HEPI, careers and convergence

Covid seems to have diverted me from posting on PP issues for quite a while – no excuse. But a recent report on graduate earnings from the Higher Education Policy Institute brought me back to the case. The HEPI staff have painstaking pulled together data from a whole range of sources, from official longitudinal surveys to Linkedin. The headline-grabber funding was that the graduate gender pay gap (GGPG to its friends) is biggest for Russell Group universities, at 17%, but the analysis covered many other angles.

It’s worth noting first that the female/male educational gap continues to increase. In 2017 the F/M split at undergraduate level was 57/43, and this widened to 60/40 for postgraduates. In 2018/19, 79% of women got first or upper second class degrees, compared with 73% of men – and there are far more women taking the exams, so the absolute gap is big. This is why under-recognition and under-utilisation of competence is such a significant issue.

What do women and men get from these degrees? I was pleased that even in the introduction the HEPI authors note that career success is not to be equated with earnings. They include other criteria, such as fulfilment, value to the community, intrinsic interest. On all of these, women report slightly higher levels of satisfaction. But the gender differences on all of these are small. It’s only on salaries where the gap is big – rising to 17% for Russell Group graduates.

Maybe nothing very surprising, then, but a very useful report. A particular cheer, though, goes for their recommendation that university career services should put on workshops for males to help them think more clearly about what might bring them career satisfaction. I argue in the Paula Principle, as others do, that we need reverse convergence, ie adjustment from males towards the female pattern rather than always the other way round, and this is a nice example of that.

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