This week saw one of our most popular #yousayTuesdays, with more and more of you getting involved throughout the day. We asked you why you thought it was a 2:1 that employers were looking for. This often cuts the available market by around half or two thirds, while issues of the institution that awarded can come into play. We had loads of insightful points made and we managed to get a good discussion going between you all. The first thing that some of you guys suggested was that one of the main reasons that employers look for Upper Second Class graduates is because they can demonstrate a higher level of attainment, work ethic and drive.
I spoke to a recruiter in one of the big blue chip companies earlier this year and they said look for 2:1s because it represents hard work and commitment during their undergraduate years. This is a valid point, however it's not without its pitfalls. An Upper Second classification offers these skills and can show an applicant's work rate and drive to achieve. It is not surprising that this is used as a benchmark, despite how many people it eliminates.
These all seem like valid reasons for companies look for the best graduates available to work for them. There is no reason that companies shouldn't try and recruit the best and most suitable graduates they can for the roles they have to offer. However, contradictions can come across with the level of classification. If companies are strict on cutting off at a 2:1 or above, with very few people achieving a First, they are cutting off the majority of their potential applicant base.
This works if they are considering that the 2:1 classifications are standardised across UK universities, which of course they are not. Classifications in universities up and down the country are varied. For example, could you argue that Lower Second Class degree is equivalent to an Upper Second from a university at the lower end of the ranking scale? It would be difficult to say that just missing out on a 2:1 and getting the subsequent Desmond in Maths from the University of Cambridge is less impressive or worthy of some of the prestigious job opportunities than someone that has a degree in lesser academic subject from a university outside the Top 100 in the UK.
While the purpose of this blog is not to discredit the less elite universities, the competition and demand for academic excellence and achievement could be said to be higher at places like Oxford, Cambridge or University College London. It is through this that the reputation of universities are built, so approaching the degree classification as a blanket statement across all universities is often going to let talented and impressive candidates fall through the gap.
One interesting point made by one of our followers is that companies sometimes ask for particular UCAS points or even GCSES. This is not as common as specifications on degree classification. The usual requests are solid GCSEs like a minimum of C in English and Maths. However, this can be regarded as irrelevant if someone is educated to degree level. It can usually be used as a way to level the playing field for applicants, even if it is at the cost of some potential applicants.
There were plans announced earlier in the UK to get rid of the traditional classifications of Firsts, Upper and Lower Seconds and Thirds, in favour of the American points system. The system is to be trailed at several respected universities next year in an attempt to gain more insight into a graduates work. The plans cheerleaders have said that the three stages do not give enough insight into their achievement andcan blur the lines between a top 2:2 candidate just missing out on a 2:1. I'd argue that this would help graduates applying for jobs that might not be in their range, however it is doubtful that the plan will be implemented over night.