Students who attend less prestigious universities could make more money out of their degree than their counterparts elsewhere, new research suggests, writes Anna Fazackerley.
Consultants from PricewaterhouseCoopers presented an economic analysis of London South Bank University at the annual Universities UK conference last week. The analysis, which was the first detailed study of its kind, revealed that a degree from London South Bank was worth an extra £26,000 on average to students over their lifetime, on top of the national average of £160,000 for an undergraduate degree.
The figures have thrilled London South Bank, which is situated in one of the most deprived boroughs in London and recruits many students without traditional qualifications from the surrounding communities.
Vice-chancellors were quick to seize on the report as proof that going to any university was worthwhile.
Sarah Slade, head of the higher education team at PWC that conducted the research, said: "This report is a good news story for the higher education sector because it demonstrates that higher education remains a very strong, good investment for the student and for the state."
One explanation for the benefits of attending London South Bank is that, in common with other post-92 institutions, it offers a high number of vocational subjects that attract a premium in the labour market.
The report says that nationally the average economic value to the individual and the state of gaining an undergraduate degree is £160,000. But for London South Bank this figure rises to £186,000.
The study also found that students who go on to take a postgraduate degree gain an extra £73,000 over their lifetime.
Those with postgraduate certificates earn an extra £35,000 and those with a degree and a Higher National Certificate or Diploma an extra £39,000. A diploma in higher education only nets the student an extra £5,000.
In addition, the consultants found that London South Bank's economic impact was more than six times its annual income.
Mike Wilkinson, pro vice-chancellor at the university, said: "We were delighted by the interest in this work from our peer universities at the recent UUK conference and would encourage them to use this type of information to help highlight the often overlooked contribution of modern universities to the economy."
A UUK spokesperson, said: "This research points to some positive findings about the value of an undergraduate degree across the higher education sector. As the latest figures show, graduates in the UK enjoy one of the highest financial returns of any Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country. It is clear that students continue to see going to university as a solid investment in their future."