One of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters is to remove degree classification from the entry criteria for its hiring programmes, having found “no evidence” that success at university was correlated with achievement in professional qualifications.
Accountancy firm Ernst and Young, known as EY, will no longer require students to have a 2:1 degree and the equivalent of three B grades at A level to be considered for its graduate programmes.
Instead, the company will use numerical tests and online “strength” assessments to assess the potential of applicants.
Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent, said the changes would “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.
“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, she said. “Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment.
“It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”
Instead, the research found a positive correlation between certain strengths which could be assessed and success in professional qualifications.
“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,” Ms Stilwell added.
The changes come after a study published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in June found that bright working-class applicants were “systematically locked out” of jobs at leading accountancy firms.
Such companies tended to recruit mainly from research-intensive Russell Group universities, where students were “on average more likely to have enjoyed educational and economic advantages compared to many students educated elsewhere”.
Dan Richards, EY’s recruiting leader for the UK, said the company wanted to attract “the brightest and most talented individuals”.
“The changes we have made to our recruitment process will help us to access the widest and deepest possible talent pools,” he said. “We want to give every candidate the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and their potential in our selection process.”
The changes will come into force for EY’s 2016 recruitment programmes, which opened for applications on 3 August.
The company has 200 graduate-level posts to fill each year, making it the fifth-biggest recruiter of university leavers in the UK, according to the Complete University Guide.