People who delay going to university until after the age of 21 start their careers earning more than those who go straight from high school.
A study of official Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) data has found mature grads of undergraduate degrees earn, on average, 25 per cent - or almost £4,400 a year - more than those graduating under 25.
While the average starting salary for graduates under 25 is £20,009, older grads typically start work earning £24,529.
The gap between mature and non-mature business students is even wider, with older university leavers earning almost £5,000 a year more than their younger classmates.
The analysis also shows older graduates are almost four per cent more likely to be in full-time employment six months after graduation than younger ones - a 1.6 per cent increase on the previous year.
The data has been analysed by Pearson College London, and principal Roxanne Stockwell has attributed the increased earning power to the greater life experience mature students hold.
Commenting on the pay and employment gap, Stockwell described how the research shows it “truly is never too late to go to university.”
She said she was “not surprised” that mature graduates tend to earn more, and added: “Employers rightly place a premium on their skills and life experience.
“Mature graduates are often more critical consumers of higher education. They tend to value good teaching, careers advice, and work experience more than their younger classmates.”
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said the findings show the benefits of higher education are bigger for those who don’t “resemble the caricature” of a young school leaver.
He added: “Mature students have to jump over obstacles to reach higher education, but the risk is worth it because employers are prepared to pay for their real-world expertise.
“It is further proof that higher education has the potential to transform lives.”
The findings have, however, come on the same day the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Sally Hunt, described how the “rapid decline” in mature and part-time and students since 2006 was a “scandal,” citing “a failure of the student finance system to meet different needs.”
Her comments came after a report, published by the Office for Fair Access (Offa), showed the number of mature students has halved over the past decade, as almost a third of targets relating to mature students failed to be met by universities in 2014/15.
Reflecting on Hunt’s comments, Stockwell said the report’s revelation was “disappointing,” but, again, praised Pearson College London’s research for showing mature students go on to benefit later in life.
Stockwell added: “Lifestyles are changing and fee rises have turned students into more critical consumers of higher education.
“Universities could recognise this reality by making study more flexible and career-focused for mature and part-time students.”
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