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Leading Article: Degrees of earning

The news that the graduate premium – the extra amount that someone earns from studying for a degree – is holding up will give heart to those who think that students should pay for their higher education. One of the arguments that Tony Blair and others made for introducing tuition fees and later the top-up fee was that students benefit financially from having a degree-level qualification. Their argument was pooh-poohed by those who argued that this graduate premium was being eroded by the fact that so many people were now going into higher education.

But the new research from Ian Walker of Lancaster University and Yu Zhu of Kent University shows that the graduate premium for women has increased while that for men has stayed the same. That should strengthen the argument of those vice-chancellors who would like to see the cap come off the top-up fee, which stands at just over £3,000, and which some would like to see rise to £5,000 and over. The Government is to set up a review of how the top-up fee regime has been working before deciding whether universities should be able to charge more. We hope they will also consider the new evidence on the graduate premium.