Elite universities urged to investigate graduate gender pay gap

Figures suggest that graduates of UK’s highly selective institutions and specialists have widest differences in pay

November 12, 2020
Gender pay gap
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The UK’s most selective and specialist universities should investigate why there is an “especially large disparity” in pay between male and female graduates of their institutions, according to a new report.

Although the overall graduate gender pay gap cannot be accounted for by the type of university attended – or subject of study, prior attainment, social background or ethnicity – the figures by provider type are a “surprise”, according to the study published by the Higher Education Policy Institute on 12 November.

The report analyses figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s Graduate Outcomes survey and the government’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes dataset in an attempt to identify reasons for the pay gap.

It finds that female graduates from Russell Group institutions have the greatest gender pay gap, earning around 17 per cent less than their male counterparts 15 months after leaving university.

In other pre-92 institutions, the difference is 9 per cent while in specialist institutions the difference is also high at 16 per cent. The smallest pay gap appears for graduates from post-92 institutions, at 5 per cent.

“While there are some differences in subject mix between Russell Group universities and the average…the differences are not sufficiently great to impact the overall finding,” the report says.

“The disparity between male and female graduate earnings from those institutions is a surprise.”

As a result, it recommends that Russell Group and specialist institutions “should investigate the reasons for the especially large disparity between the earnings of male and female graduates from their institutions and take appropriate action to address it”.

Looking at other factors, the report does find that men appear to be “more willing to be geographically mobile” after studying, which may be one explanation for the overall gap, but adds that “it is unlikely that increasing the mobility of women would significantly reduce the difference in pay”.

It also points to results from previous studies on attitudes towards employment that suggest that there are deep-rooted reasons related to how men and women view work and job applications as possible explanations.

These include men appearing to have “more confidence – perhaps overconfidence” in job searches and being more speculative with their applications; and men being more likely to see a high salary as “the mark of a good job” while women tend to look for job security, work-life balance and a good company culture.

The report recommends that: universities do more to highlight the graduate gender pay gap “so students are empowered in their career planning”; employers undertake “name blind” recruitment; and pay gap figures are included in university ranking indicators.



Print headline: Gender pay gap biggest for alumni of elite

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