‘In the eyes of many, the key policy messages to take away will be that universities need to do more to support poorer students to help them make their way into jobs and/or that government needs to do more to tackle income inequality. It could be argued that the research undermines the standing of “social mobility” as a key concept in education policy; and that it weakens the assumption that if some poorer students are given fair access to “top” universities then that, in itself, helps ensure a fairer society.
But there are also messages to take away from the research that will prove much more politically difficult for (some) universities.
The Times and Financial Times both focus on the interesting finding that, when it comes to the figures for men, 23 (unnamed) institutions were found to have median graduate earnings lower than those for non-graduates 10 years on.
The research does point out that these universities may be locally focused and in regions with below average earnings.
But the government is unlikely to share sensitivities about naming institutions or regional benchmarking. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said that by publishing its own figures on graduate earnings, it aims “to create an incentive and reward structure at universities by distinguishing the ones that are delivering the strongest enterprise ethos and labour market outcomes for their students”.
Some universities, perhaps those in more deprived regions, are going to feel some pressure over their graduate earnings figures. And this may have consequences for their funding.’ – Times Higher Education