Not only students get a raw deal 2

March 3, 2006

Bob Brecher refers to students as "customers" ("Go to aisle 4 to pick up your 2:1", February 24). But in the new tuition-fee regime this analogy may not be very helpful. It may be better to think of students (and their parents) as investors who are putting up money in the form of tuition fees and forgone earnings to get a return in the form of a lifetime increase in wages - the "graduate premium".

There is evidence that the return on investment in higher education is falling as student numbers increase. But returns are only one aspect of an investment - the other is risk. With average UK university drop-out rates, a student has a 20 per cent chance of losing his or her total investment. In fact, investing in UK higher education is riskier than putting money into wildcat oil-well drilling, which has a 10 per cent chance of total loss.

If institutions with high drop-out rates and low graduate premiums fail to take action to reduce the risk to their students' investments, then students and parents may decide to look for better returns from more secure investments - maybe not oil-well drilling, but there are alternatives.J Ormond Simpson Open University

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