Ernst & Young (EY), one of Britain’s biggest graduate recruiters, has announced in August that, starting next year, it will remove degree classification or A-level results from entry requirements, as there is no evidence that academic achievement is necessary to succeed at work.
Recruiters have long complained that academic results fail to give employers a clear representation of a candidate’s potential.
Maggie Stilwell, EY’s Managing Partner for Talent, hopes the new policy will “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”. She adds, “Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door.”
Will other businesses and industries follow EY’s lead, and with what implications for the status and value of the university degree? EY is not the first firm to question the value of academic results in recruitment policy. In May earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced that it is discarding UCAS points, an online system that converts A-level grades and other exam results into a point total, from its entry criteria for trainees.
One concern raised by recruitment policies that prioritise credentials over skills and experience, is the exacerbation of inequality and the exclusion of talent from professional spheres. Researchers have discovered that top companies often recruit students from elite educational institutions, as they believe that this brings them “best” candidates. However, they fail to recognize that this practice often favors graduates from the most affluent backgrounds.
A report published last week revealed kids from wealthy families are 35% more likely to become high earners than clever, underprivileged young people, even if they are not academically gifted. Removing degrees classification from entry criteria provides more opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have not had sufficient support to perform well at school. By broadening the pool of candidates, the organisation also increases its chances of recruiting the best.
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Ernst & Young (3 August 2015) 'EY transforms its recruitment selection process for graduates, undergraduates and school leavers'