College leavers' hard road to final destination

January 17, 2013

Student leavers who complete full-time first degrees at a further education college in England are paid £4,000 a year less on average than their university counterparts and are at least 50 per cent more likely to be unemployed, according to new research.

The Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in Further Education Colleges report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, based on a survey of students questioned six months after qualifying, found that 16 per cent of college students who obtained their degrees in 2010-11 were “assumed to be unemployed”. This compared with 10 per cent who had studied at universities, the report says.

The report adds that college students earned a median average salary of £15,000 upon graduation, whereas university leavers were paid £19,000 a year.

The Hefce research also shows that in seven out of nine subject areas, university students are better remunerated on average than their college counterparts.

Nick Davy, higher education policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said that the lower salaries were to be expected because college students were more likely to study subjects such as education and social care “that have lower entry salary levels”.

He added that many colleges are “located in economically challenged areas of the country where salaries are predictably lower”.

“For example, 17 of the 20 largest college higher education providers, excluding land-based colleges, are located in towns such as Grimsby and Blackpool with very low average salaries,” he said.

Full-time first-degree university students were much more likely to take up further study (16 per cent) than college students (6 per cent), which could also explain why they were less likely to be unemployed.

Mr Davy said that many college students were not able to travel far from their homes and so were likely to be deterred from taking a second degree at a university.

To make further study easier, “having local master’s degree and professional qualifications opportunities seems to be key”, he said.

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