Skip to main content
Home » Financial services » Is university worth it?
Financial services

Is university worth it?

In 2003 the Government’s white paper ‘The Future Of Higher Education’ claimed that those who have been through HE in the UK earn, on average, 50% more than those who have not. 

Other studies around the same time suggested that for every year of higher education an individual received, it was worth an additional 10 per cent-15 per cent wage premium1. Over the lifetime of a theoretical average graduate, the value of this additional benefit was assessed at around £200,000 over a non-graduate.

Therefore, the Government argued, tuition fees were a just contribution that an individual who would earn significantly higher financial rewards should make, and strongly encouraged more young people to enter higher education.

The supply of graduates has increased significantly and, initially, demand kept up, but with a more difficult economic climate there has been a dramatic fall in the price of the lifetime premium to less than £130,000. Furthermore, the cost of obtaining a degree has risen significantly, with the average graduate now leaving university owing £50,000 – more if they live in London.

Extra income may be cancelled out by increased debt. This means there is no ‘average premium’, because the £130,000 gain is a lifetime premium, so to calculate an annual gain you need to spread the £130,000 over 40 years. This means it is just over £3,300 a year on a gross basis, which, after income tax (20 per cent) and National Insurance (12.8 per cent), falls to just over £2,200.

However, students who started their course from September 2012, some of whom are leaving now with £50,000 debt, have to pay interest at RPI+3 per cent, which is 4 per cent, and equates to an interest charge of £2,000 per annum – therefore almost entirely cancelling out the extra income earned by having a degree.

Therefore, many aspiring students – and their parents – should be, and are, asking themselves if a degree is worth it.  

The answer may be politically incorrect and unwelcome, but if a key reason for an individual wanting to take a degree is to get ahead, then unless they are studying a relevant, vocational qualification at a top university, and expect to obtain a 2:1 or better, then they would be well advised to consider other options and enter an industry of choice.

If this industry is finance, then taking CISI professional qualifications, either as an apprentice or as a school leaver, will equip them with highly relevant and practical skills that are valued by employers. These individuals will gain an advantage over graduates by having two years’ earnings and additional experience, greater employability, no millstone of debt and the practical key skills and qualifications needed to succeed.

Next article