Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

quantropy
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:55 pm UTC
Contact:

Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby quantropy » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:00 pm UTC

Looking at p3 of http://www.le.ac.uk/economics/to20/greenaway03.pdf shows that UK university participation increased from 13% in 1980 to 34% in 1999, with a target of 50% by 2010 (I think it's actually a bit above 40%). With the smaller number of students the state could afford to pay for them, now students are expected to foot a lot of the bill themselves. The question is 'Is it worth the money', not just because of the greater expense, but because a if half of the population have a degree, it's value is different to that when a much smaller number have one.

13% University participation: Acceptance at university implied you had passed a pretty selective process, which would look good to an employer. Also, the people you meet would be aiming for good jobs, and this networking would improve your employment prospects.

50% participation: Getting into university is no longer much of a signal. What you learn there might be useful for future employment, but employers often complain about the lack of real world skills provided by education. Also, you are not much more likely to network with future business leaders than if you had stayed at home.

So are young people being persuaded to run up large debts with a false expectation of what the benefits might be?

User avatar
SlyReaper
inflatable
Posts: 8015
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:09 pm UTC
Location: Bristol, Old Blighty

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:26 pm UTC

The short answer is it depends on the degree. A large contribution towards increased student numbers is the growing popularity of what are perceived to be easy degrees. Something like a maths or engineering degree is still quite rare, and still sought after by employers, so having a degree in a STEM subject will improve your career prospects far more than some other subjects. Enough that, over the course of your career, you would expect to earn enough extra money to offset the cost of the education. So even from a purely financial point of view, it's worth it if you don't mind the long return on investment.
Image
What would Baron Harkonnen do?

Chen
Posts: 5579
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Chen » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:47 pm UTC

I seem to recall from the university fee increase thread that the "debt" that is accrued is only realized if you successfully make above a certain amount of money. This seems like a very good deal. If your degree pays off you pay off the debt. If it turns out to be dud, the debt does not need to be paid and then the loss was time (instead of time and money).

zmatt
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby zmatt » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:49 pm UTC

IMO I think we put too much weight in university degrees. Most jobs don't require a degree, as you learn everything on the job, and a lot of people never use their degrees. Exceptions are generally in engineering, science and medical fields. This modern push for everyone to get degrees I think has messed up the education system. Now highschool is just getting ready to do well on tests for college entrance (act,sat, equivalents). They no longer teach what I think is the most important skill; critical thinking.

On a more practical level to your question, depends on the degree, the college and the job market at graduation. For example I know a friend who got an Aerospace degree at stanford and can't find a job anywhere. You think he would considering the degree and the school, but you have to take all three things into account if all you care about is money.
clockworkmonk wrote:Except for Warren G. Harding. Fuck that guy.

quantropy
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:55 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby quantropy » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:00 pm UTC

I suppose that I'd better say that I didn't start this thread looking for advice, actually I was at university in 1980, and wanted to know whether people think that the nature of universities has changed since then.

I know that loans are supposedly 'soft', and only need to be repaid when the borrower has sufficient income, but why then is there all this argument that high fees are a deterrent to students from poor families?

zmatt
Posts: 554
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:48 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby zmatt » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:14 pm UTC

At least here in the US it isn't quite that simple. Yeah if you flop out of college they will forgive the loans, but not after trying to take everything you have to pay them off. If you really are broke then they will wreck your credit score and forgive you. Remember, the same people invented the IRS, they take money seriously. if the gov wasn't so hard up for cash itself then things may be different.
clockworkmonk wrote:Except for Warren G. Harding. Fuck that guy.

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:10 pm UTC

quantropy wrote:I know that loans are supposedly 'soft', and only need to be repaid when the borrower has sufficient income, but why then is there all this argument that high fees are a deterrent to students from poor families?
A simple psychological phenomenon. Debt puts people off, no matter what is done about that debt. It is a lot easier for someone whose peers are all going to university to justify the debt they'll gather, and it is certainly a lot easier for someone for whom their parents could pay it for them.

TL;DR: debt puts poor people off
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

Chen
Posts: 5579
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Chen » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:56 pm UTC

quantropy wrote:I know that loans are supposedly 'soft', and only need to be repaid when the borrower has sufficient income, but why then is there all this argument that high fees are a deterrent to students from poor families?


Because people from poorer families are generally more debt averse than people from more well off families. The fact that the debt is not actualized until you can actually pay it off is a distinction that is not often made. I'd imagine its not as simple as I put it either, so people don't necessarily get all the information either. Really more education (at an earlier level) on what kind of debt this is would help. Then again you could have a ton of people going to university for useless degrees because they know if they don't make anything out of it, they've really just lost time and the money was "free".

quantropy
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:55 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby quantropy » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:15 pm UTC

If it's a case of aversion to debt, then the arguments that poorer students should be subsidised from the fees paid by others. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12665503) begin to look preposterous. Who is going to want to have a higher debt in order to subsidise another student (who will thus end up with lower debts), when both are going to end up with equivalent prospects.

User avatar
Iulus Cofield
WINNING
Posts: 2917
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:31 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:49 pm UTC

Some degrees are still worth the money. That is, degrees that are necessary to go into a field. Math and hard sciences are the obvious poster children for this, but there are plenty of other things like journalism or academia that also require a degree. I suspect the UK is becoming a lot like the US though, where people don't usually seek a degree to go into a specialized field, but for its own sake. Linguistics and communications degrees in the US are a good example of this. If you want to be a journalist or media person of any standing or a linguist, they are serious degrees and you won't get very far at all without them, but they are also joke degrees that say only say "I went to college and got a low-credit degree".

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Dark567 » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:09 pm UTC

http://www.onlinedegrees.org/calculator/

This is a calculator to help find the present value of a degree based off of future expected earnings in the US. I would expect the UK's degrees value to be slightly lower, as the difference between having a degree and not is a little less severe than the US, but at the same time UK's degrees are cheaper, so that makes sense. Based off the info most degrees are worth it, although certain majors(i.e. theology) aren't.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

quantropy
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:55 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby quantropy » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:07 pm UTC

I suppose that what I'm really thinking is that in the past, sons of well off families would spend a few years at university in the same way as they might go travelling - it broadened their education, but wasn't specifically aimed at preparing them for a career. In a way it was a time of taking things easy before the responsibilities of running the family business. However, if it's a question of sitting down at the age of eighteen and deciding on the best career path in a rapidly changing world, does spending four years and a lot of money on a university course necessarily make sense?

In Buckinghamshire there are two universities, neither of which is a typical British university. One is the University of Buckingham, a private university with intensive two year courses, with an emphasis on business studies. I can't help thinking that this would be the choice of someone who really wanted to maximise their future income. The other is the Open University, where you can study for a degree at the same time as working in your chosen career - doesn't it make more sense to work your way up this way, rather than trying to get your education over and done with and then looking for a job.

Spen
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat Sep 12, 2009 8:28 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Spen » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:10 pm UTC

As has been stated above, it depends on the degree, some degrees have seemingly no value at all, media studies being the prime example, Beer brewing being another good one (although at least it ends up with something really worthwhile at the end!). A lot of degrees seem to be in subjects for which there is no real benefit to doing a degree rather than simply providing on the job training for it. Possibly if the government could decide how many people in the particular fields are required adding a 20% fudge factor allowing for dropouts, deaths and career changes they could then place a cap on the number of places for each degree subject which can be offered and only do so at the universities with the best graduate employment rates into that industry.
@Quantropy: Surely people pick their degrees based on what they have a real passion for rather than just what's well paid as an industry, my friends who are doing engineering are the sort of people who've had it almost hardwired into them from a very young age. Related to the engineering point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmYDgncMhXw
To provide some context: I'm starting a mechanical engineering degree in the UK in a year and a bit's time after I've done an industrial placement so I very much hope that STEM degrees still have a value when I've gained my degree!

Hemmers
Posts: 117
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:50 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Hemmers » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:59 pm UTC

quantropy wrote:I know that loans are supposedly 'soft', and only need to be repaid when the borrower has sufficient income, but why then is there all this argument that high fees are a deterrent to students from poor families?


Yeah, I don't get this either. There is always a barrier to poor students because the loans don't cover your living expenses. When I went through tuition fees were at £1000 year (I was the last year).
Way it worked was you could get a £3k maintenance loan for living expenses, and a £1k tuition fee loan.
Given that rent will typically be £2-3k/year, that leaves you with actual living expenses to cover after your loan goes on rent.

That hasn't changed. Your tuition fees and rent are on a soft loan, and you just have to find your living costs.
For poor students, the ideal solution then is to attend a local uni and live at home, in which case rent will be nil, and either your parents support you and you don't take a maintenance loan, or you can contribute all or some of your £3k to the household costs.
Of course there are issues with locality - country dwellers don't have a lot of choice about living at home if their nearest uni is some way away, and there's the issue of appropriate courses. No point in spending 3 years of your life getting a degree from a low-ranking uni because it's local if you're bright enough to go somewhere more prestigious.

Interestingly, because the loans are supposed to be zero interest - that is they track inflation so have a real-value increase of nil - it's in your interest to take one anyway - even if you have the money to pay. Stick your cash in a high interest savings account and you end up making a profit!
Last edited by Hemmers on Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:15 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Angua
Don't call her Delphine.
Posts: 5940
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Angua » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:00 pm UTC

Hemmers wrote:
quantropy wrote:I know that loans are supposedly 'soft', and only need to be repaid when the borrower has sufficient income, but why then is there all this argument that high fees are a deterrent to students from poor families?


Yeah, I don't get this either. There is always a barrier to poor students because the loans don't cover your living expenses. When I went through tuition fees were at £1000 year (I was the last year).
Way it worked was you could get a £3k maintenance loan for living expenses, and a £1k tuition fee loan.
Given that rent will typically be £2-3k/year, that leaves you with actual living expenses to cover.

That hasn't changed. Your tuition fees are on a soft loan, and you just have to find your living costs.
For poor students, the ideal solution then is to attend a local uni, and live at home, in which case rent will be nil, and either your parents support you and you don't take a maintenance loan, or you can contribute all or some of your £3k to the household costs.
Of course there are issues with locality - country dwellers don't have a lot of choice about living at home if their nearest uni is some way away, and there's the issue of appropriate courses. No point in spending 3 years of your life getting a degree from a low-ranking uni because it's cheap if you're bright enough to go somewhere more prestigious.

Interestingly, because the loans are supposed to be zero interest - that is they track inflation so have a real-value increase of nil - it's in your interest to take one anyway - even if you have the money to pay. Stick your cash in a high interest savings account and you end up making a profit!

Poorer students do get much higher maintenance loans which do generally cover costs of living depending on how poor your parents are.
Crabtree's bludgeon: “no set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated”
GNU Terry Pratchett

User avatar
firechicago
Posts: 621
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:27 pm UTC
Location: One time, I put a snowglobe in the microwave and pushed "Hot Dog"

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby firechicago » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:44 am UTC

quantropy wrote:13% University participation: Acceptance at university implied you had passed a pretty selective process, which would look good to an employer. Also, the people you meet would be aiming for good jobs, and this networking would improve your employment prospects.

50% participation: Getting into university is no longer much of a signal. What you learn there might be useful for future employment, but employers often complain about the lack of real world skills provided by education. Also, you are not much more likely to network with future business leaders than if you had stayed at home.


I think you've got the signaling issue exactly backwards. Sure, when only 13% of the population had a degree, a degree was something impressive. But that also meant that there were a whole lot of smart, talented, hard-working people without degrees. If you were hiring for a position, setting an arbitrary bar of "must have a degree" was likely to exclude an awful lot of your candidates.

With 50% of the population college graduates, that means that anyone who shows any spark of above-average intelligence or talent is expected to get their degree. Not having a degree implies that you lack ambition at best or intelligence and work-ethic at worst. Whole industries can afford to hire exclusively college graduates. Sure a degree no longer puts you in an exclusive club, but the list of jobs that you won't even be considered for is much, much longer and it includes a very large proportion of the highest paying jobs in the economy.

User avatar
mister k
Posts: 643
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:28 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby mister k » Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:57 am UTC

You also seem to be ignoring the notion that university is quite fun in of itself. Not only do you get to have access to a set of knowledge which you are unlikely to learn otherwise other than over a long time, most jobs providing far more specific knowledge, you also get to spend 3 years getting to play life on easy mode- you are an adult with independence, but a lot of the responsbilities and problems associated with adulthood are not present.
Elvish Pillager wrote:you're basically a daytime-miller: you always come up as guilty to scumdar.

quantropy
Posts: 195
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:55 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby quantropy » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:38 pm UTC

I understand what people are saying about following your passion and about university being fun in itself. That was certainly the case when I entered university in 1977, but I just wondered whether fees, and thinking of a degree in terms of an investment had changed this point of view. I think that the answer is that student loans are soft enough so as not to be a deterrent. In fact looking at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12767850, I can't help wondering why there's such a fuss about subsidising the fees for students from poorer backgrounds, when they won't have to repay them unless they are earning a reasonable amount. If loan repayments are a problem, then it is more because graduates will be repaying them at the same time as paying a mortgage and raising a family.

I think what has changed in the last 30-35 years is accommodation costs. In my second year my rent was £126. That not per week or per month - it's the total for the year! Now rent is likely to be well over half of total living costs, and is what pushes costs above the amount of a student loan.

MrConor
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:19 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby MrConor » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:54 pm UTC

quantropy wrote:So are young people being persuaded to run up large debts with a false expectation of what the benefits might be?


Speaking as one of these young people myself, I can attest to a widespread belief amongst my contemporaries that a university graduate in the UK can expect to earn, over the course of their lifetime, £100,000 more (net) than a non-graduate. Between tuition fees and my maintenance loan, I'm spending about £20,000 on my degree. That would appear to be £80,000 of profit over the course of my lifetime.

Of course, if I was paying £9,000 a year tuition which many new undergraduates may face, then I would be paying somewhere in the region of £40,000 for the same degree, reducing my profit margin significantly but retaining a profit margin nonetheless.

This is, of course, presuming that I can get a job in the future. I'm reading Philosophy.

(One quick trip to Google later) Do Graduates Earn 100000 more than non-graduates? Apparently, the statement can be attributed to Universities and Science minister David Willets. The comparison is also between graduates and non-graduates with A-levels.

Chen
Posts: 5579
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Chen » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

MrConor wrote:
quantropy wrote:So are young people being persuaded to run up large debts with a false expectation of what the benefits might be?


Speaking as one of these young people myself, I can attest to a widespread belief amongst my contemporaries that a university graduate in the UK can expect to earn, over the course of their lifetime, £100,000 more (net) than a non-graduate. Between tuition fees and my maintenance loan, I'm spending about £20,000 on my degree. That would appear to be £80,000 of profit over the course of my lifetime.

Of course, if I was paying £9,000 a year tuition which many new undergraduates may face, then I would be paying somewhere in the region of £40,000 for the same degree, reducing my profit margin significantly but retaining a profit margin nonetheless.

This is, of course, presuming that I can get a job in the future. I'm reading Philosophy.

(One quick trip to Google later) Do Graduates Earn 100000 more than non-graduates? Apparently, the statement can be attributed to Universities and Science minister David Willets. The comparison is also between graduates and non-graduates with A-levels.


That $100 000 seems to be an average over ALL degrees which makes it pretty useless for an individual. I mean will a degree in history make someone $100 000 more than someone without a degree in history? Well if they both go into teaching elementary school, I'd say the degree is probably almost irrelevant which means the degree holder is probably taking a net loss. Now if the one with a history degree goes on to be a professor at university yeah they'll probably make more than a non-degree holder who continues to teach at elementary school.

The problem with that average (as is mentioned in your link) is that some jobs that require a degree (architecture, medicine) are high paying jobs. Sure if you become an architect you'll likely make more money than someone without a degree. The same cannot necessarily be said for someone with a philosophy degree because in and of itself its not going to directly lead to a job (except I guess teaching philosophy).

Having a degree certainly looks better on a CV than not having a degree so there is that aspect which I'm sure is factored in. Still how much of that $100 000 it is, is not really clear. All other things being equal a CV that has "Degree in X" is going to be better than one without, but I can't imagine that alone will account for a full $100 000 more over your working lifetime.

MrConor
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:19 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby MrConor » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:33 pm UTC

Chen wrote:Having a degree certainly looks better on a CV than not having a degree so there is that aspect which I'm sure is factored in. Still how much of that $100 000 it is, is not really clear. All other things being equal a CV that has "Degree in X" is going to be better than one without, but I can't imagine that alone will account for a full $100 000 more over your working lifetime.


I think many people do not consider graduate training schemes when considering the usefulness of certain types of degree. There are a lot of companies which recruit graduates for management training programmes (Such as this position advertised with Lidl, or various schemes here with John Lewis) where they're not concerned what degree you have so long as it is of an acceptable standard (usually 2:1 and above).
Non-graduates are certainly able to get the same positions as graduates, but usually a non-graduate would have to start out at a more basic position and work their way up the ladder, which could be the reason that graduates earn more over their lifetime (as they start earning more sooner).

Chen
Posts: 5579
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Chen » Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:23 pm UTC

MrConor wrote:I think many people do not consider graduate training schemes when considering the usefulness of certain types of degree. There are a lot of companies which recruit graduates for management training programmes (Such as this position advertised with Lidl, or various schemes here with John Lewis) where they're not concerned what degree you have so long as it is of an acceptable standard (usually 2:1 and above).
Non-graduates are certainly able to get the same positions as graduates, but usually a non-graduate would have to start out at a more basic position and work their way up the ladder, which could be the reason that graduates earn more over their lifetime (as they start earning more sooner).


I'm not disputing that graduates will, on average, make more money than non-graduates. The fact that the number is average over ALL people with degrees and not just makes the number a tad disingenuous. Not all degrees are worth $100 000 more than not getting one. Thats just the average. I'm certain there are plenty of degrees that allow you to make FAR more than that. Consequently there must be some that make FAR less, so much less that it might in fact be a net loss if you were to get one of those degrees.

radams
Posts: 90
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 12:49 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby radams » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:49 pm UTC

Here's a report that includes a breakdown of the monetary value of a degree in different subjects (p.5). The amount of money a graduate earns over their lifetime, compared with a person with 2 A-levels but no degree, based on a survey of people's earnings over 2000-2005:

http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publica ... adprem.pdf

Medicine and Law come out top, Arts way down at the bottom.

Myself, though, I'm more concerned about the effect that high tuition fees will have on academic standards. There will be a lot more pressure on us to make a degree easier. It will be in our interest to accept more students (since student numbers now make a big difference to a university's finances), and to pass more students - both because a low pass rate will put off applicants, and because a failing student is far more likely to pursue an official grievance or even legal action, since it's a lot of money down the drain if they fail.

We may also have to make our mark schemes much more detailed and prescriptive in order to defend against such grievances, to prove that the students are being assessed fairly. This would lead to a degree becoming more about teaching-to-the-test and memorisation, rather than about creativity, individual study and originality.

User avatar
Deep_Thought
Posts: 857
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:58 pm UTC
Location: North of the River

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Deep_Thought » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:59 pm UTC

tl; dr

Well sort of, I scanned the response, just didn't read in detail. I'm in agreement with much of what has been said so far. I could go on for hours on the topic but I'll try to be brief. One of the central problems we have with the whole system is that employers, and society to a large extent, seem to believe "Degree == Smart Person", and the truth is it's not an equality. I'd argue that the truth used to be more along the lines of "Smart Person => Degree", as in hard-working clever people are also the type to slog through 3 years of lectures and exams. Instead we're stuck in this mentality that a degree is some kind of magical training for all white-collar jobs, and that anyone without one should be barred from all office jobs.

Personal anecdote time - my mother was told she couldn't start teacher training because she only had a 2 year diploma rather than a 3 year degree, despite having 10 years experience as a school librarian and a further 5/6 years as a teaching assistant. Where's the logic in that?

P.S. Forum keeps loggin me out and eating my post when I press Submit. Grrrr.

MrConor
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:19 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby MrConor » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:17 pm UTC

radams wrote:Here's a report that includes a breakdown of the monetary value of a degree in different subjects (p.5). The amount of money a graduate earns over their lifetime, compared with a person with 2 A-levels but no degree, based on a survey of people's earnings over 2000-2005:

http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publica ... adprem.pdf

Medicine and Law come out top, Arts way down at the bottom.


The three degrees which come out at the bottom are Linguistics (£71,920), Humanities (£51,549) and Arts (£34,393). Given my earlier supposition that my own degree is costing me around £20,000, it would appear that my degree will be profitable. Good news for me, eh?
Given the tuition fees rise, it would mean that doing an Arts degree would cost £6,000 more than it was going to earn which might put people off applying. This is slightly less good news: it is cheaper to run academic Arts and Humanities courses than it is to run science courses (considering the cost of labs and materials). Many universities, including my own, use the 'profits' from Arts students to subsidise the sciences. As one of my coursemates put it recently, "Am I really paying three grand a year for six hours of lectures and a library card?"

EDIT: I am referring to the results in Figure 2, from a 2006 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, from the variety available in the paper.

Pilchard
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2011 2:13 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Pilchard » Tue Mar 22, 2011 2:34 pm UTC

There's a really big point to consider that most people miss - student loans accrue interest from the day they are paid out:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/Applyingforthefirsttime/DG_171539

So the cost of your degree won't be ~40k, it'll be ~40k plus the interest. And if you've come out of uni and got a crap job which means you won't immediately be paying the loan back, it means the loan will be much bigger by the time you eventually start paying it back (interest rate on my loan is about 4.2% if memory serves. I imagine this will go up). This means poor/less successful students will end up paying more back, not less. My first job out of uni was just above the repayment rate at the time but the automatic payments they were taking weren't covering the interest on the loan, so even after I'd finished my degree (physics, incidentally) and got a job, my loan was still getting bigger. And that was when tuition was £1100, rather than £9000.

Personally I think it's 50/50 if a degree is worthwhile now, I can't help but think that in a lot of sectors you'd be better off getting a job at 18 and accruing the extra three or four years of work experience, and saving yourself a huge amount of money in the process.

HungryHobo
Posts: 1708
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:01 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:46 pm UTC

irish here.
I got lucky and finished my degree just in time to get out before they brought in significant fees.
Here tuition was all paid for by the state.
There was a 750 euro fee per year which doubled last year to 1500 which was also covered if your family fell bellow a certain income bracket leaving a 140 cap which everyone paid.
There's a maintenance grant for students from poorer families as well.

of course people still used to complain but it was a far better system to be in if you were from a poorer family than most in the world.
now of course it's all getting torn down to be replaced with something like the US has because someone in the irish government has a massive hardon for the US way of doing things.

Worked part time since first year and over the summer but finished my undergrad last year with zero debt, doing a 1 year postgrad (subsidised by the EU because it's in an area which someone somewhere decided they were going to need more people in in a few years) for 2 grand.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

MrConor
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:19 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby MrConor » Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:12 pm UTC

Pilchard wrote:There's a really big point to consider that most people miss - student loans accrue interest from the day they are paid out:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAn ... /DG_171539

So the cost of your degree won't be ~40k, it'll be ~40k plus the interest. And if you've come out of uni and got a crap job which means you won't immediately be paying the loan back, it means the loan will be much bigger by the time you eventually start paying it back (interest rate on my loan is about 4.2% if memory serves. I imagine this will go up). This means poor/less successful students will end up paying more back, not less.


The interest rate on student loans is pegged to inflation, so in real terms (ie, the ability to convert the cash into other goods and services) the value of the money borrowed and the money paid back should stay the same.

User avatar
mosc
Doesn't care what you think.
Posts: 5403
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby mosc » Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:50 pm UTC

I agree that the notion of return on investment is highly dependent on degree. I've always felt strongly that many majors should be separated as "recreational" instead of "vocational". I have no problem with a recreational field of study and if you're a prof in one of them getting paid more power to you, but it doesn't seem fair to group it with more useful higher education. Similarly, I think state assistance, scolarships, etc should mostly focus on "vocational" degrees. I don't want to pay taxes for Johnny to get a philosophy degree, I'm sorry. It does not add equivalent value to society for the money spent. If Johnny's parents are rich and want to pay him to get a degree, that's their problem not mine.

I would also point out that no degree is purely vocational or recreational. I don't propose the separation as black and white, just a spectrum where some things are further on one end or the other.
Title: It was given by the XKCD moderators to me because they didn't care what I thought (I made some rantings, etc). I care what YOU think, the joke is forums.xkcd doesn't care what I think.

User avatar
drkslvr
Posts: 205
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:59 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby drkslvr » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:06 pm UTC

American here. I can't speak to your situation, but over here, most degrees are only worth it if you value the career at the end. Financially, a plumber beats out an elementary school teacher in every way. In fact, he beats out an engineer until they are about 50 years old. Not only that, but as the number of people with degrees increases, we will have to start paying more for jobs that don't require an education. (Well, we will when immigration from Central America slows down. I suppose that may not happen anytime soon, but that's an issue of its own.) Getting a degree in the US is only worthwhile if you want a job for which you'd need that degree. For most careers, it's not worth the investment or effort if you're just after the money.
Help a paralyzed kitten get surgery! Fundly.com/Help-Link-Walk-Again
Image
Like Link's page for photos and updates on his status: Facebook.com/HelpLinkWalkAgain

User avatar
Aaeriele
Posts: 2127
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:30 am UTC
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Aaeriele » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:10 pm UTC

drkslvr wrote:Financially, a plumber beats out an elementary school teacher in every way. In fact, he beats out an engineer until they are about 50 years old.


[citation needed]
Vaniver wrote:Harvard is a hedge fund that runs the most prestigious dating agency in the world, and incidentally employs famous scientists to do research.

afuzzyduck wrote:ITS MEANT TO BE FLUTTERSHY BUT I JUST SEE AAERIELE! CURSE YOU FORA!

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Dark567 » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:17 pm UTC

mosc wrote:I agree that the notion of return on investment is highly dependent on degree. I've always felt strongly that many majors should be separated as "recreational" instead of "vocational". I have no problem with a recreational field of study and if you're a prof in one of them getting paid more power to you, but it doesn't seem fair to group it with more useful higher education. Similarly, I think state assistance, scolarships, etc should mostly focus on "vocational" degrees. I don't want to pay taxes for Johnny to get a philosophy degree, I'm sorry. It does not add equivalent value to society for the money spent. If Johnny's parents are rich and want to pay him to get a degree, that's their problem not mine.
People need to stop ignoring the fact that not all degrees are a useful economically and for that matter that there are degrees that are basically some form of "higher-level" recreation and not something that is going to continue to develop the economy. When states talk about increasing the number of students in higher education to create a stronger economy, we need to make sure we are doing that and not churn out philosophy degrees*.

*This coming from Philosophy certificate(the name my school called a minor), although my major was much more economical.

EDIT: And about that engineering major I picked up versus those plumbers.....


http://www1.salary.com/Plumber-I-salary.html
http://www1.salary.com/Engineer-salary.html

Seeing as how a average starting level engineer($52k) makes almost as much as 90% of all plumbers($54k). At almost every level an engineer makes just under twice as much as the same level plumber, and it tends to widen by more at the end of the career.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

User avatar
mosc
Doesn't care what you think.
Posts: 5403
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby mosc » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:48 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:People need to stop ignoring the fact that not all degrees are a useful economically and for that matter that there are degrees that are basically some form of "higher-level" recreation and not something that is going to continue to develop the economy. When states talk about increasing the number of students in higher education to create a stronger economy, we need to make sure we are doing that and not churn out philosophy degrees*.

And it's not like we're saying Philosophy has no place in college, or that it has zero economic value. College students need a diversified education, not just vocational classes. Also, I'm sure we could compute some meaningful ROI for a philosophy degree in comparison with other degrees, and that it wouldn't be zero. I'm just saying we aught to tie aid to the ROI to get the best bang for our tax dollar... pound (god, you brits are weird).
Title: It was given by the XKCD moderators to me because they didn't care what I thought (I made some rantings, etc). I care what YOU think, the joke is forums.xkcd doesn't care what I think.

Memorantix
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:23 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Memorantix » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:56 pm UTC

I believe that the majority of the Universities in England (not sure about wales/scotland) are charging the maximum they can (£9000, the new maximum, thanks clegg), regardless of this, I think if your doing a worthwhile degree then university is worth the money (what degree's are 'worthwhile' enough, I can't say). Without the help of my university I would not be in the position that I am now, with a good job straight out of university (computer security). I also believe that there are some things money can't buy, when you go to university (especially one that is further away from home) you will learn a lot of valuable life lessons and you will undoubtedly broaden your outlook on life. You will make new friends (and good ones guaranteed), have opportunities that you just wont get by staying at home and you will be a more (for lack of a better word/phrase) 'grown up' individual.

User avatar
Deep_Thought
Posts: 857
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:58 pm UTC
Location: North of the River

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Deep_Thought » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:02 pm UTC

While I agree with the majority of your post I've always been a little mystified by the idea that people "grow up" and learn "life lessons" at university. Show me a person who's been working for 3 years and someone who's done a degree and I won't be pointing at the student when you ask me which is more mature and ready for the workplace.

Chen
Posts: 5579
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Chen » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:11 pm UTC

Deep_Thought wrote:While I agree with the majority of your post I've always been a little mystified by the idea that people "grow up" and learn "life lessons" at university. Show me a person who's been working for 3 years and someone who's done a degree and I won't be pointing at the student when you ask me which is more mature and ready for the workplace.


Your statement heavily depends on the workplace. Clearly if someone is working at company X for 3 years they'll be better prepared for working at company X. Thats almost a tautology. Then again if someone works at McD's for 3 years I wouldn't necessarily consider them more mature and ready for a job (except another food service one) than someone with a degree.

User avatar
AvatarIII
Posts: 2098
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:28 pm UTC
Location: W.Sussex, UK

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:30 pm UTC

i have to say, i personally didn't go to university, i basically mucked up my A levels due to stress at home, which led to me doing drugs for a while, (not anymore thankfully) and i screwed up basically, i came out failing Maths and scraping the lowest possible passes in Biology and Physics.
if i tried, i may have got into university, but i didn't feel like it was worth it, or that i was worthy, or even that i was ready to leave home yet.
luckily i managed to get a job as a lab assistant in a microbiolgy dept for a cosmetics firm, where i was forced to leave due to company relocation, but since then i've had a few more lab assistant jobs, all on temporary contracts, the first 2 had to end becuase there was not enough work to justify renewal, but my current one has been renewed 3 times (12m duration) and 6 years after finishing my A levels, many of my peers doing the same or similar jobs to me, also in temp contracts and in the same position as me career wise, are university graduates.
the way the job market is at the moment, it seems no easier to get permanent jobs with a degree, at least in the pharmecuetical industry. i suspect that post-grad degrees such as masters are more important than the degree itself, at least, in the industry i am in.
i do sometimes regret not going to university, and i do always have the opportunity, but i think until i reach the point when someone tells me "i'm sorry, this is as far as you can go without a degree" i'm generally happy to be without one. and i think if and when i do go for a degree, i will be much better off having years of workplace experience next to freshers right out of college.

User avatar
mosc
Doesn't care what you think.
Posts: 5403
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby mosc » Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:45 pm UTC

Indeed three things college graduates forget is that in addition to the high cost they pay for the degree and other "life lessons" they miss out on four years of income, four years of on the job experience, and four years of real-life learning. There's a heavy bit of "the grass is always greener" happening on both sides of the debate. Degrees generally only matter when experience is lacking. Their main purpose is to get you the job. Advancement and a "career" is not highly linked to education IMHO. You get a medical degree because nobody would hire you as a medical person without one. Once you have 10 years of experience at a medical job, do people really care what your education was?

I also think that many truly uniquely successful people tend to not have a strong educational background. They learn quickly that to exceed the norm, they must be abnormal. "Finding your own way" can teach invaluable self-motivation skills in comparison with education which can sometimes lead to entitlement complexes and ingrained group-think.

All that said, I have a masters degree myself and I do know the value of education. I would not have my job if it weren't for my degree. They simply wouldn't have looked at me and thought I was qualified without it. To me, education is a start on the path, not a destination. There are plenty of other paths to the same destination as well, they just tend to be harder. Education is leveraging resources, time and money, to make your transition into the workplace easier. It's a luxury in many ways, which is why I don't like having my tax dollars pay for it in the instances where the cost-benefit is not obvious. I think in many situations it IS obvious, but there are plenty of exceptions.
Title: It was given by the XKCD moderators to me because they didn't care what I thought (I made some rantings, etc). I care what YOU think, the joke is forums.xkcd doesn't care what I think.

biodomino
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:18 am UTC

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby biodomino » Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:33 am UTC

That $100 000 seems to be an average over ALL degrees which makes it pretty useless for an individual. I mean will a degree in history make someone $100 000 more than someone without a degree in history? Well if they both go into teaching elementary school, I'd say the degree is probably almost irrelevant which means the degree holder is probably taking a net loss. Now if the one with a history degree goes on to be a professor at university yeah they'll probably make more than a non-degree holder who continues to teach at elementary school.


Just as an fyi, I'm not sure how it is where you live, but in most US states, you're not likely to get a job teaching in an elementary school without a degree in elementary education. If instead you were to ask if a person with a history degree would make $100,000 more in a secondary setting, then the answer would probably be yes, because again, they wouldn't be able to work as a history teacher without a history degree (or related degree), most likely. Because teachers tend to make slightly above the national average salary, they would probably pretty easily clear an additional $100,000 over 30ish years of work.

Dark567 wrote:
mosc wrote:I agree that the notion of return on investment is highly dependent on degree. I've always felt strongly that many majors should be separated as "recreational" instead of "vocational". I have no problem with a recreational field of study and if you're a prof in one of them getting paid more power to you, but it doesn't seem fair to group it with more useful higher education. Similarly, I think state assistance, scolarships, etc should mostly focus on "vocational" degrees. I don't want to pay taxes for Johnny to get a philosophy degree, I'm sorry. It does not add equivalent value to society for the money spent. If Johnny's parents are rich and want to pay him to get a degree, that's their problem not mine.
People need to stop ignoring the fact that not all degrees are a useful economically and for that matter that there are degrees that are basically some form of "higher-level" recreation and not something that is going to continue to develop the economy. When states talk about increasing the number of students in higher education to create a stronger economy, we need to make sure we are doing that and not churn out philosophy degrees*.

*This coming from Philosophy certificate(the name my school called a minor), although my major was much more economical.

EDIT: And about that engineering major I picked up versus those plumbers.....


http://www1.salary.com/Plumber-I-salary.html
http://www1.salary.com/Engineer-salary.html

Seeing as how a average starting level engineer($52k) makes almost as much as 90% of all plumbers($54k). At almost every level an engineer makes just under twice as much as the same level plumber, and it tends to widen by more at the end of the career.


Erm, you have completely misread that graph on plumber salaries. That's a bell curve, which shows that 90% of plumbers make UNDER 54k. According to your link, the average is about 40k, showing that it's very difficult for a plumber to make much more than 54k. Essentially, the lowest earning plumbers will make ~30k vs the lowest earning engineer's ~52k, while the highest earning plumbers will make ~54k while the highest earning engineers make nice six-figure incomes.

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Is a university degree in the UK worth the money?

Postby Dark567 » Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:47 pm UTC

biodomino wrote:
Dark567 wrote:EDIT: And about that engineering major I picked up versus those plumbers.....


http://www1.salary.com/Plumber-I-salary.html
http://www1.salary.com/Engineer-salary.html

Seeing as how a average starting level engineer($52k) makes almost as much as 90% of all plumbers($54k). At almost every level an engineer makes just under twice as much as the same level plumber, and it tends to widen by more at the end of the career.


Erm, you have completely misread that graph on plumber salaries. That's a bell curve, which shows that 90% of plumbers make UNDER 54k. According to your link, the average is about 40k, showing that it's very difficult for a plumber to make much more than 54k. Essentially, the lowest earning plumbers will make ~30k vs the lowest earning engineer's ~52k, while the highest earning plumbers will make ~54k while the highest earning engineers make nice six-figure incomes.
... thats exactly what I said. A starting engineer makes as much as or more than 90% of all plumbers and an engineer at any equal experience level will generally make slightly under twice as much as the equivalent plumber.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests