Employers Are Starting To Drop The University Degree Requirement. That Might Be Bad.

Employers Are Starting To Drop The University Degree Requirement. That Might Be Bad.

It was a press release way back at the beginning of August, but as mid-September is typically grad-recruitment time, it’s only really gathered steam recently. Ernst & Young, the country’s fifth largest graduate employer (employing a whopping 200 graduates per year. 204 if you count the gardeners and Sarah in the gift shop) has dropped the industry standard requirement of a 2:1 university degree.

A spokesman for E&Y put it as such: “Transforming our recruitment policy is intended to create a more even and fair playing field for all candidates, giving every applicant the opportunity to prove their abilities,” with a further explanation that there would be a series of online ‘strength tests’  to help select candidates.  

Many may regard the lack of a degree requirement as a positive move from Ernst & Young. You no longer need to put yourself in debt for the best part of a decade in order to join a company that helps companies put other companies in debt for the best part of a decade.

No one’s going to argue for a second that university is a directly financially beneficial institution anymore. Just consider the fallout from the recession-grads: 26-35 year olds – those graduating during the last downturn- have seen the biggest drop in relative income of all socio-economic groups in the past decade according to a report this year by the Social Market Foundation. That said, surely employers need to come up with a viable, measurable series of targets or solid, achievable requirements for would-be joiners. Ernst & Young have mentioned an online test, but when this trend catches on – and it will – employers will find a way to abuse it.

Consider the fate of the media industry. As anyone who works in media knows, it’s now fully taken as read that you’ll be doing the best part of a year of unpaid internships, before you get offered a role for less than 20k, which is near impossible to live on in London, which, conversely, is where almost all the media jobs are. Even the zero-hours-contracts warriors that are the “Promo agencies” now often require you to go as far as shooting your own video diary, US-College style, to show how desperately keen you are to hand out flyers at a tube station.

It’s also hard news for that same group of 26-35 year olds that graduated years ago, because as companies catch on to the idea that you don’t need a degree, but you do need to prove you’ve worked for a year in the precise relevant field / uploaded a dubbed video of a you singing a duet with a squirrel about how much you love Actuaries, that expectation will go up beyond grad level to where you are now, wherever that may be. 

Further, E&Y state a major part of the move was to prevent the trend of “bright working-class applicants (being) “systematically locked out” of jobs at leading accountancy firms” by the expensive nature of attaining a degree. But opening up a system where companies can demand pretty much what they want out of prospective joiners could lead industries into a free-internship cartel dominated by the media companies, where, more often than not, only the wealthy kids make it, as they’re the only ones with the parental backing to be able to maintain working for free.

Removing the flat degree requirement is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But further steps should be taken to make sure large businesses don’t inevitably abuse it.


EY Spokesman’s quotes for this piece were originally located here 








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