Students graduating from former polytechnic institutions with vocational degrees are earning higher salaries than some of their counterparts from prestigious Russell Group universities. This revelation comes from a comprehensive analysis by Discover Uni, a UK government-backed information source on higher education.
Vocational degrees, such as those in games art, virtual production, and e-sports production, have emerged as lucrative fields, outpacing the earnings of graduates from traditional courses like English literature, law, and neuroscience. For example, graduates from Aberystwyth University with a BA in computer graphics, vision, and games boast an average salary of £34,000 five years post-graduation. Similarly, Bournemouth University alumni with a BSc in games design earn around £32,000 on average.
In contrast, a graduate with a BA in English from Bristol University can expect to earn £31,500, while a law graduate from Liverpool might earn £29,000. Graduates in neuroscience from Nottingham University see an average salary of £30,500.
This trend is also evident in other traditional courses from Russell Group universities. For instance, Cambridge education graduates earn an average of £31,000, and those in biochemistry from Exeter University typically make £26,500. York University genetics graduates usually earn around £28,500.
Craig Chettle, founder of the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, emphasised the value of vocational courses. The institute, part of Nottingham Trent University, offers degrees in modern, in-demand fields like e-sports and virtual production. Chettle highlighted the high initial salaries their graduates command, sometimes in the “high tens of thousands.”
Gaddiel Nketia, a successful graduate of Confetti’s music production course, exemplifies this success. He made between £25,000 and £30,000 in his first year as a self-employed music composer and has since landed high-paying gigs, including composing for the James Bond “No Time To Die” promotion on Sky. Nketia’s story underscores the practical value and opportunities afforded by these vocational courses.
The findings challenge the traditional view that Russell Group universities are the only path to a successful career. Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, urged parents, teachers, and ministers to rethink their fixation on academic degrees from these institutions. He pointed out that the Russell Group, despite its prestige, is not the only option for university-goers, highlighting the unique specialisations offered by other universities.
In response, a spokesperson for the Russell Group maintained that their universities continue to deliver strong outcomes, with 84% of their graduates in highly-skilled employment after 15 months.
The rise of vocational degrees in former polytechnics highlights a shift in the job market, valuing practical skills and industry-relevant education. It challenges long-held perceptions about the superiority of traditional academic pathways and opens up a new dialogue about the value and purpose of higher education in the modern job market.