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The Return to a University Education in Great Britain


  • Sloane, Peter J.

    () (Swansea University)

  • O'Leary, Nigel C.

    () (Swansea University)


In this paper, we estimate the rate of return to first degrees, masters degrees and PhDs in Britain using data from the Labour Force Survey. We estimate returns to broad subject groups and more narrowly defined disciplines, distinguishing returns by gender and attempting to control for variations in student quality across disciplines. The results reveal considerable heterogeneity in returns to particular degree programmes and by gender, which have important policy implications for charging students for the costs of their education.

Suggested Citation

  • Sloane, Peter J. & O'Leary, Nigel C., 2004. "The Return to a University Education in Great Britain," IZA Discussion Papers 1199, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1199

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chevalier, Arnaud & Conlon, Gavan, 2003. "Does It Pay to Attend a Prestigious University?," IZA Discussion Papers 848, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Sveinbjörn Blöndal & Simon Field & Nathalie Girouard, 2002. "Investment in Human Capital Through Post-Compulsory Education and Training: Selected Efficiency and Equity Aspects," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 333, OECD Publishing.
    3. Machin, Stephen & Puhani, Patrick A., 2003. "Subject of degree and the gender wage differential: evidence from the UK and Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 393-400, June.
    4. Dan A. Black & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 2003. "The Economic Reward for Studying Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 365-377, July.
    5. Blundell, Richard, et al, 2000. "The Returns to Higher Education in Britain: Evidence from a British Cohort," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages 82-99, February.
    6. Philip Trostel & Ian Walker, 2006. "Education and Work," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 377-399.
    7. Chevalier, Arnaud, 2003. "Motivation, expectations and the gender pay gap for UK graduates," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 42, Royal Economic Society.
    8. H. Battu & C. R. Belfield & P. J. Sloane, 1999. "Overeducation Among Graduates: a cohort view," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 21-38.
    9. Colm Harmon & Ian Walker & Niels Westergaard-Nielsen, 2001. "Introduction [to Education and earnings in Europe : a cross country analysis of the returns to education]," Open Access publications 10197/757, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    10. D. H. Blackaby & P. D. Murphy & N. C. O'Leary, 1999. "Graduate earnings in Great Britain: a matter of degree?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(5), pages 311-315.
    11. Pedro Telhado Pereira & Pedro Silva Martins, 2004. "Returns to education and wage equations," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(6), pages 525-531.
    12. Derek Leslie, 2003. "Using success to measure quality in British higher education: which subjects attract the best-qualified students?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 166(3), pages 329-347.
    13. David Greenaway & Michelle Haynes, 2003. "Funding Higher Education in The UK: The Role of Fees and Loans," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 150-166, February.
    14. Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
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    More about this item


    education; wages;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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