New research by student employer, @ThisIsStint, reveals a worrying picture for English students in the UK, comparing @OECD countries across indicators including fees, the cost of living, and employment prospects. In a new “value for learning” league table, the UK ranks =8th behind European counterparts including Denmark (5th), France (7th), Germany (1st), and Sweden (=5th) with cost of living, fees, and wage prospects post-university. 

The league table reveals that English students in the UK face some of the highest costs to study in the world. English students face the highest average tuition fees of any OECD country, compared to French and German students whose fees are in the low hundreds. OECD data shows that 33% of UK students are employed while studying as they try to combat the high cost of gaining a degree. To add to English students’ financial woes, the UK faced inflation of 1.7% in CPI last year, double that of Spain or Italy.

At the same time, British students aren’t seeing the return on investment they hope to gain from university. While the UK remains second only to the USA in terms of the quality of its academic institutions, getting a degree in the UK is not having as significant an impact on their earnings as in many other OECD nations, including the United States, Spain, Canada, amongst others. The average graduate salary in the UK has remained stagnant for the last five years.

The findings highlight the need for the UK government to step up its support for learners, as the pandemic exacerbates the financial burden its students already face. In a recent survey, 80% of UK students said they were experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19. Other leading nations such as France, Germany, and Japan have introduced extensive funding packages to support students and are providing support ranging from digital devices sent to students homes, to thousands of temporary public sector jobs for students. A recent package of support announced by the Welsh Government has been criticised for falling short of what is needed and not ring fencing support for students. 

Sol Schlagman, Co-founder of Stint said:

"The UK has some of the best universities in the world and we should be proud of that. But these findings reveal that despite being charged some of the highest fees, many of our students aren’t going on to command the sorts of salaries that justify that investment. With the pandemic forcing students to think carefully about whether now is the right time to study, it has never been more important to ensure they’re getting value for learning.

"Students here were already struggling with soaring fees and living costs, in many cases skipping lectures for work to support themselves. Stint is working to end that trade off by helping thousands of students to fit work around their studies. But we now need the Government to show the same level of support we’ve seen in other countries to help students through this pandemic. Without it, the UK is at risk of becoming a less attractive place to study.”

Country

Ranking

CPI inflation in 2019

Annual average tuition fees

for full-time bachelor's degree or equivalent

Employment rate of recent graduates from higher education (%)

Earnings of recent graduates compared to that nations average

Spending on education as a percent of GDP

Quality of university

Germany

1

1.4 (13)

$133 (11)

87.7 (9)

133 (14)

4.8 (22)

3 (3)

Switzerland

2

0.4 (3)

$1,291 (19)

88.9 (7)

126 (23)

5.1 (18)

7 (7)

Finland

3

1 (11)

$0 (1)

85.2 (22)

114 (30)

6.9 (5)

12 (12)

Norway

3

2.2 (24)

$0 (1)

89.3 (6)

102 (34)

8 (1)

15 (15)

Denmark

= 5

0.8 (8)

$0 (1)

85.2 (22)

101 (35)

7.6 (3)

14 (14)

Sweden

= 5

1.8 (21)

$0 (1)

87.3 (14)

97 (36)

7.7 (2)

9 (9)

France

7

1.1 (12)

$237 (12)

85.4 (20)

123 (25)

5.7 (9)

8 (8)

Belgium

= 8

1.4 (13)

$536 (13)

87.5 (10)

111 (33)

6.5 (6)

12 (12)

Israel

= 8

0.8 (8)

$3,130 (24)

86.6 (16)

143 (10)

5.8 (8)

21 (21)

United Kingdom

= 8

1.7 (19)

$11,866 (37)

89.9 (4)

133 (14)

5.5 (11)

2 (2)

Portugal

11

0.3 (1)

$1,462 (20)

86.3 (17)

151 (8)

4.9 (20)

25 (25)

Iceland

12

3 (33)

$539 (14)

92.5 (2)

131 (16)

7.5 (4)

23 (23)

New Zealand

13

1.6 (16)

$4,487 (28)

87.5 (10)

131 (16)

6.4 (7)

20 (20)

Netherlands

14

2.6 (28)

$2,537 (23)

91.5 (3)

113 (31)

5.5 (11)

4 (4)

Canada

= 15

1.9 (23)

$5,286 (33)

85.9 (18)

144 (9)

5.3 (15)

6 (6)

United States

= 15

1.8 (21)

$8,804 (36)

85.2 (22)

165 (5)

5 (19)

1 (1)

Slovenia

17

1.6 (16)

$0 (1)

85.5 (19)

131 (16)

4.8 (22)

32 (32)

Japan

18

0.5 (5)

$5,234 (32)

87.5 (10)

131 (16)

3.2 (36)

9 (9)

Greece

19

0.3 (1)

$0 (1)

69.9 (36)

131 (16)

4 (30)

26 (26)

Czech Republic

= 20

2.8 (31)

$0 (1)

79.9 (31)

134 (13)

5.6 (10)

27 (27)

Spain

= 20

0.7 (7)

$1,747 (21)

78.4 (32)

153 (7)

4.2 (29)

17 (17)

Ireland

= 22

0.9 (10)

$3,333 (25)

86.7 (15)

143 (10)

3.7 (35)

19 (19)

Poland

= 22

2.3 (25)

$0 (1)

87.9 (8)

127 (22)

4.6 (26)

32 (32)

Austria

24

1.5 (15)

$921 (18)

85.3 (21)

95 (37)

5.5 (11)

16 (16)

Australia

25

1.6 (16)

$5,034 (31)

84.5 (26)

120 (28)

5.3 (15)

5 (5)

Korea

= 26

0.4 (3)

$4,886 (30)

76.3 (34)

128 (21)

4.6 (26)

9 (9)

Lithuania

= 26

2.3 (25)

$3,431 (26)

92.8 (1)

154 (6)

4 (30)

35 (35)

Luxembourg

28

1.7 (19)

$673 (16)

87.4 (13)

124 (24)

4 (30)

22 (22)

Chile

29

2.6 (28)

$7,524 (35)

84.9 (25)

209 (1)

5.4 (14)

27 (27)

Colombia

30

3.5 (35)

$574 (15)

81.5 (29)

195 (2)

4.5 (28)

27 (27)

Hungary

31

3.3 (34)

$751 (17)

83.8 (27)

143 (10)

4.7 (24)

27 (27)

Turkey

32

15.2 (37)

$0 (1)

72.9 (35)

186 (3)

2.8 (37)

27 (27)

Italy

33

0.6 (6)

$1,926 (22)

67.2 (37)

119 (29)

3.8 (34)

18 (18)

Latvia

34

2.8 (31)

$4,291 (27)

89.5 (5)

123 (25)

4.7 (24)

35 (35)

Mexico

35

3.6 (36)

$4,711 (29)

80.8 (30)

176 (4)

4.9 (20)

32 (32)

Estonia

36

2.3 (25)

$6,764 (34)

83 (28)

123 (25)

5.2 (17)

23( 23)

Slovak Republic

37

2.7 (30)

$0 (1)

76.5 (33)

113 (31)

3.9 (33)

37 (37)

 

Methodology:

  • We chose OECD nations for this international comparison, as they offer a wide geographical coverage, while including countries that could be considered similar to the UK in terms of international influence, political outlook, GDP size, and population.
  • When selecting our measures of comparison, the measures chosen were to ensure an evenly weighted focus on government financing, the impacts of living costs, the future prospects of graduates, and the quality of education.
  • The measures are compared based on internationally recognised measures of comparison, namely by GDP and per capita. The data for this research has been sourced from the OECD, Eurostat, World Bank and Times Higher Education.
  • For the majority of measures the World Bank, Eurostat and the OECD group England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together under the umbrella of the UK. However, it is worth noting that the figure given by the OECD for annual average public university tuition reflects just England. HESA data for the academic year 2017/2018 shows that English students make up 82% of all English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students studying in the UK. 
  • The data on tuition fees does not take into account the repayment threshold e.g., students who studied in England do not begin to pay back their loans until they are earning over £26,500 a year. This is not the same for every OECD country. 
  • The data covers the most recently available data set that includes the majority of nations, allowing for the most reliable comparison for each measure. Where a nation is not included in a dataset, the most recent alternative is found. Where possible the research has tried to use as few different datasets and time periods as possible.
  • The data set for the column entitled “CPI inflation in 2019” can be found here
  • The data set for the column entitled “Annual average tuition fees for full-time bachelor's degree or equivalent” can be found here in the OECD “Education at a Glance in 2019”. Hungary, Luxemburg, Polan, Portugal, and Turkey were not included in this report and can be found in the OECD “Education at a Glance in 2018” report found here. This column required additional data from Eurostat for the following countries: Czech Republic, Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland. It is worth noting that the majority of data covers tuition fees for public institutions, apart from Mexico who only displayed data for private universities. 
  • For private universities, the United States has higher fees than in the UK, however, most students in the US attend public universities. 
  • The dataset for the column entitled “Employment rate of recent graduates from higher education  (%)” can be found here. To find the data set search under “education attainment and labour-force status” for “trends in employment, unemployment and inactivity rates, by educational attainment and age group”, and toggle age to “25-34”.
  • The dataset for the column entitled “Earnings of recent graduates compared to that nations average” can be found here. To find the data for relative earnings of recent graduates search "relative earnings" in the top right hand corner, and select "relative earnings, by educational attainment". Due to a lack of data the OECD average was used for Greece, Iceland, Japan and Slovenia.
  • The dataset for the column entitled “Spending on education as a percent of GDP” can be found here.
  • The data for the column entitled “Quality of university” can be found here. To rank the universities, countries were initially scored on how many institutions they had in the top 100, the country with the most institutions receiving a score of 1, the country with the second most receiving a score of 2, and so on. The remaining countries were ranked based on when their first institution appeared in the list, countries who appeared under the grouping of first between 101-150 would be ranked in the order in which they appeared. Those that ranked within a collective group such as 151-200 or 201-250 would be scored higher for appearing in a lower collective group and all nations in one group would be given the same score.
  • For the ranking, countries were given a score from 1-37 on each indicator. If countries had the same outcome for a measure they were given the same score.
  • Each individual ranking was added to give a cumulative score. This final score was used to produce the country’s overall ranking. The lowest score would be attributed the ranking of 1 and the highest would be attributed the ranking of 37. The ranking of 1 represents the best outcome and 37 the worst, the country with the lowest total score therefore ranks the best.
  • The average starting salary for UK graduates has been stagnant for the last five years: “According to the High Fliers report, "The Graduate Market in 2019", the median starting salary for UK graduates in 2020 is expected to be £30,000 for the fifth consecutive year.” 

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