Higher education: it's good for you (and society)

People who attend university are less likely to commit crime, drink heavily or smoke, according to a new database of evidence on the social benefits of higher education

They are also more likely to vote, volunteer, have higher levels of tolerance and educate their children better than non-graduates, according to data contained in a research paper published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 1 November.

Drawing on existing research on the wider social benefits of higher study, the paper is titled ‘The Benefits of Higher Education Participation for Individuals and Society: Key Findings and Reports’.

Subtitled ‘The Quadrant’, the different benefits are divided into those which help the individual, the market and society, as well as those benefits classified as non-market, with many benefits fulfilling several such functions

The report says that it is “not [an] attempt to present an exhaustive review of the evidence supporting each identified benefit”.

“Rather it highlights a small number of clear findings for each – presenting quantitative results wherever possible – and some brief information about the studies from which they are derived,” the report adds.

The document was unveiled last week by universities and science minister David Willetts during his discussions about the legacy of the 1963 Robbins Report, which detailed the wider social benefits of university education in its call for higher student numbers.

The new report presents evidence that higher education participation improves social cohesion, social mobility, social capital and political stability.

Wider non-market benefits to individuals highlighted include a populace more likely to vote, longer life expectancy, greater life satisfaction, better general health and lower incidence of obesity.

Economic benefits to society include increased tax revenues, faster economic growth, greater innovation and labour market flexibility, while individuals profit from higher earnings, lower unemployment and higher productivity.


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