Something for the 'slackers' to focus on: A 2:1 degree is worth around £80k more to you than a 2:2

Study raises questions about financial sense of students going to university if they are not prepared to put the hours

Whitehall Editor

Students who slack at university will earn around £80,000 less in their lifetime than their counterparts who work harder, an official Government study has concluded.

Economists, working on behalf of the Department of Business, estimate that men who get a 2:2 degree will earn just £65,000 more in their working life than if they had left school after 'A' levels.

In contrast men who get either a First or a 2:1 will be £141,000 richer than if they had gone straight into the workforce.

Women fair marginally better - with an average female graduate earning an additional £100,000 for a 2:2 over her non-university educated counterpart - but the premium for a better degree is still £85,000.

Given most students now face repayable university tuition fees of £27,000 and can claim living costs loans of around £21,000 over three years, the study raises serious questions about the financial sense for some students going to university in the first place - if they are not prepared to put the hours.

A student in London claiming the maximum in loans and fees and getting a 2:2 at the end of their three years at university would, over their lifetime, be only £15,000 better off than if they had not gone to university at all.

The findings are contained in an official Government research paper released to coincide with 'A' level results. Carried out by academics at the universities of Lancaster and Kent it found that going to university in general still made financial sense despite the high cost.

They estimated that the return to a degree relative to two or more A-levels but no degree was 23 per cent for men and 31 per cent for women.

But within that there were marked discrepancies. Students studying medicine at university will be over £400,000 richer than if they had got another job after school compared to students studying mass communications who will only earn £3,000 extra.

Women who study economics will make nearly £1 million more over their lifetimes while for men the figure is only £300,000.

Women with degrees are more likely to follow similar career structures to men - something not seen in women who leave school without a higher education qualification.

Interestingly the study found no evidence that the expansion of higher education in the late 1980s and early 1990s had had any appreciable effect on differential earnings.

One of the authors of the study, Professor Ian Walker from Lancaster University, said the reason for this might be because of the increasing premium put on skills - particularly the "computerisation of the workforce".

"There have been huge technological changes in the workplace over the last 30 years or so which has favoured the skilled worker," he said.

"What we are seeing is increasing financial returns for skill."

Professor Walker speculated that the difference in earnings between those students who got 2:2s and those who got higher class degrees might be down to a general willingness to put in effort.

"Every year we take on around 800 first year economics undergraduates," he said.

"They have all got 'A's and 'B's in their exams and are smart kids. Yet I know from past experience that 40 per cent of them are not going to do well in their degrees. What I can't say is which ones they will be.

"Some think that they can learn economics in two weeks at the end of the year. I'm not saying economics is hard but that rarely works.

"It is possible that it is an attitude that they repeat in the work place."

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said the report showed that university was still worthwhile despite the increases in cost.

"As students discover their A-Level results this new data highlights just what a great long-term investment university is," he said.

"A degree remains one of the best pathways to achieving a good job and a rewarding career - as well as a hugely enjoyable experience for most students."

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: A Junior Developer /...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower