MP questions worth of degree

Frank Field points to comparison with pay for those working after apprenticeships

January 17, 2014

About a quarter of university graduates are earning less than the average wage paid to non-graduate employees who have completed an apprenticeship, new figures show.

According to a report by the Office for National Statistics commissioned by Frank Field MP, some per cent of graduates were paid less than the hourly gross wage - £11.10 – paid to non-graduates with an apprenticeship.

Some 40 per cent of graduates were also earning £13.45 an hour or less, the report says.

About a quarter – 26 per cent – of those graduates earning less than £13.45 an hour were in part-time work, of whom 41 per cent were working in public administration, health and education.

These graduates were also more likely to work in distribution, restaurants and hotels than those with apprenticeships.

Mr Field claimed the “breakthrough statistics” demonstrated that a university education was not always the best way to achieve their life goals.

“Successive generations of young people have been shoehorned into universities on the promise of improving their lifetime earnings,” said the Labour MP for Birkenhead.

“But, as well as being saddled with eye-watering levels of debt, more than a quarter of them now work in part-time roles earning lower wages than workers with an apprenticeship under their belt,” he added.

He called for the government to set up a working party to look into these “shifting patterns” and consider a “major rethink on the present pattern of university education”.

However, the report also presented much evidence for the persistence of the “graduate premium”.

Graduates were still likely to earn more on average than those with just an apprenticeship, says the report, which excluded those who are self-employed as data for this group was not available.

The average graduate was £15.18 an hour - £4.08 an hour more than those with just an apprenticeship under their belt.

There are about 10.5 million graduates in the UK in work, of whom 1.3 million were self-employed, with an employment rate of 87 per cent, the report says.

That compares to 2 million non-graduates with an apprenticeship employed, with a slightly lower employment rate of 83 per cent, it adds.

The earnings data is also skewed by the gender make-up of each group. Graduates are split almost equally (51 per cent men versus 49 per cent women), whereas 87 per cent of those with an apprenticeship are men and just 13 per cent women, who tend to earn less on average than men.

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