Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 27 September, 2021

Wooden laser cut person and euro sign. The person wears a graduation cap

New data shows earnings are influenced by many factors.

What graduates earn when they enter the workforce is not just influenced by where or what they study or their sector of employment – but also by their Leaving Certificate points and type of second level school they attended, new research has shown.

The HEA has been collaborating with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for the last number of years to link HEA Student Records System (SRS) graduation records to CSO administrative data – which includes information from Revenue, the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills – under the National Data Infrastructure.

This new research, ‘An Analysis of Graduate Earnings across Higher Education Institutions’, analyses differences in earnings across higher education institutions by controlling for factors including detailed ISCED field of study, award type, final grade, gender, age, socio-economic group, second level school type, Leaving Certificate points and sector of employment.

This is done as a comparison of raw data across HEIs is not comparing like with like.

This new body of research digs down into the factors that influence graduate earnings by comparing like-for-like graduates who studied the same subject, received the same grade, are the same gender, from the same county, entered higher education at the same age, had the same performance in the Leaving Certificate, attended the same type of second-level school and work in the same sector.

Using just raw data from undergraduates, there was a gap of €257 in average weekly earnings between the highest and lowest earning HEIs four years after graduation. Graduates of Dublin universities and teacher education colleges generally had the highest weekly earnings, using the raw data, while graduates of regional Institutes of Technology generally had the lowest.

However, when graduates of HEIs were compared on a like-for-like basis, the gap between the highest and lowest average predicted earnings for undergraduates was €154. This is because the average predicted earnings from universities generally decreases when comparing like-for-like graduates, while the predicted earnings for Institutes of Technology increases.

These findings indicate that a large part of the differences in earnings across institutions can be explained by differences in the subjects offered by each institution and differences in student characteristics, such as Leaving Certificate points and second-level school type.

For example, undergraduates from universities and colleges achieved higher Leaving Cert points compared to undergraduates from Institutes of Technology. – 94% of St Patrick’s graduates and 87% of TCD graduates achieved over 400 points compared to 3% of IT Blanchardstown graduates.

Overall, more university graduates previously attended a fee-paying school compared to a DEIS school – the reverse is true for Institutes of Technology. In UCD, 27% of graduates previously attended a fee-paying school while 7% attended a DEIS school. In Limerick IT, less than 0.5% of graduates previously attended a fee-paying school while 38% attended a DEIS school.

The proportion of male and female graduates varies across institutions. Almost all graduates from St Angela’s and 68% of graduates from NCAD are female. This compares to 46% and 45% of female graduates respectively from Carlow IT and GMIT.

The findings show that students’ choice of institution varies by their gender, second-level school type and leaving Certificate points. There is also variation in the subject mix across institutions.

After accounting for students’ subject choice, gender, second-level school attended or Leaving Cert points, there is still a difference in earnings across higher education institutions. This difference is likely due to regional earnings differences and institutional prestige factors.

HEA CEO Dr Alan Wall welcomed the publication of the comprehensive dataset and acknowledged that it demonstrates the value of the linking of education and earnings data through the National Data Infrastructure in the CSO.

This detailed dataset provides policy makers and institutions with a comprehensive knowledge of labour market earnings patterns after graduation and describes the factors which influence students’ course choices and their subsequent early-stage earnings. This will help institutions and other stakeholders in providing students with appropriate career advice and relevant information on their course choices,” he said.


Higher Education Institutions Earnings Report September 2021

More: Dr. Alan Wall, graduate earnings, higher education institutions

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