It comes amid debate over the value of a degree following the rise in tuition fees in the last academic year.
The estimate is substantially higher than the £100,000 graduate premium calculated in 2002 by the Department for Education, which has been repeatedly cited by universities and politicians since.
The Impact of University Degrees on the Lifecycle of Earnings: Some Further Analysis, released today, argues that men with a degree earn 28 per cent more than those without one, while for women the differential is 53 per cent.
It also shows the value of getting a first-class or upper-second degree. Those who failed to get this result earned around £80,000 less, the research found.
Men who attended higher education but then dropped out actually earned less than those who never attended at all, it found, although this was not true for women, who earned about the same.
The study was carried out for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills by Ian Walker, a professor of economics at Lancaster University and Yu Zhu, a reader in labour economics at the University of Kent.
It was seized on by Universities UK as proof “that graduates continue to earn considerably more than non-graduates over their working lives”.
“While higher education may not suit everyone, it is important to highlight the life-changing effect it can have and the range of relevant skills and experiences graduates acquire alongside their degrees” a spokesman said.