Graduate earnings are an unreliable measure of the value of university degrees and should not be depended on for setting tuition fees or the public funding of higher education.

New research, commissioned by GuildHE with support from the HEAD Trust, and carried out by London Economics, demonstrates that official data about graduate salaries, known as LEO (Longitudinal Employment Outcomes), has serious gaps. These gaps mean assumptions about the impact of a particular university or course on an individual’s earnings can be misleading or significantly exaggerated.

Critical information left out of LEO include personal and family details; information about where in the UK you are working; and details on graduates who did not go to secondary school in England.

Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of GuildHE, Gordon McKenzie, commented:

“GuildHE universities firmly believe in the value of higher education and the wide and significant benefits a university education can have for the individual, the economy and society. A robust and rounded appreciation of this worth would be very welcome but reducing it to a flawed calculation about graduate earnings would mislead students, parents and employers. This new analysis suggests LEO data should carry a prominent health warning.”

Gordon McKenzie has explored the report’s findings in depth for Times Higher Education. The full report can be found here