High degree awards becoming a lower priority for graduate employers


Fewer firms are asking graduates to gain higher degrees in order to be considered for a job - and some even say a lower mark can be preferable.

New research suggests that employers are increasingly turning their backs on the traditional 2:1 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.

Some employers suggest a lower degree suggests good life balance skills.

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, it showed that 73.8% of employers were asking for a 2:1 award in 2015 as a minimum entry requirement, compared to just over three quarters the year before.

And employers have even 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.

Employers want to hire graduates who can show a variety of skills right for the job.

"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."

When it came to the subject of diversity of applicants and those hired, 32 firms gave data on gender, ethnicity and disability. The AGR said women make up more than half of graduates, excluding medical subjects, but added that its own survey had found that women make up 46.7% of applicants for graduate job schemes and 48.9% of hires.

Graduate employers are looking for more female applicants.

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

"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."