Returns to Higher Education after the Bologna Process: How Different Are Italian Tertiary Degrees?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:46 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Giampiero PASSARETTA , School of Social Sciences, University of Trento, Italy
Eleonora VLACH , University of Trento, Italy
This paper analyses the short term occupational returns of different tertiary degrees provided by the Italian educational system after the implementation of the ‘Bologna process’.

The University reform has entailed a great vertical differentiation of higher education and resulted in the transition from a unitary system - based on four-to-six years courses - to a new sequential system of ‘bachelor/master/doctoral programmes’. However, the bachelor/master reform have been accompanied by the introduction of long courses (‘Ciclo Unico’), which lasted five years and reflected the old unitary structure. In this scenario, the public decision-maker has determined the tertiary qualifications to be considered equivalent. On the one hand, bachelors are legally less valuable than masters and long degrees, and does not give access to doctoral programmes (ISCED 6). On the other hand, masters and long degrees are legally equivalent and give direct access to doctorates.

In the empirical analysis we use data from the ISTAT- 2011 ‘Survey on the transition to work of University graduates’ to examine the early labour market returns of young people graduated from bachelor’s, master’s and long degrees in terms of employability, class position and wage. By means of binomial, multinomial and OLS multiple regression, the empirical results show that the labour market rewards of the three types of degree do not reflect precisely the legislative arrangement. According to expectations, four years after the completion of studies, bachelors lead to less prestigious and rewarded occupations than masters and long degrees. However, labour market outcomes of long degrees and masters vary widely, although they are legally equivalent. Net of other relevant personal characteristics, graduates from long degrees are less likely to be employed, but gain higher wages and have higher probability to reach the apex of the social hierarchy compared with graduates from master’s programmes.