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How returns from tertiary education differ by field of study: Implications for policy-makers and students

by Miroslav Beblavy / Sophie Lehouelleur / Ilaria Maselli
31 July 2015

How returns from tertiary education differ by field of study: Implications for policy-makers and students

Miroslav Beblavy / Sophie Lehouelleur / Ilaria Maselli

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With the huge growth in enrolment in higher education, the key question facing young people today is not so much “what to study” as “whether to study”. Taking a methodologically innovative approach, this paper measures the net present value of university education and compares returns from studying a range of different subjects. We use data from five European countries (France, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia) and include (opportunity) costs in the computation. Results suggest that enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses is often not the best investment for students, especially female students. In choosing what to study, therefore, students are taking decisions that are consistent with their own private returns. This suggests that policy-makers should consider changing the incentives offered if they wish to change students’ behaviour.

Miroslav Beblavý is Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies and Professor at the Comenius University. Sophie Lehouelleur was a Leonardo da Vinci intern at CEPS. Ilaria Maselli is Research Fellow at CEPS.


About the Authors


  • Author
    Miroslav Beblavy
    Miroslav Beblavy
    Former member State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family in Slovakia
  • Author
    Sophie Lehouelleur
    Sophie Lehouelleur
  • Author
    Ilaria Maselli
    Ilaria Maselli
How returns from tertiary education differ by field of study: Implications for policy-makers and students
Download Publication

16820 Downloads