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£203,000 career earnings premium for those graduating The Open University in Wales

OU students graduating outside Wales Millennium Centre
  • Those who enter The Open University in Wales with GCSEs as their highest prior qualification can earn an extra £203,000 on average in real terms over their career
  • Value from formal teaching and learning activities for the 2018-19 cohort is £94.9m – and worth a further £45.7m to the taxpayer
  • In total, The Open University in Wales boosted the economy by £173.6m in 2018-19
  • Report shows importance of flexible distance learning as Wales navigates the fallout from the pandemic, as 85 per cent of OU graduates across the UK remain in the location where they studied

Those with GCSEs or below as their highest prior attainment completing a part-time degree at The Open University in Wales are estimated to earn an average of £203,000 more in real terms over the rest of their career.

This is according to The economic and social impact of The Open University in 2018-19 report from London Economics, which in addition to quantifying benefit to the individual, demonstrates the big picture impact of investing in flexible, lifelong learning as Wales navigates the Covid-19 pandemic – and suggests that more can be done to reach an untapped pool of part-time students.

Those with GCSEs or below completing a part-time degree at the age of 37, the average age of an OU graduate, are estimated to earn an average of £203,000 more in real terms over the rest of their career (equivalent to an NPV of £112,000 at Government discount rates)1. The research also found that those with A Levels (or equivalent) as their highest prior qualification saw an estimated average benefit of £133,000 overall (equivalent to an NPV of £71,000).

The total value of the OU in Wales’s formal teaching and learning activities for the 2018-19 cohort is £94.9m. It is also worth a further £45.7m to the taxpayer through things like increased tax receipts and lower cost where higher learning has reduced poverty and health inequality. Following the reform of the Welsh student finance system, this shows that investment in education still pays off.

Breadth of reach is a key factor in where this money goes, and distance learning means the OU operates in communities across the whole of Wales. The vast majority (85%) of graduates of The Open University remain in the location where their study was undertaken. This shows that investing in flexible and distance learning allows people to study without having to leave their communities, which helps stimulate economic recovery across the country.

Across the UK, two in three OU alumni (66%) reported improvements in their working life and professional prospects – across factors such as job satisfaction, pay and promotion opportunities and employability – with 91 per cent of them saying that the OU had helped them achieve this.

Beyond what ends up in graduates’ pockets, almost all respondents (94%) said that study at the OU had improved at least one aspect of their personal development. Crucially, in an ever-changing jobs market, study had an impact on graduates’ attitudes to lifelong learning, with 84 per cent feeling that they had become more enthusiastic about education.

Similarly, 86 per cent of respondents said that their time with the OU had contributed to an improvement in their personal wellbeing – including increased confidence, self-esteem and general quality of life.

Meanwhile, in terms of it's workforce, the direct impact from The Open University’s spend across staff and operating expenses in Wales is £32.1 million for 2018-19, with 435 people employed.

As we rebuild in the wake of the pandemic, investment in flexible, lifelong learning is key. As everyone’s local university, The Open University works across the whole of Wales, helping develop – and keep – skilled members of the workforce in local communities.

Following the welcome reform to the student finance system in Wales, this report demonstrates that there is an untapped pool of part-time students eager to engage in higher education who when supported on an equal footing with full-time students, grab the opportunity offered and bring huge benefits to themselves, their families and their communities.

There remains potential to use the next phase of student finance reform to offer equitable funding for institutions to cater to that increased demand and continue their work to widen access to higher learning.

Louise Casella, Director of the Open University in Wales

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