In related news, Universities UK has published research this week showing that Universities directly and indirectly contributed £95bn to UK gross output in 2014/15, an increase of 15% in three years, and directly added £21.5bn to GDP. The research, undertaken on behalf of UUK by Oxford Economics, comes at an important time, with sector funding high on the political agenda. Other standout figures include the 940,000 jobs supported by universities’ economic activity, the £13.1billion earned in export receipts, and the £63bn increase to their graduates’ human capital, relative to their pre-degree value. There’s a summary article in the Times Higher.
As you can tell, the findings are heavily focused on the economic contribution, which may cut through politically, but drowns out other more subtle messages including the one Karel outlines above – that we may get further focusing on the value of universities, rather than the value for money.
Compare and contrast these two articles: John Morgan asks in the Times Higher “are graduates good value for money?”. Well it depends. What’s the rate of return? What’s the earnings variation between graduates of more or less prestigious universities? What can LEO data tell us about the ‘value added’ measure of salaries? All valid questions tackled in the article, and none of which answer the question.
Over in the Times, Alice Thomson’s article, following her discussions with a wide range of people in the sector that helped her change her mind on the topic, is simply titled “This country needs all the graduates it can get”. While graduates earn £9,500 a year more over their lifetimes, she notes “they are also healthier, thinner, more likely to vote, more likely to trust others, more likely to live longer, less likely to suffer from depression, more likely to volunteer, less likely to commit a crime, and more likely to take exercise than those who don’t go to university”. And, she continues, “they pass some of their advantages on to their children, who are more likely to do well at school”. International Students? “97 per cent… leave Britain after their studies, and while they are here they add to the economy and enrich student life. As long as their experiences are good, they may take home a lifelong attachment to this country; and British graduates may have acquired a link to another continent, and a more internationalist outlook”.
Are universities good value? Yes. And we've not even mentioned research yet.