Revisiting the benefits of higher education
The economic returns to higher education in terms of enhanced earnings are well established. The wider set of 'non-economic benefits' in the areas of health, generic skills and citizenship are less widely recognised. An earlier report (HEFCE 01/46, 'Wider benefits of higher education') presented preliminary findings on these benefits, drawing on data collected at age 33 from the National Child Development Study, based on a cohort born in 1958. This report updates the earlier conclusions through new findings from a more extensive analysis involving both the earlier study and the more recent 1970 British Cohort Study. The current analysis incorporates data collected in 2000 to compare 30 year-olds in both studies and with 42 year-olds in the earlier of the two studies. Findings are reported in five major areas: mobility, health, labour market, citizenship and values, and parenting.
Despite the expansion of the graduate population between the 1958 and the 1970 cohorts, the results of this analysis give striking evidence that the benefits from this increase are sustained across a wider section of the population. In the domains of health, the labour market, citizenship and parenthood, young people with experience of higher education seem to profit significantly. Some of these benefits have indirect effects on the economy, such as cost savings to the health service. In relation to the evidence on citizenship and values, the benefits may be seen as even more relevant to society than that of individual gain. In terms of a political agenda that sees social cohesion as a primary goal, the expansion of higher education to produce more graduates can only be seen as beneficial.
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Last updated 4 September 2003