Inflation drives real-terms pay cut for postgraduates in England

Statistics also show degree classification makes little difference to a graduate’s chance of finding a job after university

July 3, 2023
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Salaries for postgraduates in England increased by a record margin last year, figures show, but rampant inflation means their real value is lower than ever.

The new statistics also show that getting a first-class degree makes minimal difference to a graduate’s chance of finding a job after university.

Department for Education figures for 2022 show the median nominal salary in England for those of working age was £45,000 for postgraduates, £38,500 for graduates and £27,000 for non-graduates.

Postgraduates and graduates both increased their median salaries by a record 7 per cent from 2021 – the largest since the series began in 2007.

As a result, the gulf between their wages and those of non-graduates also rose to record levels.

However, when looking at real terms – using 2007 prices – the gap appears to be shrinking.

Median real-terms salaries for postgraduates fell by 3 per cent to £30,500 last year – the lowest on record – while graduate and non-graduate wages remained unchanged.

This means postgraduates are making just 68 per cent of their nominal salaries in real terms.

The DfE said some of the change in salaries – which covers full-time main jobs only – might be attributable to a change in the make-up of the groups.

Median nominal salaries for graduates, postgraduates and non-graduates were higher in the working-age population than for those aged between 21 and 30, but the gap between the two was largest among postgraduates.

The DfE said this might reflect that postgraduates take longer to obtain higher wages after leaving study or might be attributable to postgraduates entering the labour force when they are older.

Though their real terms salaries fell in 2022, postgraduates of working age continued to have the highest employment rates – 89 per cent.

The figures showed little difference in the employment rate between working-age graduates who achieved first-class honours and those who got upper second-class degrees.

However, those with thirds were twice as likely to be unemployed (4.6 per cent) as those with other degree marks (2.3 per cent).

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