Graduates of top universities earn 6 per cent more over their career, report finds

by Andrew Norton

Bachelor-degree graduates of Australia’s sandstone and technology universities earn about 6 per cent more over a 40-year career than do graduates of Australia’s other universities, a new Grattan Institute report reveals.

This is equivalent to graduates with degrees like commerce or science earning about $200,000 more over their working lives.

Technology universities – including RMIT, Curtin University and Queensland University of Technology – are much lower in international university rankings than sandstone universities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. But this does not seem to matter in the Australian labour market.

“Graduates of the technology universities do just as well as those from the more prestigious sandstone universities,” says Grattan Higher Education Director Andrew Norton.

Yet Mapping Australian higher education, 2014-15 also shows that there are larger income gaps between courses than between universities.

“The report shows that when it comes to earnings, what you study matters more than where you study,” says Mr Norton say.

For example, a law graduate is likely to $400,000 more over a career than a science graduate.

“Studying engineering at any university is likely to lead to a higher salary than studying arts at a sandstone university,” Mr Norton says.

Mapping Australian higher education, 2014-15 is the third in an annual Grattan series that puts key facts and analysis about the higher education sector in one report.

It shows that domestic enrolments are growing strongly and in 2014 are likely to exceed a million for the first time.

International enrolments are recovering from a downturn and numbered nearly 330,000 in 2013, with China the single largest source of students.

In 2012 the revenues of Australia’s 40 full universities, and about 130 other higher education providers exceeded $26 billion, making higher education a significant industry.

Mr Norton says the report shows that overall the higher education sector is in good shape.

Read the report

For further enquiries:
Andrew Norton, Higher Education Program Director
T. 03 8344 3667 E. andrew.norton@grattan.edu.au