By Tohid Ismail
A new study of graduate salaries by The Economist has ranked Durham 109th out of 125 surveyed UK universities.
Unlike other university league tables, The Economist has used data to compare graduate wages with what they could have been expected to earn had they not attended university.
The ranking system is based on the gap between the expected and actual earnings of a graduate after five years.
A Durham student’s “expected salary”, the data suggests, is £34,421 – a stark contrast from the “actual” average figure of £32,456.
This results in a disparity of -£1,933, implying students are in effect losing out by attending the university.
The data used to generate the “expected” figure is based on the background of the average student at the university, with grades, quality of previous education and location of hometowns as the main factors used to generate the estimate.
Many of the institutions in the top ten of the league table offer highly respected maths and science-related courses, which are far more lucrative than creative arts subjects. Meanwhile, the table’s top three universities – Portsmouth, Aston and Newman – have a vocational focus.
The Economist suggests the success of third-placed Newman University, which only became a university in 2013, is due to its low (16:1) student-teacher ratio and its incorporation of a work placement as part of every degree.
The current affairs magazine further makes clear that its analysis shows the true general impact of university upon students’ earnings, a debate that has recently come to the fore due to the increase in tuition fees to £9,250 for some institutions.
For those who have lower expected incomes, those universities that add value to potential income could be imperative. However, discounting the value that a particular university adds, and focusing only on the “actual earnings” section, Durham achieves the twelfth spot. Oxford also climbs from tenth to second place.
The Economist argues that the findings have taken a unique approach to ranking universities: one that places monetary benefit at the top of its concern.
The magazine does admit the limitations of its own report, however, noting that the figures are extrapolated from one cohort of former students who graduated at the onset of economic recession in 2009.
Photograph by Thomas’s pics via Flickr and Creative Commons