The Careers Adviser: Why can't my boyfriend improve on his 2:2 degree result? And I would like a job, but I don't have experience of work in Britain

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The Independent Online

Q. My boyfriend has a 2:2 BSc in computer science, but insists on redoing his third year, although his university says it cannot allow him to do so. Is there a way he can apply to retake it elsewhere? Or is there a rule that you can't redo a third year?

A. There is no universal rule about this – it would depend on the university. If he feels the classification was unfair, the rules for notifying mitigating circumstances (such as illness) or making an appeal are set out in his course handbook. There are generally tight deadlines for querying the result, but it might be worth going to a student adviser to get an opinion. However, once the degree has been published, the chances of being able to alter the classification are not good. Perhaps he is just disappointed with the result of three years' work and wants a higher classification to reflect what he feels is his true ability?

It would be possible to take a Master's degree and specialise in an area of IT, but bear in mind a higher qualification needs relevant experience to have full value; and the costs would be high. Graduate employers would still want to know about the 2:2.

The most probable scenario is he has realised many graduate employers demand a 2:1 for entry to training programmes. But a 2:2 is not the end of the world. A classification is relevant at the start of a career but, after a couple years, it is usually overtaken in importance by the quality of work experience, skills and knowledge gained. This is an area where practical experience is vital, and your boyfriend should put together a CV that shows he has this. As many employers have scaled back on graduate recruitment, entry at a lower level may be the only way to start out.

Q. I am a widow who has turned 60. I have not worked in the UK as I followed my husband abroad. I have done various courses since returning home on travel, tourism and customer services, but no one seems to want to employ anyone without experience.

A. It can be difficult to get a job without experience at any age and this is the first thing you should address. Have you experience outside the UK? Any experience could be used on a CV to show skills that will transfer to other areas and add to the value of the courses you mention. Your difficulties are not necessarily related to age – some larger retailers, for example, now employ large numbers of older people. If you really have no experience, you must set about building it.

Try your local retailers – large supermarket chains or DIY superstores. Or you could look at building experience through voluntary work – explore charities and talk to their managers to get ideas. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau – they often have opportunities for volunteers and can advise on your area. Check out the local press for companies advertising and contact them directly. Networking is a critical skill at any age. Often applications are turned down not because of what you can offer, but because of the way experience is presented. Make sure your applications are of the highest standard possible. Be positive and persistent.

Careers advisers: Liz Hagger,; Mike Cox, careers consultant