Elite Australian universities cry foul over claim their graduates are not top earners

Survey suggests graduates of Australia's less renowned universities earn around 15 per cent more than Group of Eight graduates

July 17, 2015
Map of Australia
Source: iStock

Australia’s elite universities have reacted angrily to a government-commissioned report that appears to suggest that their graduates earn less on average that those from less renowned institutions.

The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) survey, published on July 15, found that those with a master’s or doctorate of doctorate from one of the Group of Eight “sandstone” universities, which includes the universities of Melbourne and Sydney, earned, on average, 15 per cent less than those who attain the highest degree from universities that are part of the Innovative Research Universities mission group of smaller research intensives, such as Murdoch University in Perth and La Trobe university in Melbourne.

Go8 graduates also earned 10 per cent less than graduates of Australian Technology Network institutions, such as Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and RMIT University in Melbourne, and they earned no more than graduates of small regional universities.

But the Go8 reacted scathingly, claiming the results of the survey of 7,000 households, which is carried out annually by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne on behalf of Australia’s Department of Social Services, were “clearly disappointingly suspect” given their wide variance from other surveys and it was “perplexed and disappointed” they had been published.

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Go8, said: “We absolutely question the veracity of the methodology adopted. When results are so very different from everything that has gone before, even when using the same survey data, surely some explanation is required, especially in a sector that lives and dies by the rigor of its research. 

“While we have been advised that the views expressed in the report are entirely those of the author and not the Department of Social Services, the Melbourne Institute or the Hilda Survey Group, that makes them no less damaging to the sector.”

The report admits that it is “surprising” to find that graduates of Go8 universities do not have the highest earnings.

“This may in part reflect differences in the field of study composition of graduates, with perhaps a greater focus on vocational fields in the ATN and IRU universities,” it says, adding that the salary data was restricted to full-time employees.

“It may be, for example, that graduates of Go8 universities are more likely to become (high-earning) self-employed or employers.”

The report also finds that a master’s degree or doctorate increases earnings by 47 per cent for men and 42 per cent for women, compared to school leavers, while a bachelor’s degree increases earnings by 41 per cent for men and 32 per cent for women.


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