As current graduates face disappointment, is it time for alternatives?

 

Remember what we were bribed with as kids? “Not done your homework?” “Don’t you want to go to university?” “You won’t get a good job if you don’t.” Having been raised in the belief that burying their heads in books would ultimately lead to a great career, graduates of this generation are finding the reality of life post-university bleak.

The generations before us were raised on benefits and worked in an employment boom and, as university became more and more accessible, it seemed reasonable to preach that high grades and a university place would bring a high earning job and a financially secure future.

However, somewhere between the introduction of tuition fees, floods of new students heading to higher education, the recession and the recent increase of the fees, it is now those who relied on this promise that are feeling the strain, financially and psychologically.

Previously, university was a privilege, an opportunity not to be taken lightly. Now it seems to be open to everyone; inevitable, a right, something done for the experience, and often the nightlife, over the qualification. In 2010-11, an overwhelming 66 per cent of graduates left their studies with a 2:1, throwing students who spent their three years weighed under by textbooks to the middle of a pile of CVs, along with thousands of others with the same mark.

A partner at a firm of solicitors, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say: “I was lucky to have a university education at a time when so few had the chance, back in 1976/79. I was a grammar school boy with a student grant, fees paid by the taxpayer and no real debt.

“As a law graduate, finding articles (as a solicitor’s training contract was then called) was quite a straightforward affair. I applied to four firms, was offered interviews by all of them, but attended just two. The whole process was completed in less than six weeks.

“Today, supply far exceeds demand. There is little hope for any but the brightest (or best-connected) students; having a degree is simply not enough to secure a job. Good work experience helps.”

Reportedly, many employers are considering raising their minimum qualifications to a 2:1 – and who can blame them? 73 applicants for every graduate job now fill the inboxes of leading companies – up from 30 before the economic downturn. Disregarding an entire bracket of applicants on the class of their degree seems time and cost effective. But, with so little separating  scores of 55.59 and 60.1, many are being shut out of opportunities they may be perfect for. Not a qualification to set you apart from the crowd anymore, a 2:1 is needed just to put you on an even playing field with everyone else.

The statistics, published in May, commissioned by the Associated of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), revealed that 76 per cent of employers wouldn’t consider a candidate with lower than a 2:1, up from 52 per cent in 2004. According to the survey, 2.5 per cent of recruiters even request a first – not quite the future that so many graduates were promised.

The mind-set that squeezes students in to a three year window to complete their A-levels, decide on a career path and hit the UCAS website is to blame. I don’t need to tell you who Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and Bill Gates are. I do need to remind you, though, that they didn’t go to university, made themselves a name and are sitting a lot more comfortably than graduates not seeing the benefits from their years of study and piles of debt.

Although most colleges and schools have careers officers, emphasis is undeniably widely placed on UCAS and university and the pressure is visible in students.

Emily Chambers, a psychology graduate from the University of Lincoln has struggled. "I didn’t consider other routes; it was always university. Sixth form put on days teaching us about UCAS and writing personal statements and we were told that a degree would set us apart from other applicants.

Although I had an amazing time, I’ve graduated with a high 2:1 and I’m still looking for work almost a year later – personally, it seems like having a degree has made no difference."

Regrets? There are plenty. It’s not uncommon for your barista to be qualified in micro engineering, or your waitress to have a law degree under her belt – taking jobs they are seriously under-qualified for seems to be an obligatory step post-graduation.

‘I work as a sales assistant – not what I wanted at all. It’s okay, but I would have loved a job that got me straight on my career ladder. At the minute it’s just not viable’, says John Tomey, a University of East Anglia graduate.

Recent statistics in the Graduates in the Labour Market 2012 report published by the Office for National Statistics shows that almost 36 per cent of graduates are employed in a lower-skilled job, compared with 26.7 per cent in 2001. The report also revealed that the unemployment rate for new graduates has risen: in late 2011, it stood at 18.9 per cent, meaning one in every five new graduates was unemployed.

Instead of churning more cogs through the machine, devaluing degrees and creating more unemployed, isn’t it time to widen our view? Whether through apprenticeships, placements or even just taking some time for travel or industry experience before university, having something to add to a degree could be a dealmaker.

According to the Universities of Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS), hefty tuition fees have deterred some from going to university, with UK-born student applicants falling by 15 per cent. It appears we need alternatives not only to stop more disappointed graduates, but for those who are opting out of further study.

“In my opinion, university has come to be seen somewhat as a ‘rite of passage’ when this shouldn’t necessarily be the case,” says Ann-Marie Stacey, director of Smaart Publishing.

Young people’s choices need to be informed and realistic. They have to know and fully understand the debts they are taking on by going to university and be realistic about the outcome.

“Not everyone needs to go to university to enjoy a rewarding career, and many will be better off looking at options such as apprenticeships and entry level jobs, which can prove to be just as valuable.”             

Independent life experience, growing up and having fun are considered equally important to studying, something that can’t be dismissed. Regardless, the floods of graduates promised a bright future are getting a bum deal.

Jenny Thornton, director of a media firm in London, questions the importance of a degree for employers: “If I was given the choice between a university graduate with a 2:1 and someone who had worked their way through the career ladder and started off small, I would most likely go for the latter.

“Sometimes, especially in a busy firm, what you need is experience and someone who has proved they have the determination to work their way up and who already knows their stuff.

Of course, a degree in itself shows a lot of important attributes to a candidate. It would ultimately probably come down to the individual applicants in the specific scenario. It’s a very difficult situation, one that I don’t think anyone has a remedy to.”

So, that’s helpful.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Technical Support Analyst

£23000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cuu...

HR Advisor (Employee Relations) - Kentish Town, NW London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor (Employee Rela...

PHP Developer / PHP Web Developer

£25 - 40k (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A PHP Developer / PHP Web ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment