The government is proposing to create an Ofsted-style system that ranks universities on the amount their graduates earn according to the Guardian.
There has been some resistance to this idea from the education industry and rightly so. It creates a number of problems that could cause damage to particular courses (Arts and Humanities especially) that are in areas outside of London.
So what are the issues of this and in fact, would an earnings ranking actually be that helpful for students looking to go to university?
There's a few reasons why ranking universities in this way is a little misleading to potential undergrads and actually not that useful to anyone.
The first thing to say is that earning aren't everything. Of course they're a part of why people actually go to university in the first place. The initial reason we go is to acquire skills that will set us up for employment after we graduate.
However earnings aren't the be all and end all of the reason we go. For some people their salaries might be the most important thing but for a lot of people, it's not. Everyone's definition of success is different and for a lot of people, that isn't in the amount that's in their wage packet at the end of the month. You might feel success in being able to do a job that allows you to be creative, allows you to have a good work-life balance or a role that allows you to help others. The salary might be quite low down on your list of priorities when choosing where to go to university and what to study. It's all about what interests you and ultimately what will make you happiest.
Ranking universities in this way also paints a picture that isn't all that accurate. The earnings of graduates depends on far more than what university they went to. It depends on things like their attitude towards work, ambitions, what course they did and their social capital (that's who you know in the world of work). If a group of people went to the same university but after graduation one decided to go work in a local shop part time, the other decided to go run their family business and one decided to join a big corporation and become CEO, of course they're all going to earn vastly different salaries. It isn't dependent on the fact of where they went to university, it's what they wanted to do after. An earnings ranking system completely misses the fact that earnings after graduation may well depend on the attitude and the circumstances of the individual. Lets face it, you could go to the 'top' earning university but if you're a lazy person (and some of us are) and after graduation don't actually feel like working too hard then this kind of ranking wouldn't be reflecting this.
The other thing is that your earnings are more related to where you live and work geographically than which university you went to. It's common knowledge that wages in London and the South East are higher than they are for the rest of the country (partly due to it being mad expensive) so universities that are outside of these places are always going to be at a disadvantage.
One of the most important ways this study doesn't help that much is that it completely disregards the vast range of subjects you can study at universities. Certain subjects have a lower expected salary upon graduation. An arts graduate isn't going to earn the same as a Doctor will, even if they went to the same university. So this ranking won't really help when you're choosing your university. If you do care more about what you earn than what you study then you need to choose a high earning subject, rather than a (supposedly) high-earning university like this ranking system would show. That is what would make the difference. This could potentially mislead people who choose a higher ranked uni but a lower earning subject and upon graduation they come out and feel short changed as they were expecting to earn more than they're actually able to with the degree they've chosen.
Of course the best way that you're most likely to succeed (however it is that you define that) would be by choosing a subject that actually interest you at a university that feels right for you. No two courses and no two universities are the same and it's just a case of finding what it is that interests you in a place that fits with your lifestyle and how you want to spend the rest of your life.
If you choose what to do by going off that as opposed to some dodgy ranking of universities, you should be on to a winner.
If you need help hop onto our own choosing a uni or choosing a course pages and start to work out which university and course is right for you.
ARON TENNANT is the Talks and Editorial manager for Push. He is originally from South Yorkshire and has a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Sheffield. He also has an MA in Creative Play and Screenwriting from City, University of London and came runner up in Nickelodeon's international screenwriting competition in 2018. Alongside Push he does screenplay work for independent production companies and is working on his own independent film projects
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