Graduates are getting a pay-back for their years at university, a study by David Armstrong at the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre has discovered.
Of those earning less than Pounds 5,000 in 1992/93, almost half had no qualifications and fewer than 10 per cent had a degree. Among those with salaries of more than Pounds 15,000, by contrast, 60 per cent were graduates and fewer than 10 per cent had no qualifications.
The report, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Department of Education, examines the theories that the greater innate ability of graduates accounts for higher earnings and that degrees simply serve to screen suitable candidates for employment. It concludes that higher levels of education do help: "Studies have shown that education and training provide more than simply a credential which can be used to separate individuals of different abilities, and that they endow people with skills and competencies which raise their productivy and performance in tangible ways."
Dr Armstrong refers to research showing that small firms headed by graduates have average turnover growth 80 per cent higher, and employment growth 20 per cent higher, than firms run by non-graduates. "It was found that better educated entrepreneurs were more likely than others to implement business strategies which were conducive to the growth of the firm such as conducting market research and introducing product improvements."
Dr Armstrong also discloses that people in employment in Northern Ireland with degrees are ten times more likely to receive training than colleagues without qualifications and twice as likely as those educated to GCSE or O level standard.
Education and Economic Development: Empirical Evidence and Regional Perspectives is free from the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre, 48 University Road, Belfast BT7 1NJ.