With 24% of 2016 graduates achieving a first class degree, compared to 17% in 2012, the question has to be asked if your degree is really worth it. The study conducted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) suggests an improvement of the quality of degree candidates are graduating with, but fails to understand the social factors and job expectancy as a direct result of your degree.
University tuition fees will rise with inflation once again in 2017, being capped at a crippling £9000! UK university graduates are now expected to leave with an average debt of £44,000 – over £20,000 more than Canada, Australia and even the USA.
The increase in higher class honours is hard to understand, as universities aren’t regulated in their examinations so there can be no test of leniency from university to university. However, it does leave us begging the question as to whether the centuries-old degree classification system is still fit for purpose!
Importance of Experience
Recruiters and internal hiring staff are now looking away from traditional education and into experience to qualify candidates for a role. Professional services giants Ernst and Young announced that they were to remove any academic or education focused questions from their application process, deciding that their own tests were a more appropriate form of assessment. Developing their own screening test allows Ernst and Young to directly assess candidates against each other, giving candidates who may not have performed at university an equal playing field for success.
This move is filtering across many large scale organisations, as publishing firm Penguin Random House UK announces it will remove the requirement for candidates to even have a degree, favouring increased evidence from sample pieces of work or work experience.
So, with the increase in need for relevant work experience, are universities encouraging students to focus time on finding work alongside their traditional assessments? Many universities offer the opportunity for students to participate in a ‘sandwich year’, but this leans towards an elitist method as a large proportion of ‘sandwich year’ jobs are apprenticeship or unpaid work. A select few offer an average starting salary but for the majority of students from lower income families, working unpaid for a year is simply not a possibility.
Where do we go from here?
Students need to be made aware of the importance of gaining quality, relevant work experience whilst completing their university degree. Increased influence from careers advisors and university staff on the importance of looking beyond your degree will be crucial in developing graduates who are ready to compete in the world of work.
Hannah Ryle – Employer Brand Consultant