On average men with degrees in Mathematics, Engineering, Economics and Law earned over 20% more than someone with two or more A-levels three years after leaving university. But men with Arts degrees had on average a 4% wages penalty.
Oxbridge graduates earned about 8% more than graduates from an 'old' university while those who had attended a newer institution earned about 3 - 8 % less (depending on the year of graduation).
Those from lower social groups earned less irrespective of the institution they attended. So even those who graduated from Oxbridge in 1985 and 1990 earned on average about 16% less than those from professional families.
'There are some important messages here for potential students and those who advise them', said Richard Brown, chief executive of CIHE. 'To talk about average 'returns' is to miss the wide variation that exists.
'There are also implications for government policy. Just getting students from poor communities and comprehensive schools into so-called 'top' universities will not ensure that they then get the best jobs. Employers have to play their part in persuading prospective students that it is worth their while to invest in learning. They should consider their recruitment policies; the business benefits of having a diverse labour force that can relate to an equally diverse range of customers; the ethics of discriminating (however unwittingly) against older graduates or those from different social groups. There is a danger that some employers just recruit in their own image.'
The report Financial Returns to Undergraduates: a summary of recent evidence was written by Dr Gavan Conlon and Dr Arnaud Chevalier at the Centre for the Economics of Education at the LSE. It is available from CIHE price£5: email@example.com
A follow-on report on good employer recruitment practices will be issued shortly. It includes general lessons and short case studies on six major employers.