Higher education analyst: ‘uncontextualised’ graduate salaries are flawed

Broad figures may help, says Prospects HE chief, but they fail to give the full picture

New analysis aiming to show which UK cities offer the best value for money for graduates has prompted a call for greater contextualisation of graduate earnings data.

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Prospects, which conducted the research, says that broad figures, while a useful indicator, can lead to poor choices when not contextualised with geographical cost-of-living data.

A graduate may need an extremely attractive offer in London, far above the average salary, for it to be worth them leaving a less expensive labour market

He said: “Graduates may need to think carefully about chasing the highest possible salary if it means moving to somewhere with a high cost of living, particularly rents. A graduate may need an extremely attractive offer in London, far above the average salary, for it to be worth them leaving a less expensive labour market.

“This analysis calls into question the overall value of uncontextualised graduate salaries as a measure of graduate success. Widely available and better-quality data on cost of living will improve decision-making. Graduates need to understand where value lies for their degree and whether it is worth remaining in a well-known jobs market on a lower salary or moving for more money where costs are higher. It’s a common assumption that the latter choice is always better, but the data strongly suggests that it is not.”


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The analysis also found that many of the UK’s most popular student cities are among the most expensive for new graduates to start work.