Value a degree 1

July 12, 2002

The government buys places at UK universities cheap and then feels entitled to demand more for its money ("Lecturers told to get real-world job skills", THES , July 5). But if the government uses tuition fees to reduce its contribution, universities will inevitably seek to charge higher fees. A major obstacle to raising fees is that students have little information about the life-cycle financial benefits of taking a degree. This makes many wary of borrowing large sums of money.

The student loan system, however, is a potential source of such information. It could reveal the early trajectory of graduate earnings in different subjects and at different universities. This would allow regular updated projections of likely life-cycle earnings.

If such analysis is too large an undertaking for a research exercise, then universities or national subject groups could be given suitably anonymised data and work it out. This would enable universities to fix fees for different courses and students to judge whether it is worth borrowing money.

Arthur Walker
Economics subject group
University of Northumbria

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