Posts Tagged ‘earnings’

What is this nonsense?

November 19, 2017


Following our earlier discussion, the BBC has published an article on the financial benefits of a university education, with some results as shown above.  But it’s difficult to know what to make of it, since they don’t say anything about data or methodology or (perhaps more realistically) give a link to where these questions might be covered.

Questions which are not answered include what data are they using, what years are they covering, what is the definition of these subjects, what students are they covering.

What data are they using?

The real question is income data.  If it comes from self-report, then you will get low coverage and also inaccurate answers.  If it’s HMRC data, then you might also get some regrettable inaccuracies and omissions and you will miss foreign students and UK students who went abroad after graduation.  There’s also a question about what coverage you get of UK students who don’t take out student loans.  The work is ascribed to Dr Jack Britton from the IFS and there is a recent IFS study that covers similar ground.  Perhaps it’s the same data…the same years…whatever.

What years are they covering?

Search me.

What is the definition of these subjects?

It is hard (for me at least) to work out the coverage of Medicine & Dentistry, Nursing, and All Medicine.  I suppose that All Medicine does not enter into combined, but you never know.  Then you could ask whether Languages is just Modern Foreign Languages, or does it include Classics, Welsh, Irish, Linguistics…and so on…

What students are they covering?

At a guess, it might be UK-based students who have done first degrees at UK universities and who can be followed up.  But then in some subject areas many of them will have done higher degrees and a PhD would probably depress earnings at the 5-year mark.


Finally, the figure above is interesting for its inclusion of the Open University, whose students may well be different on entry and retired on exit…

Are languages important?

September 27, 2017

Never mind which languages, the question is are any foreign languages important in the English-speaking world?  After all, if you live in some non-Anglophone country you probably need English both for foreign travel and for doing business with the rest of the world, while for an English-speaker the only real need is when you have to sell stuff to foreigners.  And that’s stuff as in stuff, since the English language may be part of the attraction of services like education.

The CBI Skills Survey for 2017 suggests that employers are not satisfied with graduates’ foreign language skills:


but also do not regard them as particularly important:


…unless of course they come under ‘Degree Subject’…

Available surveys do not really show any particular premium for graduates in foreign languages.  A survey with rather unclear methodology looks at average [mean] starting graduate salaries as at October 2016, with some results we have summarised:


So it appears that starting salaries for what appear to be language-based degrees are a little above the average for humanities and a little below the overall average.  By way of comparison, the highest and lowest salaries are shown below:


A more systematic exercise (but with less detailed subject classifications) published by DfE gives median earnings in 2014/15 for those graduating in 2008/09.  As before, we would be hard-pressed to claim a particular premium for Languages:


Finally, what looks like a very thorough study by the IFS is more interested in various factors such as socio-economic background, prior attainment and institution status but gives some rather discrepant information for males and females:



So ‘Lang Lit’ (which must be basically English in terms of numbers) looks like a pretty good deal for women but not for men.

We conclude that there is no real excess demand for graduates in modern foreign languages demonstrated by either employer preferences or salaries achieved…