Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) - university provision: contextual summary report 2022

This analysis uses longitudinal education outcomes data to estimate labour market outcomes and returns to investment associated with post-school qualifications. A technical report describes the methodology and findings in detail. This summary report covers university qualifications.

Purpose and Rationale

This publication aims to summarise and provide context to the results of the Education and Skills Impact Framework(ESIF), designed to provide an estimate of the impact of education and skills in Scotland.

Specialist economic and policy consultants London Economics were commissioned by the Scottish Government's Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board to analyse the Return on Investment (ROI) associated with post-16 education and training in Scotland. Using the Scottish Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data, they estimated the labour market outcomes associated with higher education (HE) qualifications, further education (FE) qualifications, and Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). Combining this labour market analysis with information on the associated costs to the individual, the Exchequer, and the employer (for MAs only), they estimated the Return on Investment to each qualification. The methodological approach was independently reviewed by independent, academic experts at the outset and during the project.

The full technical report produced by London Economics describes the methodology and findings in detail. To complement this, three summary contextual reports have been produced, covering Modern Apprenticeships, College and University qualifications. This report focuses economic outcomes resulting from individuals whose highest qualification wasearned at university. Reading this report, we should bear in mind that universities exist, and students gain university qualifications, for many more reasons than just an economic return.


The Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) was conceived by the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board in 2019 to develop a robust evidence base that could help inform investment in post-school education and skills to enable a skills system that maximises both the return topublic investment and the benefits to individual learners and employers.

The key driver behind this was the lack of comprehensive, consistent evidence on impact and ROI in the post-compulsory education and skills system in Scotland, the response to which was highlighted in 2 key documents:

Scottish Government Enterprise and Skills Review (2017)

"This will bea chieved through better collaboration on intelligence across the enterprise and skills agencies, helping to identify the most effective interventions to support productivity improvements–including improving the evidence baseon return on investment."

Scottish Government 15-24 Learner Journey Review (2018), where the Scottish Government committed to improving the measurement of the return from investment in education and training.

"Taking all this work forward will require strong joint leadership and the right evidence base so that we act on evidenceof outcomes and return on investment to ensure we continue to invest in the right qualifications and right types oflearning."

The ESIF programme of work was agreed by CEOs of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in January 2019 and noted that:

"Producing impact measuresis not asimple task. But it is important ... Generating up-to-date impact estimates on this investment would:

  • ensure that public sector investment in post-school education and skills investment in Scotland is informed by robust evidence of impact
  • support individuals to make informed career choices
  • inform employer investment and recruitment behaviour"

To facilitate this, two complementary workstreams were developed within the ESIF programme: Economic Impact, and Social and Wellbeing Impact. This report focuses on the findings from the Economic Impact workstream.

About University Qualifications

The Education and Skills Impact Framework (ESIF) considers3 pathways: college, university and Modern Apprenticeships. As stated earlier this report focuses on the provision of first degrees,postgraduate taught andpostgraduate research qualifications at university. Key points of context regarding qualifications at university are below.

  • Learning descriptor: A first degree is more commonly known as a bachelors or honours degree. This includes courses leading to qualified teacher status (QTS), registration with a professional body and integrated master's degrees. Postgraduate degrees are differentiated by learning method into taught and research-based qualifications. Qualifications at this level include master's degrees and doctorates.
  • Qualification range: First degrees range from SCQF levels 9-11. Postgraduate degrees sit at SCQF levels 11 or 12.
  • Student numbers: As of academic year 2020-21, there were 40,225 Scottish-domiciled first-degree entrants to Scottish universities. By comparison there were 20,770 Scottish- domiciled postgraduate taught entrants and 1,425 Scottish- domiciled post graduate research entrants in the same period.
  • Public funding: Due to the nature of SFC funding for universities it is not possible to directly attribute funding to individual qualifications. Funding for qualifications has been estimated by taking a proportion of total capital, teaching and student support funding by full time equivalents. In academic year 2018-19 first degrees received an estimated £680m of funding. By comparison funding for postgraduate taught qualifications was estimated at £65m in 2018-19. Postgraduate research qualifications are funded on a different basis and as such estimates are not provided here.



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