How much does degree choice matter?

Matt Dickson, Jack Britton, Laura Van der Erve, Chris Belfield, Anna Vignoles, Yu Zhu, Ian Walker, Lorraine Dearden, Luke Sibieta, Franz Buscha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
JournalLabour Economics
Early online date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • Degree choice
  • Returns to education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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