The Signal and the Noise: The Impact of the Bologna Process on Swiss Graduates’ Monetary Returns to Higher Education

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Signal and the Noise: The Impact of the Bologna Process on Swiss Graduates’ Monetary Returns to Higher Education


  • David Glauser Department of Sociology of Education, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • Christoph Zangger Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Rolf Becker Department of Sociology of Education, University of Bern, Switzerland


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Abstract:  Using longitudinal data on university leaver cohorts in the period from 2006 to 2016, we investigate the impact of the Bologna reform on Swiss graduates’ returns to higher education. Drawing on the job market signaling model, we expect lower returns for graduates who enter the labor market with a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, we expect that the initial wage difference between bachelor and master graduates will become less volatile over time, since employers constantly update their beliefs about graduates’ employability. Controlling for selection into employment and a number of different signals sent by the graduates, we find a persistent advantage of a master’s over a bachelor’s degree. The new degrees, and especially a bachelor’s degree, did indeed serve as a noisy signal about graduates’ productivity in the first years of the Bologna process.

Keywords:  Bologna reform; earnings; employment; higher education; labor market; signaling theory; Switzerland; university graduates

Published:   5 September 2019


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v7i3.2100


© David Glauser, Christoph Zangger, Rolf Becker. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.