Arts graduates less likely to think degree was good value

Results of NUS survey appear to reflect university leavers’ experience in job market

August 17, 2016
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Barely one in three arts graduates who responded to a survey conducted by the National Union of Students said that their degree had been good value for money.

Only 37 per cent of English-domiciled graduates who completed an arts degree in 2015, as part of the first cohort who paid fees of up to £9,000 annually, said that their qualification was worth the fees that they paid.

This compares with 81 per cent of medical graduates (who would likely have started their degree before fees were increased), and 58 per cent of university leavers who studied science, technology, engineering or mathematics subjects.

The results, from a survey of 522 university leavers, appear to reflect the experiences of different groups of graduates in the job market in the months after their course finished.

Ninety-four per cent of medicine graduates were in work, compared with 77 per cent of STEM graduates and 63 per cent of humanities and social sciences graduates.

In the arts, 57 per cent of students were employed – 42 per cent full-time, and 15 per cent part-time – with 16 per cent unemployed, and 6 per cent in unpaid work.

In addition, the earnings of arts graduates who were in work tended to be lower than other disciplines, with 43 per cent of those in full-time employment earning less than £15,000 a year and 84 per cent taking less than £20,000.

Arts graduates were also less likely to think that it had been their degree that had helped them to get their job, compared with students of other disciplines.

Overall, 52 per cent of 2015 graduates did not feel that their degree was good value, slightly down from the 56 per cent figure recorded in an NUS survey conducted among the same cohort immediately after graduation.

However, when only the responses to the latest survey of students who paid fees above £8,000 a year were considered, about two-thirds said that their degree was not worth the fees they paid.

Sorana Vieru, the NUS vice-president (higher education), said that recent graduates “face a double jeopardy”.

“They enter the world of work having paid far more for their education, with the debts hanging over them,” Ms Vieru said. “Yet they receive far less benefit from this education in the labour market compared to previous generations, while living costs keep rising and the welfare safety net is shrinking.”

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