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Labour market value of higher and further education qualifications: a summary report

3 young people sit pointing at a laptop

A review of the evidence on young people’s earnings after studying in higher or further education.

Key findings

  • On average, those who study qualifications in higher education (HE) or further education (FE) earn more compared to those who do not.
  • This persists even when accounting for an individual’s personal characteristics, suggesting that on average studying a qualification in HE or FE is associated with a positive value-add in earnings.
  • In FE, studying a qualification higher than someone’s current level is associated with higher future earnings. This may imply that working your way up the FE qualification ladder can boost earnings.
  • In HE, there is a lot of variation in value-add across subjects, with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects, law and economics generally being associated with higher earnings. In FE, it is harder to draw conclusions, but subjects such as business administration and engineering have a high value-add for women and men respectively.
  • In HE, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately less likely to attend universities or study subjects associated with higher earnings when compared to their wealthier peers with similar grades.

Download the PDF report.