The Careers Adviser: 'Should I retake my final year? Is there any advice for foreign students about jobs in the UK?'

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Grade area

Q. I've just completed my degree in politics and history at Brunel University and got a 2:2. Is it worth retaking the final year to improve my grade?

A. Universities do not normally allow you to repeat a final year to improve your grade. Too many people might try it, and the classification system would become less meaningful. Besides, most degrees are structured so that exam results from earlier years also count towards the final result, and you would potentially have to redo the whole degree.

Even if your university did allow a repeat, you might find employers only paying attention to the original result. And would you really enjoy repeating it all? If you became bored by the whole thing, you might do worse, not better.

You may be able to apply elsewhere and be awarded pre-accreditation for your existing degree. This route, though, would normally only allow you into a second year. But each university is different – if you want to explore this, contact your academic registry, or the one at other universities which you are interested in.

You might want to mention any extenuating circumstances that could have affected your performance, such as illness or bereavement. Try not to sound apologetic for your 2:2; it is still a good classification, in demanding subjects, from a good university. You worked for it and you need to show employers that you are worthy of it and more.

Bear in mind too that for many graduate jobs, a 2:2 will do just fine. If you are keen on a career where a 2:1 or above is a prerequisite, then you might want to consider getting some related work experience at a lower entry level and working your way up the ladder. Employers look at the whole person, not just the degree – if you worked part-time during university, had positions of responsibility, or devoted time and energy to a particular activity, you may find that this will improve your employment prospects considerably.

Five years down the line, once you have shown what you are capable of in the work place, employers and most other people are likely to show little interest in your exact classification.

Argentina calling

Q. I am a 23-year-old economist, living in Argentina and dreaming about finding a suitable job in London. Is there any careers advice for recent graduates?

A. Online advice for international students is available through the Graduate Prospects site, which includes helpful career profiles (outlining the entry and skills requirements you need for most jobs) and links to help you research further – see You could also try the Prospects Planner on the same site.

Useful information about graduate job vacancies in the UK is available from TargetJobs ( Prospects also runs a paid-for email and phone consultation service, but this isn't usually available to overseas graduates.

Personal guidance for international students wanting to find work in the UK market is now available on a new service run by experienced graduate careers advisers called Domino Careers (, which offers guidance via email as one of its services. Another option is the Careers Group, part of the University of London. See for more information.

Careers adviser: Deborah Millan, careers consultant, Domino Careers.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to