more over their working life than teenagers who get a job after their A-levels, it was revealed today.
Around five years ago, when the Government was considering the introduction of university top-up fees, they said the average graduate earnings premium was around £400,000.
But in a document calling for evidence for the new tuition fees review, Lord Browne, who is leading the inquiry, said this premium is now £100,000.
This figure includes tax, but not the debt faced by university graduates, which usually now runs to more than £20,000.
In the document, Lord Browne said: "Graduates, on average, earn £100,000 more over their working life net of taxation than an individual whose highest qualification is 2 or more A-levels."
It does add that graduates are also more likely to be rewarded with other benefits - they are more likely to be employed and less likely to smoke or be obese.
In his call for evidence today, Lord Browne also said he will be holding public hearings to allow selected individuals and experts to give evidence, early next year.
Ex-BP chief executive Lord Browne was appointed to lead the long awaited review into the student funding system last month.
The review was promised by ministers when £3,000-a-year variable tuition fees were introduced in England three years ago.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the graduate earnings premium had not diminished and there were many ways of calculating itReuse content