Is it worth doing a degree? (2018 update)

U.K. universities typically charge £9250 year for most Higher Education degree courses, which means a total cost of £27 750 for a standard, three year degree. But is it worth it?

This post summarises the findings of a recent quantitative study conduct by the Department for Education and the Institute for Fiscal studies which examines the impact of having a degree on early career salaries (up until 29 years old), taking into account a whole range of background factors such as prior attainment at GCSE, social class background, and gender as well as the type of university and subject studied.

This is necessarily a brief summary, reporting only some of the findings, but you can read the full report here.

What is the impact of going to university on future earnings?

Overall, at age 29 the average woman who attended HE earns > 50% more than the average woman (with five A*-C GCSEs) who did not. 

HE compared non HE earnings women.png

For men the gap is 25%, which is still significant.

Class background and prior attainment still explain more than HALF the difference

HOWEVER, a lot of the above difference in future earnings is explained by differences prior to university – and once we take into account higher prior attainment and class background,

earnings social class.png

There’s actually quite a difference here between men and women – female graduates earn 28% more than non-graduates, while male graduates earn only 8% more. So class background seems to affect men more than women?!? It sees that factors such as cultural capital may still matter! 

Russel Group graduates do a lot better!

The type of institution has a large affect on future salary gains – those attending Russel Group universities can look forward to much higher salaries compared to those attending post 1992 institutions.

graduate earnings by university.png

Overall, significant salary gains are enjoyed by 85% of students (99% of women, 67% of men)

Subject studied matters!

Future incomes vary greatly by subject studied. Men studying creative arts, English or philosophy actually end up with lower earnings on average at age 29 than those who did not go to university. However, studying medicine or economics increases male earnings by more than 20%.

earnings GCSEs men.png

For women, there are no subjects that have negative returns, and studying economics/ medicine increases their earnings age 29 by around 60%.

earnings GCSEs women.png

Final thoughts

Looked at from a purely financial perspective, in 2018 it still makes financial sense for most people to do a degree, but some gain more out their degrees than others.

But there are some quite complex correlations between future earnings, subject studied, gender, and so on, and the final two graphics above do an excellent job of showing how these variables interact.

Based purely on the stats, if you’re a lad with ‘low GCSE’ attainment going to a bottom-end university, it’s probably not worth you doing a degree.

For most other graduates, earning 20% more, that’s £6K extra on a £30K salary, roughly, so after tax, your degree would have more or less paid for itself by your late 20s, early 30s. Sooner, if you’re doing economics or medicine!

Having said that, there are other benefits to going to university besides widening your job prospects and improving your future salary – such as the knowledge, the friends and the lolz, and of course these might well be priceless.

And Very Finally a word of the advice for the uncertain….

If you’re not sure whether you should do a degree or not, or if you’re uncertain about what subject you should do, don’t let your parents or your college pressurise you into applying to university NOW. You can always apply with a ‘gap year’, or just not apply and apply next year or the year after… starting on the wrong course and dropping out is a very expensive (£9.25K) mistake to make, and you’ll probably gain little from it other than stress.

So if you’re uncertain, just chilax, even if the people around you are going mental at you about applying. I took a year out after my A-levels, and had a great time being unemployed and reading philosophy before applying for my degree in American Studies and Anthropology – two great subjects I never would have applied for while at school.

This post was written for educational purposes. And the above advice does not actually constitute advice, ask a so called professional if yer uncertain about yer future. 

Sources 

(1) https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/new-fulltime-students

(2) All images from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/759278/The_impact_of_undergraduate_degrees_on_early-career_earnings.pdf

Outline and explain two reasons why some groups are more likely to join World Rejecting New Religious Movements than others (10)

This is a suggested answer to the first type of 10 mark question you’ll find in section A of the AQA’s second sociology paper (paper 2, topics in sociology).

It’s good practice to firstly identify a type of group and then try to link them to a specific world rejecting NRM (or more than one if you can). Then you need to link together different reasons why these type of people might join this type of group.

For some general advice on how to answer (both types of) 10 mark questions – please see this post

Economically disadvantaged ethnic minorities are more likely to join World Rejecting NRMs such as the Nation of Islam.

According to Roy Wallis, such groups suffer higher levels of deprivation and marginalization, meaning they feel pushed to edge of society and not really a part of it.

In the case of ethnic minorities, they may also have experience racism, which compounds the effects of economic deprivation.

World Rejecting NRMs may appeal precisely because they reject mainstream society, which has effectively rejected impoverished ethnic minority groups.

Some of them offer a ‘theodicy of disprivilege’ which explains why the group is experiencing deprivation, and offers spiritual compensation for coping with such deprivations.

Others, such as the Nation of Islam, offer the prospect of social change, and actively challenge the powerful in mainstream society. This can provide a sense of not only hope for a better life, but also solidarity while engaged in the struggle for a better life.

A second type of group which are attracted to World Rejecting New Religious Movements are highly educated young people. This is what Eileen Barker unexpectedly found when she researched the Moonies.

Such people are typically from middle class background and they have witnessed their parents being successful, but not necessarily being happy. They are expected to follow in their parents footsteps but have realised that there is something missing in their lives.. despite being privileged, they feel a little hollow.

NRMs offer something different, something which such people lack – they make up for their spiritual deprivation.

Such movements are especially accessible to young people as they have fewer attachments, and for wealthier kids, it’s less of a risk because they know they can always go back and live off their parents if they have enough of their ‘spiritual phase’.

Explaining social class differences in religious belief and participation

Why is it that the middle classes are more attracted to mainstream churches, while the working classes find denominations more appealing. And how do we explain the different social class profiles of different NRMs?

Churches and Denominations

The Church of England has close ties with ‘the establishment’: The Queen, for example, is the ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’ and the Prime Minister remains responsible for appointing bishops. There are also a significant number of bishops in the House of Lords.

Thus the Church of England has a very ‘elitist’ feel about it, which goes at least some way to explaining its appeal to the middle classes.

Ahern’s (1987) survey of working class inner city Londerners found that they were generally distrustful of the mainstream Church of England. They generally felt as if the relationship between the church and the working classes was one of us ‘us versus them’. They found its ministers patronizing, gloomy and boring and claimed that ministers were ‘culturally embarrassed’ by the presence of working class individuals in church.

Glock (1964) argues that some people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are attracted to sects because they help them coping with their disadvantage: by offering ‘spiritual compensation’ for economic deprivation, for example.

Roy Wallis (1984) argued that denominations such as Methodism attracted more working class people because they were organised and run by their congregations. They also taught values of moral responsibility that most working class people identified with (such as hard work and thrift).

Andrew Holden’s (2002) research with the Jehovah’s Witnesses found that recruits were drawn mainly form the skilled working-classes, self-employed and lower middle classes. He theorized that these people had little interaction with others in their job roles, and little social status as a result. They way the Jehovah’s Witnesses was structured compensated them for their lack of status at work, what with the movement’s strong emphasis on self-sacrifice and assurance of salvation.

Roy Wallis suggests that some of the New Religious Movements such as the Unification Church and Krishna Consciousness attracted mainly well educated middle class people – and suggested that these movements compensated them for ‘psychic deprivation’ – they were disillusioned with their parents’ capitalist values and turned to these organisations for an alternative.

Sources 

Chapman et Al (2013) Sociology, AQA Year 2 Student Book

 

The relationship between religion and social class

The relationship between social class and religion is not straightforward: the middle classes are, in general, more likely to attend church, but they are also less likely to believe in God and more likely to be atheists and join both world affirming and world rejecting NRMs.

The working classes are less likely to attend church, yet more likely to believe in God than the middle classes. There are also certain denominations and even sects which might appeal specifically to the working classes: such as Methodism, for example.

Church attendance and social class

The ‘middle classes’ have higher rates of church attendance than the ‘working classes’

  • A 2015 YouGov survey of 7000 adults found that 62% of regular church goers were middle class and 38% working class.
  • The same 2015 survey found that twice as many married working class men had never attended church compared to middle class men (17% compared to 9%).
  • Voas and Watt (2014) conducted research on behalf of the Church of England and made three observations not directly about social class, but relevant to it. Firstly, church attendance is higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Secondly, church attendance is higher in the South of England compared to the North. Thirdly, they noted growth in church attendance in areas which had high performing church primary and secondary schools. All of these indicators suggest higher church attendance in middle class compared to working class areas.
  • Ashworth and Farthing (2007) found that, for both sexes, those in middle class jobs had above average levels of church attendance. Conversely, those in skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled working class jobs had below average church attendance. Welfare recipients had the lowest levels of church attendance.

Religious belief and social class

  • A 2016 YouGov Survey revealed that 48% of those in social grades ABC1 described themselves as ‘Atheist’ compared to 42% of those in social grades C2ED.

  • A 2013 review of >60 research studies on the relationship between IQ and religiosity found that people with higher IQs are more likely to be atheists. (High IQs are correlated with higher levels of education and higher social class).
  • Lawes (2009) found that ‘lifelong theists’ disproportionately come from unskilled and semi-skilled manual backgrounds, and were less likely to have academic qualifications. Conversely, lifelong atheists disproportionately come from higher professional and managerial backgrounds, and are more likely to have experienced higher education.

NB – It’s worth noting how this contradicts what’s above in terms of church attendance

Social class, religion and deprivation 

There is some evidence that those suffering deprivation (the lower social classes) are more likely to turn to religion…..

  • Churches in deprived inner city areas tend to have higher rates of attendance.
  • Methodist, Pentacostal and Baptist denominations  tend to be more working class.
  • Catholic Churches are more likely to attract Irish, Polish and African immigrants who have typically experienced higher levels of deprivation.

New Religious Movements and social class

As a general rule, the middle classes are more attracted to both World Affirming NRMs (and the New Age Movement), and World Rejecting NRMs, at least according to Eileen Barker’s classic study of ‘The Moonies’.

Problems with identifying the relationship between religion and social class

  1. Andrew Mckinnon notes that there has been a ‘dearth’ of research on the relationship between religion and social class, meaning there is something of a data gap.
  2. Because of the above, we are often stuck with relying on indicators which might not actually measure social class.
  3. Even if the data suggests that church attendance and belief are higher among the middle classes, this doesn’t necessarily mean the middle classes are actually more religious. They may just be attending church to keep up appearances or to get their children into the local church school (which tend to have high academic performance); or they  may feel under more social pressure to state they are religious than the working classes

Sources: 

Chapman et al, as well as the good ole’ t’internet.

Bake Off 2018 certainly packs a strong middle class punch…

While there’s a lovely ethnic and gender diversity shine on this year’s Great British Bake Off pie, the social class balance is just way off!

I’ve done a rough analysis of this year’s 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class background and compared these to the percentages of people working in different social class occupations (1) and found the following differences:

It’s all about class 2 in this year’s 2018 Bake Off!

There’s a very strong upper middle class skew, and a corresponding under-representation of especially the traditional working class.

The 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class…

Focusing purely on social class, and categorized using the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), in this year’s 2018 Bake Off line up we have the following:

Class 1 – Managers, directors, senior officials – COUNT 3

  1. Antony the ‘Bollywood’ Banker,
  2. Briony the stay at home mum
  3. Dan the stay at home dad.
Antony: representing all actually working higher professionals

My logic for including the two stay at home parents in class one is as follows: only the very wealthiest of parents can afford to have one of them staying at home permanently, and given that class 2 (see below) is already well over-represented it follows that the most likely class fit for these two is in class one. NB – this isn’t necessarily the case, just my best estimate in the absence of any data on what Briony’s and Dan’s partners do. 

Class 2 – Professional occupations – COUNT 6

  1. Imelda, the Former teacher, now countryside recreation officer
  2. Kim-Joy, the Mental health worker
  3. Luke, the Civil Servant
  4. Manon, the Software Project Manager
  5. Rahul, the Nuclear scientist
  6. Ruby, the Project Manager
Kim-Joy: a good candidates this years social class Bake Off ‘median’

Classes 3-5 – count 0

Associate professional, technical profession (class 3),  administrative and secretarial (class 4) and skilled trades (class 5) have zero representation on Bake Off this year.

Class 6: caring and leisure – COUNT 1

Representing the 3 million workers in class 6…. retired air steward Terry

Class 7 – sales and customer service – COUNT 1

Karen represents the 2.5 million working people in class 7…. at least she is actually ‘working’.

Class 8 – Plant and machine operatives – COUNT 0

No representation from the ‘traditional’ working class at all. I guess custard creams are off this year’s Bake Off menu!

Class 9 – elementary occupations – COUNT 1

Finally…. Blood courier Jon represents those working in class nine.

Jon also represents all of Wales too. Quite a burden!

A few observations on the problems of social class analysis…

I had to limit myself to categorizing the contests by occupation, as this is the only valid, ‘objective’ data I’ve got about their class background. I would have like to have used the more up to date ‘New British Class Survey‘ (scroll down for details), but I can’t tell how much cultural capital etc. each contestant has got just from watching them of the T.V.

I might have mis-categorized a couple of the contestants: especially the two who don’t work, but even so, there’s still a middle class bias!

Discussion Questions….

Does this poor representation of the lower social classes matter? I mean, we all know that ‘trophy baking’ is a middle class affair, so maybe this sample of bakers actually does represent those who ‘trophy bake’ – i.e. those who can actually afford to spend that much time and money on baking?

Or should Channel 4 be trying a bit harder to find a machine operator to get their ass on Bake-Off?

Sources/ Find out More…

  1. U.K. population social class breakdown based on Office for National Statistics: Employment by Occupation, April 2017 figures.
  2. The Great British Bake Off web site (source for contestant images).

 

On Sir David Attenborough and Boaty McBoatface: Reinforcing the Social Class Order?

I can’t help but analyse the launching of the Sir David Attenborough polar ship through a social class lens. The whole affair just seems so terribly middle class: possibly even a ritualistic reinforcing of the social class order and a kick in the teeth for the good ole’ working class, as well as for anyone with a sense of humour.

Sir David Attenborough.jpg

My reasoning is as follows:

  1. 124 000 people (most of whom are likely to be working class, because most people are working class) voted to call the ship ‘Boaty Mcboatface‘, however, this democratic decision was overuled by ministers (who are mainly drawn from the upper middle classes) who instead decided that a more appropriate name for a Polar research vessel would be the name ‘Sir David Attenborough’.
  2. I know he’s a national treasure, but he’s a very upper middle class treasure: Sir David Attenborough attended a Grammar School in the early 1940s, before the Tripartite System. As far as I’m aware this basically meant his parents must have paid for him to go there, as at that there were no such thing as as state-funded grammar schools. So a bunch of middle class people decided to over-rule the working class majority’s naming decision and name the boat after a thoroughly middle class person.
  3. I guess all of the above is not surprising: given that this is a polar research ship that’s likely to be chock-full of postgraduate level scientists, most of whom will  no doubt come from Russel Group Universities which are, again, chock full of the middle classes (80% are from the middle classes). Add in the weight of cultural and social capital that will bias the selection to a prestige research vessel, and I’d be amazed if more than 5% of the research-crew would be from working class backgrounds.
  4. There is still a ‘Boaty McBoatface’ – but it’s a robotic submarine which can be programmed to go off and do its own research, later returning to the main boat. Just pause to think about the class-related imagery here: the larger ‘mother’ ship has a middle class name, the visible, the regal, the symbol which is to be revered; while the vessel with the name the majority voted for is a satellite, submerged, invisible, on ‘auto-pilot’, servicing the main ‘good ship middle class’.

Boaty.jpg

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this?

This blog post will also appear on the steem blockchain… check out steemit for more details… a site where you can earn cryptocurrency for posting stuff online!

 

Does Britain have a ‘class ceiling’?

A recent survey of 2000 people has revealed that half of working class people still believed they encountered a “class ceiling” when trying to progress up the career ladder.

The survey was commissioned by conservative MP Justine Greening and conducted across a range of industries and regions. the Putney MP said:

“There is still a class ceiling and it’s clear from our grassroots research that people see it and experience it every day.”

Some of the key findings of the research include:

  • 50% believe those without strong regional accents found it easier to progress in their workplace.
  • 25% said having a regional accent had held them back at work; this figure rose to almost half in London.
  • Only a third of people said their boss was from a working class background.
  • working class representation in leadership roles are as low as 17%.

Justine Greening seems like an interesting character: A conservative MP, previously the Minister for Education and the only person to have ever held the position from a comprehensive school background.

Greening has set up the Social Mobility Pledge to encourage employers to adopt open recruitment policies such as name-blind or “contextual” recruitment, and offering apprenticeships to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She believes that “Levelling up Britain in this way means talent is what determines how far you go, not simply where you started.

Related Video:

 

Sources used to write this post/ find out more…

  • The Social Mobility Pledge
  • Guardian Article– irritating article about the ‘study’ which fails to provide links to the study.

White Working Class Men

Professor Green’s fronted an excellent recent documentary on the lives of 6 white working class men for Channel Four, which aired in January 2018.

In an interview with John Snow (about the documentary), Professor Green (who is himself white working class) says the show was born out the fact that only 10% of white working class men will go to university, and this show sets out to explore some of the problems 6 of these men face in just ‘getting by’ in the world today.

It’s well worth a watch: in the first episode he follows one young man whose parents both died when he was 17, and documents how he’s effectively slipped through the welfare net; another guy whose living with his nan, and is something of an entrepreneur, and a guy who has an offer from Cambridge, and has basically re-crafted his entire image so he looks and sounds ‘posh’.

Possibly the most depressing moment is when Professor Green attends a Britain First Rally.

Britain First

He says of the experience that he didn’t want to give them a voice, but how else can you understand the white working classes without at least listening to them…. at one point he says in the documentary that maybe the reason for the growing popularity of Britain First is that ‘whiteness’ is all working class men have left, and thus they cling to it?

From a methods point of view, this is also an excellent example of Interpretivist style unstructured interviews, boarding on participant observation.

A Sociological Analysis of Cruise Ships

Venice is a city of 55.000 inhabitants, which is swamped on some days by more than 40, 000 cruise ship passengers, and many of the residents aren’t impressed at their transient visitors, as many of these ships dwarf the architectural marvels of the ancient city, and spew toxic fumes in their wake.

And Venice is far from the only place affected in this way – the Orkney Islands play host to over a quarter of a million visitors a year, with a population of just over 25 000.

The Cruise ship industry has grown rapidly since the 1960s as prices have come down – Americans and the Chinese are the most avid cruisers, but 2 million Brits are also predicted to go cruising in 2018.

The largest ship is Harmony of the Seas – it is a quarter of a mile long, weighs 227,000 tonnes and carries up to 6780 guests with a crew of 21, 000, and there are scores of ships sailing the oceans which have a capacity of over 3000 passengers.

What can we make of cruise ships sociologically?

As with many current trends Zygmunt Bauman seems to be the best sociologist to go to in order to make sense of their growing popularity:

Bauman argues that what distinguishes social class today is relative mobility – the global super rich have jets and suites in many parts of the world and can afford to be instantly globally mobile. At the other end of the scale are the global poor – who are ‘doomed to be local’ in Bauman’s words, and are effectively stuck in the barrios with no way out.

So where do cruise ships fit in? Basically I see them as somewhere in the middle of this – they allow the relatively well-off in the West as well as in developing countries like China to get a taste of this mobility, so maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much that cruises are a ‘good holiday’* but they allow us to tap into that unconscious desire to join the ultra-rich super-mobile global elite?

*Given that the objective truth about cruises is that, technically speaking, they’re just a bit shit, why people ‘choose’ to go on them needs some deeper level of explanation. 

Do bad exam results matter?

Results day tomorrow, and I predict that Social Media will be full of comments by celebrities telling students that exam results don’t matter that much because ‘I failed my exams, but I still found success’.

This happened last year during The Guardian’s live chat following the release of  the 2016 GCSE results. The chat even supplied a link to a list of ‘famous school flops‘, which include the big three examples of ‘success despite educational failure’ – Alan Sugar, Richard Branson and Simon Cowell, but I can’t really see the relevance of these examples to today’s youth – all they demonstrate is that white men born before 1960 had a chance of being successful if they failed their exams, hardly representative.

There are a few comments from younger celebrities who claim that getting bad exam results are not the end of the world, because despite bad exam results, they have managed to build successful careers. 

From radio presenter Darryl Morris (no, I’d never heard of him either, although I do recognise him):

Daryll Morris.jpg
Darryl Morris – with 10 year’s of hobby-experience, a cheeky-chappy personality and a lot of luck, you too can be successful, even if you failed your exams!

I missed out on my desired GCSE results because I spent most of my revision time practising at the school radio station. I have no English qualifications and dropped out of a college that reluctantly accepted me to pursue a radio career – now I am a presenter and writer….You don’t need anybody’s permission to be successful – it comes from your passion, commitment and ambition.

From Ben Fogle, presenter of every outdoor program the BBC has made this century:

‘Exams left me feeling worthless and lacking in confidence. The worse I did in each test, the more pressure I felt to deliver results that never came. When I failed half my A-levels, and was rejected by my university choices, I spiralled into a depression.

The wilderness rescued me. I have been shaped by my experiences in the great outdoors. Feeling comfortable in the wild gave me the confidence to be who I am, not who others want me to be… it strengthened my character and set me back on track.’

Ben Fogle.jpg
Ben Fogle – If you’re independently schooled, screamingly middle class and very lucky, then you could also network your way into a TV presenting career, even if you fail your exams

Finally, Jeremy Clarkson tweeted: “If your A-level results are disappointing, don’t worry. I got a C and two Us, and I’m currently on a superyacht in the Med.”

The problem with the above is that every single one of the above examples may well be talented and passionate about what they do, as well as hard-working, but IN ADDITION, they either exploited what you might call ‘alternative opportunity structures’, they networked their way to success, or they were just plain lucky, in the sense of being in the right place at the right time: 

Morris was presenting radio from a very young age, so already had lots of experience by the time he was snapped up by the BBC at 16 – so this guy’s ‘alternative opportunity structure’ was through school and local community radio – a very niche way to success.

TBH I don’t know whether Clarkson networked himself onto Top Gear – but he went to the same fee-paying private school (Repton School) as the executive producer of the program, so even if the old-school tie wasn’t part of it, he would’ve oozed cultural and social capital because of his class background.

As for Fogle not only was he independently schooled (so culturally well prepared for his future at the BBC which is chock-full of the privately schooled), -he was also lucky enough to have been at the right age/ fitted the profile for the BBC’s Castaway 2000 series, which catapulted him into fame, he’s also quite charming, which no doubt helps!

So all these case studies show us is that if you want to be successful, then exam results don’t matter IF you have alternative opportunity structures to exploit, AND/ OR you have sufficient social and cultural capital to be able to be able network your way into a job. 

This important qualification (excuse the pun) to the ‘exam results don’t matter argument’ is backed up by Frances Ryan who points out that such comments tend to come from upper middle class adults, for whom as teenagers, poor exam results mattered less because their parents’ wealth and their higher levels cultural and social capital opened up other opportunities for them.

However, Ryan argues that for teenagers from poorer backgrounds, getting good exam results may well be the only realistic opportunity  they have of getting into university and getting a graduate job, which, on average, will still pay you more over the course of a life time than a non-graduate job.

A classic way in which this inequality of opportunity manifests itself is that wealthy parents are able to support their 19-20 year old teenagers to either do another year of A levels, or an access course, or an unpaid internships for a few months or a year to give them a second chance, poorer kids don’t have these options, not unless they want to go into crippling levels of debt.

So – do bad exam results matter? Judging by the analysis above, it matters more if you’re from a working class background because education and qualifications provide the most likely path way to social mobility…..but less so from an upper middle class background.

Having said all of that, if you’ve woken up to the idea that a normal life is basically just a bit shit, then exam results don’t really matter at all. Trust me, jobs aren’t all that! Why not try one of the following alternatives instead:

  • Do voluntary work
  • Become an eco-anarchist
  • Become an artist
  • Go travelling
  • Go homeless
  • Become a monk
  • Live with your parents for the rest of your life.
  • Learn to live without money.

For more ideas about alternative career paths, you might like this post: alternative careers: or how to avoid working for a living.