University of Bolton graduates were earning less on average than those from other North West universities five years after graduation, new figures suggest.

However, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton said "a university education should never be undertaken with the sole purpose of having a higher salary".

Department for Education figures show first degree graduates from University of Bolton had a median annual salary of £23,400 in 2021-22, five years after leaving their course.

University of Bolton graduates who did courses in engineering were earning the most – £36,500 on average. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum were their peers graduating with a degree in creative arts and design, taking home around £19,500 a year.

This was the joint-lowest average salary from all universities in the North West, which had average earnings of £27,900.

For most providers and subjects, graduate earnings have increased at or above the rate of inflation since 2015-16.

Graduates from almost three quarters of universities had median earnings at least 13 per cent higher in 2021-22 than in 2015-16.

The figures also show female graduates from the University of Bolton were earning a median salary of £21,900 five years into their career, while men were paid £25,600. It meant men earned 15 per cent more than women.

Professor George E Holmes DL Dsc, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said: “The persuasive power of statistics to bolster weak arguments was once described by Mark Twain as ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. It is certainly true in this case.

“First of all, median earnings is a statistical term which does not give an accurate reflection of what normal people would describe as average earnings (which is the arithmetic mean and not the median).

“That said, the data presented relates to graduate salaries in 2021/22 for those who left their course five years earlier.

“This means that students graduated from this university in this data set in 2016 and entered their course three years earlier in 2013.

“The university has changed beyond all recognition in the last 11 years.  Then, we were positioned close to the bottom of national university league tables. 

“In 2024, the university was named as one of the top 30 in Britain by The Guardian and our student intake now reflects that elevated position.

“It will be interesting in 10 years to review average graduate salaries from this university, particularly after the opening of our new medical school.

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“Second, the university is delighted to note that even with 2021 data which reflects an intake of students 11 years ago, our engineering graduates were on average earning more than £6,500 more per year in 2021 than the average graduate salary for all 14 North West universities. We should celebrate the fact that Bolton’s engineers are so highly paid.

“This data also reflects a time prior to the establishment of the National Centre for Motor Sport Engineering (NCME) which will undoubtedly have driven average graduate engineering salaries to even higher levels.

“Third, many large North West universities have graduates who are geographically mobile, have come from other parts of the UK to study and who move to work often in the South East of England or work in their home countries overseas. 

“Many of the students from those large universities come from backgrounds where privilege is the norm.

“It is often privilege and family connections which net the highest paid jobs, not the quality of the university the student attended.

“At Bolton we are proud of our students, particularly our female students who battle all odds to enter the workforce often due to prejudice and discrimination.

“The University of Bolton has one of the most diverse and socially inclusive communities of any universities in Britain. 

“These communities still suffer discrimination in the workforce, and this can be reflected in salary. The university is constantly fighting against this issue.

“Fourth, many of the university students in the field of creative arts go on to successfully operate their own small business enterprises where often expenditure is offset against gross income to give an artificially reduced net income figure. This may be reflected in the statistics.

“Finally, and most importantly, a university education should never be undertaken with the sole purpose of having a higher salary.

“If people were only interested in salary, they would all move to London or take up employment in tax havens.

“Clearly, the vast majority of the British population do not do that for good citizenship reasons and for quality of life.”

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