Firms being less strict about degree award when hiring, study shows

Fewer firms are asking graduates to gain at least a 2:1 in their degree in order to be considered for a job.

New research suggests that employers are increasingly turning their backs on the traditional minimum requirement, arguing that there is no difference in the workplace performance of those who leave university with an upper second and those who gain a 2:2.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) study is based on a survey conducted in April of 170 employers who collectively hired 22,049 graduates last year.

Overall, the findings showed that 73.8% of employers were asking for a 2:1 degree award in 2015 as a minimum entry requirement, compared to 76.2% the year before.

Around 16.7% require a 2:2 award, up from 11.3% in 2014.

Employers have seen benefits from lowering their entry requirements, the report says, with one, who moved to asking for a 2:2, telling researchers: "We have noticed no differential in on-the-job-performance between those that achieved a 2:1 and a 2:2.

"Often those that have had to sacrifice study time to support themselves through university have learnt valuable life skills that are easily transferable into the workplace.

"Since making the change we have noticed no difference in the quality of our recruits and a 15-20% increase in applications."

Another firm said: "We accept that someone who has a 2.2 has often had a full university life and balanced work and study and believe a 2.2 to still be a decent measure of potential to do well on our programme.

"If they pass the assessment centre process and have a 2.2, fine by us."

The report asked graduate recruiters about the diversity of their applicants and those they hired, with 32 firms giving data on gender, ethnicity and disability.

Available figures suggest women make up almost 54% of graduates, excluding medical subjects, the AGR said, adding that its own survey had found that women make up 46.7% of applicants for graduate job schemes, and 48.9% of hires.

AGR chief executive Stephen Isherwood, said: "Despite investment to develop a more diverse graduate workforce, there remain considerable barriers.

"Improving gender diversity is less about changing selection processes and is largely an attraction challenge.

"Many female students don't apply for the top programmes when they should.

"Graduate employers want to hire women, there are lots of opportunities out there and these candidates are more likely to succeed, so we need to address why they're not applying.

"Industry-wide collaboration to tackle student perceptions will be a key step forward.

"We know women are hugely successful in the selection process, more so than men. We just need them to realise it. We need to boost confidence and encourage more female graduates to reach their potential."