Higher Education in 2009 – What is a Degree Course Actually Worth? – Research Education

As thousands of prospective students embark on a three year career of higher education, much has been written about the lack of suitable jobs currently available for graduates, and the amount of debt students enrolling now will incur by the time they have finished their studies.As research published by push.co.uk shows, students starting degree courses this year will be likely finish with the biggest graduate debts we have known – with the average amount being around 23,000 per person. The research and other pressures have since caused the UK government to set aside £5 billion to help students who find themselves during financial troubles during their studies.However, further data published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is helping clarify the actual financial worth of university degrees – across a number of countries – by calculating the return on investment by weighing up education costs and foregone earnings with earnings made in the future.The research found that across all OECD countries (including the UK, US, Japan and France), an average male student who has obtained a university degree will benefit from more than $186,000 more over his lifetime compared to that if he had left education after high/secondary school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the average for women is slightly lower – a statistic that is affected by the lacking equality between earnings for women and men. Yet, the earnings still average £134,000 more for a female student with a university degree.However, aside from the projected financial worth for individuals, the report also highlights the benefits to the economy per person who is put through higher education – with the average male earning $52,000 over his lifetime.The OECD report is no doubt positive at a time when many students are fearing the financial impact of further education. Yet, the research also does well to highlight the importance of distance learning and how it will have a significant impact on global higher education. Graduation rates across all OECD countries have increased by 20 percent, whilst – surprisingly – the UK has ‘levelled off’ to a 2 percent increase over the last seven years, whilst the US sees more people leaving education before university.Of course, both of these countries that have seen a dramatic influx of students entering higher education due to the recession and are subsequently seeing a saturation of facilities. Could we soon see the developing countries (Ireland, Poland and Portugal have seen an increase of 7 percent between 1998 and 2006) helping where the UK and US can’t accommodate?