Putting an individual through university generates £227k for the economy

The government needs to recognise the economic returns from investing in A-levels and degree courses, writes UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.

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Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)

I have always been a firm believer that investing in education reaps many benefits. A better-educated society is a more tolerant one and people with an education are less likely to be involved with crime or be a drain on the country’s benefits system.

A-Level-results-dayA report released today from the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR), commissioned by my union, the University and College Union (UCU), makes a compelling case for education from an economic perspective.

The report – “Further Higher? Tertiary education and growth in the UK’s new economy” – shows that putting an individual through A-levels and university generates a £227,000 net gain for the economy.

For an investment of £5,000 the net return to the exchequer from someone who gains A-Levels is £47,000. A degree is worth an additional £180,000 to the Treasury from just a £19,000 state investment.

Although I would rather not simply see education in crude financial terms, this report makes it clear that we need greater investment in education if we are to stem the haemorrhaging of jobs abroad.


See also:

State school students more likely to achieve a First at Oxford than independent schoolers 24 May 2012

Time for university fat cats to sup from the “efficiency” bowl 17 May 2012

Left-wing snobbery does state schools no favours 15 May 2012


With 80% of new jobs by 2020 likely to be professional or technical, requiring at least an A-level, the UK must invest now in the next generation or risk losing out in the race for economic growth. Today’s report highlights the folly of reducing public investment in our colleges and universities, especially at a time when youth unemployment is at record levels.

Industry leaders recognise the importance of investing in UK students.

In the report, Nissan vice-president for Europe, Jerry Hardcastle, says:

In India they are churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates and we are churning out a small number and that will restrict our ability to expand.

“If they’re not available here, the jobs will move to India, Brazil and China.”

Instead of cutting places and making it more expensive to study, ministers need a strategy which harnesses further and higher education and will provide opportunities for the next generation.

The trend towards increased demand for higher qualifications is prevalent across the globe, yet, as the report shows, the UK currently invests just 1.7% of public expenditure on tertiary education, compared to 2.3% in France, 2.8% in Germany, 3.2% in the USA and the OECD average of 3.0%.

The UK will not win a race to the bottom in terms of low wages. We need to invest in areas we excel in and ensure we can continue to do so in the future. Failure to do so would seriously threaten, for example, the UK’s position as Europe’s leading manufacturer and developer of low-carbon vehicles – an industry which generates £1.5billion in research and development each year alone.

As the proportion of jobs requiring higher-level skills increases, maintaining and even expanding the number of graduates entering the workforce should be a priority across all subject areas, including the arts, social sciences and humanities.

If the government refuses to accept the many social benefits of a better-educated population, it can surely recognise the economic returns from investing in A-levels and degree courses.


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60 Responses to “Putting an individual through university generates £227k for the economy”

  1. @GrannyWils

    RT @leftfootfwd: Putting an individual through university generates £227k for the economy http://t.co/Q6koD9yS

  2. JC

    Investing in the future is the only way. We can’t invest in the past, however much some people might wish to. Nevertheless, we must understand the costs and benefits of such investment, otherwise we’re just gambling with taxpayers money. Investments should be considered on their own merits, not the dogma of those proposing them.

  3. Anonymous

    The Tories are investing in nothing at all, but papering over the cracks.

    The fact is, the damage being done to UK Universities – and I know this first hand – is immense. Departments and courses are closing, lecturers are being fired and moved away from research to teaching and the entire culture is changing to “pleasing the students” rather than proper academic rigorousness.

  4. Anonymous

    It’s the old Stalinist ideology.

    “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. ”

    So…they come on here to troll and disrupt debate, as they do every left-wing site. Because the admins won’t instantly ban them, as expressing any kind of left-wing idea does on right-wing sites.

  5. Mr. Sensible

    Geoff, the fact that fees went up to £9000 is more of a reflection on this government. That is where attention should be paid, as opposed to trying to criticize devolution and bring race in to it for the sake of it.

  6. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Putting an individual through university generates £227k for the economy http://t.co/Q6koD9yS

  7. Foyer Federation

    The benefits of making the best investment, sending a young person 2university has a £277k net gain 2the state http://t.co/SXK5ki98

  8. Jenny_Edwards

    The benefits of making the best investment, sending a young person 2university has a £277k net gain 2the state http://t.co/SXK5ki98

  9. Fall in applications undermines government claims fee rise will not deter students | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Putting an individual through university generates £227k for the economy 9 Jun […]

  10. Stopthesuperuni


    Do you think you can wait any longer to take action against this sort of thing? We warned you it would happen: Want to find out why? Read on AND TAKE ACTION NOW!

    This is the Stop The Super University NOW Campaign,

    Set-up by local residents in solidarity with Students, Staff and Businesses in Wales, who are opposed to the resulting cuts and subsiquent costs socially, economically, politically and environmentally that will occur by the creating of “Super Universities” in Wales.

    Our aim is to reveal the truth about these plans, especially the fact that the Super Universities will forever ruin the opportunities for further and higher education in Wales, as well as giving those who are profiting from such plans an unjust monopoly over the industry for their own gains.

    We also wish to warn young people of the risks to their educational choices and the fact that this plan might create a two-tier system – One University for the “elite” and one sub-standard university for everyone else (with this uni most likely also taking control of the jobs market) as well as the lack of representation they will have when enrolling to such a establishment. Already Students at Cardiff Metropolitan University has voted with its feet, with over 80% knowing that their studies and future prospects would be irrepairably damaged as a direct result, along with concern being mooted by students at Newport and elsewhere also. There is no wish within the student body or university staff body in Wales for this merger – Despite this clear opposition, the taxdodging Education Minister carries on regardless – so further action needs to be taken now.

    Already Cardiff Council, Cardiff Metropolitan University have spoken out, plus many staff and students from all of Wales’ institutions have come to us, uncovering the plans that the wealthy and powerful few have set in place, including the silencing of any debate both in public and in the media over the long-term consiquences of such actions, as well as legalised “gagging”/“compulsory redundancies” of members of staff from those institutions in favour of the plans for “corporate reasons”. International students have also come forward and reported the immense systems failure that they face, including underhand methods to make them stay on (everything from grade-changing without reason between “pass” and “fail” despite high subject attainment, to heavy-handed charges well in excess of the income they and their families have) and dragging them into poverty – This is a discrace to the values that we as a nation hold.

    We are against the idea of a centralised and controlled education economy set-out and directly controlled by one minister (Leighton Andrews – who double-crossed the Lib-Dems and is about to double cross the people of Wales with his scheme) and one institution (Glamorgan University Group) who are using this plan for their own profit and selfish greed-gotten gains, especially so shortly after the failure of the University of Wales Federal Super University.

    We encourage those who want to learn the truth and stop this disaster, to follow our posts, spread the word in protest and to start the debate going in the higher echelons of government and civic society – because if it really is such a “good scheme” as the Minister claims, then why are so many people being silenced from speaking out? We also encourage those with information to come forward in confidence if they have any further information on the cuts to further and higher education in Wales that will have long-term impact on the Welsh Economy.

    The Power is in your hands – Don’t let us down


    Stop The Super University NOW Campaign

    [email protected]

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