Press releases

Under-privileged students face 10% average pay gap

12 December 2016

  • Figures reveal stark differences in salaries six months after graduation from the same subject, with highest gap standing at nearly 15%;
  • Action needed to equip young people with the skills required to succeed in a digitally-driven economy.

Students from the least advantaged backgrounds earn, on average, nearly 10% less than their most advantaged peers six months after graduating from the same subject, according to Deloitte, the business advisory firm.

Deloitte conducted an analysis of approximately 300,000 students, drawing on the 2014-15 Destination of Leavers Survey data, to understand the issues surrounding access to and outcomes after higher education. Fair Access to Work reveals the difference in starting salaries between the least and most advantaged students can be as high as 15%, depending on the subject studied. The biggest gaps occur for graduates of law (14.8%), computer science (13.8%) and social studies (13.5%). There are examples where the least advantaged students earn more, such as medicine & dentistry and engineering & technology, although at 2% and 1.4% respectively, the differences are minor.

David Sproul, Deloitte’s senior partner and chief executive, said: “The research shows that the least advantaged graduates face considerable barriers to employment after graduation, even if they perform as well as their most advantaged peers. Improving social mobility is one of the UK’s biggest challenges and its urgency has been brought into sharper focus by events this year. 

“It is important that businesses, higher education leaders and the government work together to get this right. Failing to do so limits the talent pool from which companies can recruit and reinforces a perception that the rewards of economic prosperity are reserved for a privileged few.”

The report cites data from UCAS which shows that applications from the least advantaged students are ten times lower than those from the wealthiest backgrounds. With separate Deloitte research finding that university graduates are less likely to be impacted by automation, this raises concerns that the disparity of economic opportunity between the top and bottom in society could grow further.

Sproul added: “Action is required to improve access to education, ensure equality of employment opportunities and equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in a digitally-driven economy. Leaders of the UK's higher education institutions and employers are increasingly aware of these problems and we are beginning to see some positive change. In hiring, for example, greater use of contextual information, blind recruitment and better training for interviewers are all starting to give more young people a chance.” 

Harvey Lewis, Fair Access to Work research director at Deloitte, said: “As our increasingly digital society ushers in a new era of smart machines, the long-established link between a good university degree and a good job is starting to crumble. Many routine manual or cognitive activities currently carried out by humans can increasingly be performed by robots. The skills required in the future are not necessarily technical but instead we will see far greater demand for essential skills such as reasoning, critical thinking and complex problem-solving.”

Sproul concluded: “The challenges facing policymakers, teachers, vice chancellors and business leaders are therefore complex. Providing fair access to higher education and employment is no longer simply about correcting a long-standing social injustice, it is about unleashing the economic potential of all of Britain’s talented workers. This is becoming of critical importance as the tide of skilled job vacancies rise and all stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that everyone entering the workforce does so with the right mix of knowledge, skills and abilities that businesses will need.”

Fair access to work forms part of Deloitte’s social impact strategy, One Million Futures, which aims to raise aspirations, improve skills and develop leaders. It is the second piece in the One Million Futures research series and follows on from Veterans Work.

Deloitte’s One Million Futures aims to help one million people get to where they want to be; whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom. Deloitte will assist individuals to overcome barriers to education and employment by giving them the skills and opportunities they need to succeed.


Notes to editors

About the research
Deloitte’s report is based on data from O*NET, the Office for National Statistics, Higher Education Funding Council for England, UCAS and the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Deloitte assessed the difficulties faced by the least advantaged students in accessing education and employment. It considered the difference in the choices that these students make when they go to university or college, and the impact this has on talents within the workforce.

Case study: Deloitte’s efforts to improve students’ social mobility

In September 2015, Deloitte introduced contextualised academics which allows our recruiters to make more informed choices about candidates by considering the context in which their academic achievements have been gained. Contextualisation allows us to recognise these important qualifications for young people, while also ensuring that, for example, 3Bs at A Level in a school where most students achieve 3Ds, is recognised as exceptional performance.

The firm also introduced school and university-blind recruitment, ensuring that our recruiters do not consciously or unconsciously favour those who attended a certain school or university, so that job offers are made on the basis of present potential, not past personal circumstance.

Between 13 June and 22 July 2016, 238 school students from schools serving low-income communities were welcomed to six office locations across London and the regions (Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and Reading) as part of our ASPIRE work experience. These students participated in case studies, employability skill sessions, business games and work-shadowing. This gave them an insight into a range of career opportunities open to them. This will help improve social mobility and support a fairer society by giving young people from under-represented groups the ambition, skills and opportunities they need to access professional careers.

Deloitte Access
Through Deloitte Access in collaboration with Teach First, we aim to raise aspiration, support achievement and provide opportunities for students in low-income communities. Since its launch in September 2013, Deloitte Access has provided support to over 10,000 students in partner schools through mentoring, employability workshops, enterprise challenges and other interventions tailored to the needs of the participating schools. 

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

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