University Challenge a predictor of earnings

Research suggests that the TV show is a better predictor of future income than official data

Want to know what universities give the best chance of securing a well-paid job? Try watching University Challenge.

The long-running BBC quiz show is a better predictor of graduate earnings than official data on university teaching standards, according to research.

A study suggests that there is a correlation between the number of times an institution appears on University Challenge and the pay of their graduates.

Researchers at Surrey University analysed the number of times universities had qualified to appear on the programme, as well as looking at the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The TEF looks at teaching and learning in UK universities, with institutions assessed on measures such as student experience, graduate-level employment and drop-out rates.

Institutions are given a gold, silver, bronze of provisional rating.

The Surrey research says that there is a “correlation between appearing on University Challenge and being a higher-ranked university, which correlates with higher real earnings.”

It goes on to say: “There is no correlation between TEF gold and silver and being a higher ranked university/higher income.”

The study concludes: “There is a correlation between being a lower ranked university and having a TEF bronze.

“Therefore, the frequency of appearance of a university on a TV programme is a better predictor of yielding a better job, than TEF gold or silver, as predicted.”

The number of appearances is a rough indicator of the quality of the students taking part, the authors say, as they have to pass a test to be among the teams chosen to appear on the show, which is hosted by Jeremy Paxman.

The researchers do note that the TEF is not meant to specifically measure how much  a university’s graduates earn, rather its teaching and learning in general.

But they told the British Academy of Management’s annual conference in Birmingham that parents and teenagers may think that it measures income.

“We found that the TV programme University Challenge was a better predictor than TEF,” Professor Marco Mongiello told the conference.

“There is a correlation between appearing on University Challenge and higher real earnings. Moreover, there is no correlation between TEF gold and silver and higher earnings.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) provides the best all-round assessment of the teaching and outcomes delivered by universities – it is not designed solely to look at earnings.

“It takes into account a number of important factors, including drop-out rates, student satisfaction and graduate earnings to give prospective students the full picture of an institution.

“For applicants with a particular interest in just earnings, we have made a record amount of data available on graduate outcomes by university and subject, which should be relied on instead of University Challenge.”

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