Dr Anna Vignoles and the True Value of a University Degree

Working for a charity which strives to get as many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into university as possible, the obstacle I most often come up against is:
"But aren't too many people going to university these days?"
So it was a breath of fresh air to meet Dr Anna Vignoles, a Professor in the Economics of Education at the Institute of Education at our Advisory Panel meeting last month.

Anna was keen to point out that the personal (and financial) benefits of going to university had not declined, despite the increase in graduates these days. But what really interested me was her revelation that the value of a degree depends much more on the subject you take than on the university which you attend. Unsurprisingly, it's the maths, science and economics grads who reap the most rewards (at this point I recalled my decision to take English Literature with just a tinge of regret).

She also reported that gaining a degree makes you less likely to commit a crime, less likely to smoke, more likely to vote, more likely to be in good health – but overall the social return on education is lower than the private (and economic) one.

Anna was keen to emphasise the need to provide advice and guidance to children and young people from an early age so that they could make informed decisions on their future. Of course that fits quite nicely with IntoUniversity's vision (and we didn't ask her to say that - I promise).

So the value of a degree remains high; research has proven that implications on both an economic and social scale are positive. There's no doubt that we should be encouraging all our children and young people to reach for the stars. Which is a great answer to the dreaded question, if I may say so myself.

Gemma Fagbadegun

1 comment:

  1. I am always interested to see that gaining a degree makes you less likely to commit crime, smoke etc. It would take some very careful social research to show that these traits were effects of going to university, rather than going to university being just another trait of someone who doesn't commit crime, doesn't smoke etc.