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UK graduates enjoy 41% pay premium over school leavers in their first job

People starting their careers with a bachelor’s university degree earn a maximum average of £28,705 in the UK, which is 41% more than the £20,303 paid to those who stop their education at high school, according to research by Willis Towers Watson.

The consultancy’s 2019 Global Starting Salaries Report, which includes data recorded for countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), looked at pay levels offered to recent graduates who had no relevant work experience. The report also found that having a master’s degree in the UK led to a maximum average pay of £30,495, an MBA £32,293, and a doctorate £35,013.

Looking at other countries in Europe, those with a bachelor’s degree earn maximum averages of £64,929 in Switzerland, £43,664 in Germany, £32,574 in France, £25,510 in Italy and £16,230 in Greece.

According to Willis Towers Watson, the differences between countries can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as graduate supply in the workforce, average worker age, collective bargaining coverage rates and the relative proportion of skilled roles in the UK labour force, among others, all of which serve to increase wages.

Keith Coull, director of global data services at Willis Towers Watson, said, “Going to university in the UK is clearly still a good investment for young people, with the increasing earning power of graduates still greatly exceeding the cost.

“From an employer’s perspective, understanding the ‘value’ of a university education goes beyond knowing what to pay people. It also helps to understand how elite graduates see themselves and what their expectations might be. With some employers being challenged by skills shortages and facing greater competition for talent, having robust information and insights at hand can make certain hard decisions a bit easier. In a world of work increasingly susceptible to sudden transformation, whether due to technological, economic or political change, the challenge of getting starting pay right has intensified and the consequences of getting it wrong potentially substantial and long-lasting.”

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