Is a university degree still a worthwhile financial investment in Australia?

M. Corliss, Anne Daly, Phil Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Since 2006 there have been significant changes in the labour market for university graduates, most notably the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 and the subsequent downturn in gross domestic product growth, and a huge expansion in university places. This article presents estimates of the monetary returns in Australia associated with the completion of bachelor degrees in 2016 for a range of fields of study and compares them to the estimates for 2006. The results show that for the median person, there are still good monetary incentives to complete these degrees and the private rate of return compares favourably with the long-term real bond rate. However, the article also concludes that the return to an individual investing in bachelor education had mostly declined in the period 2006-2016. There is, again, considerable variation between disciplines and for some, completion of a bachelor degree does not yield positive returns. The key factors determining the monetary rate of return are the discipline of the degree and the graduates' subsequent labour force status. Graduates in full-time employment in most disciplines avoided being among those with low (or negative) rates of return. In addition, there is some evidence of skills mismatch and over skilling among the lowest paid university graduates. [Author abstract]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


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