UK Higher Education Sector Sees Significant Disparities in Graduate Salaries

With the recent release of the UK government’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data, UK universities are under pressure to address quality concerns.  

The latest round of the UK government’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data has revealed significant disparities between graduate salaries across the nation.  

This data links education and tax records and it has showcased clear variations in salaries and sustained employment five years after graduation.  

For those who studied business and management, the average salary could range from £16,400 to £74,000.  

In law and computing, there was a salary difference of up to £40,000 between the highest and lowest earners.  

Damian Hinds, the UK education secretary, says these drastically different outcomes raise concerns over varying teaching quality and employability across UK universities.  

“It cannot be right that students studying the same subjects at different institutions, and paying the same fees, are not getting the same positive outcomes which are evidently achievable. All students should feel they are getting value for money and the stark disparities between some degrees show there are universities that need to improve and maximize the potential of their courses.” 

Graduate outcomes and salary potential are obviously huge priorities for university students. In our 2019 International Student Survey, we asked respondents how much they expected their starting salary to increase over their first three years in full-time employment.  

The results were telling with many students expecting their salary to increase by around 50% over the first three years, including students in business and administrative studies, technologies, engineering, creative arts and design, mathematical and computer services, European languages and literature, architecture, and medicine and dentistry, among others.  

Our 2019 UK Domestic Student Survey also revealed students’ salary expectations with respondents stating the following starting salaries for their first year of full-time employment: 

  • Engineering: £27,800 
  • Mathematical and computer services: £27,200 
  • Business and administrative studies: £26,900 
  • Law: £26,700 
  • Medicine and dentistry: £26,600 

Under the LEO data, 2010-2011 graduates in medicine and dentistry saw the highest median salary five years after graduation with a salary of £46,000.  

Interestingly, nursing graduates saw the highest proportion (92%) in sustained employment after five years. 

So, what does all this disparate data mean?  

UK graduates expect a strong starting salary and consistent improvements to salary as they progress throughout their career. 

This comes in stark contrast to LEO data which suggests that UK universities represent an extremely wide range of graduate outcomes, salary expectations, and career growth.  

However, the majority of university graduates earn more than non-graduatesand UK universities have placed more emphasis on addressing concerns over value for money in recent years.  

With the recent release of these controversial LEO figures, it will be interesting to see how UK universities respond and work to improve consistency across graduate salaries and outcomes.  


About the Author:

As the B2B Content Marketing Manager, Sarah Linney is responsible for communicating the insights, research, and market analysis that have positioned QS as a thought leader in the higher education sector. After completing a Communications-Journalism degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, Sarah worked in radio news and B2B print publishing before joining the content marketing sector. While working at a content marketing agency, Sarah was transferred to their New York office. She then led content marketing efforts at two tech startups in New York as a Content Manager before deciding to make the move to the UK and QS. 

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