Perishable premium

September 29, 2011

"Not such a superpower after all" (Leader, 15 September) had its pros and cons.

The con was repeating the myth that the graduate premium persists with more graduates: the fact is that the comparator has gone down. Take the example of hospitals. With fewer graduates, the comparison was graduate doctors on £50,000, nurses earning £10,000 and cleaners getting £5,000. Now it is graduate doctors on £100,000+, graduate nurses earning £20,000 and cleaners getting £10,000. Neither nurses' nor teachers' pay has increased relatively since they became graduate professions.

Anyone who can read, write, count, take responsibility and work unsupervised will always earn a premium over those who can't. These attributes do not require a degree, and neither do many new graduate jobs in call centre, clerical or lower management posts.

The pro was pointing out the folly of the US system, where student debt will exceed a trillion dollars within the year, a rapidly increasing proportion of it decidedly sub-prime. The question is this: how many UK graduates will fail to obtain a premium job to compensate for £9,000 fees, £3,500+ living expenses and £10,000 lost income per year for three years, to be paid off at compound interest just as they are expected to get on the housing ladder?

Hugh Fletcher, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast

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