How much does degree choice matter?

Jack Britton (Lead / Corresponding author), Laura van der Erve, Chris Belfield, Anna Vignoles, Matt Dickson, Yu Zhu, Ian Walker, Lorraine Dearden, Luke Sibieta, Franz Buscha

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We use a large and novel administrative dataset to investigate returns to different university ‘degrees’ (subject-institution combinations) in the United Kingdom. Conditioning on a rich set of background characteristics, we find substantial variation in returns across degrees with similar selectivity levels, suggesting students’ degree choices matter a lot for later-life earnings. Returns increase with university selectivity much more at the top of the selectivity distribution than further down, and much more for some subjects than others. Returns are poorly correlated with observable degree characteristics other than selectivity, which could have important implications for student choices and the incentives of universities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102268
Number of pages22
JournalLabour Economics
Early online date3 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Returns to education
  • Degree choice


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