Growing numbers of major British employers now conceal the name of prospective employees’ university during the early stages of the application process as they strive to improve the diversity of their workforce, according to a survey.
Of the more than 100 recruiters who participated in the Social Mobility Employer Index – who collectively employ in excess of 1 million people – one in five said that they removed the name of applicants’ alma maters to avoid this affecting shortlisting decisions.
The step reflects concerns over the slow pace of widening participation at the UK’s leading higher education institutions and worries that employers who make recruitment decisions based on the university that applicants attended may be unfairly excluding talented graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.
If the trend continues, it could erode prestigious universities’ selling point that they offer a passport to the best-paid professions.
The survey results suggest that change is already happening: employers who completed the survey made more recruitment visits to the universities of Birmingham and Warwick last year than the University of Oxford, with significant increases reported in visits to other higher education providers in large cities.
Overall, universities in the prestigious Russell Group accounted for 56 per cent of visits made by index employers, down from 70 per cent last year. Oxford and the University of Cambridge were still visited by more than 75 employers combined, but this compares with 110 employers combined in the 2017 index.
However, significant challenges remain: at law firms that completed the survey, more than eight in 10 hires came from Russell Group institutions, and this rose to more than 90 per cent at some companies, even where only half their applicants came from these institutions.
In professional services firms, six in 10 new employees were drawn from Russell Group universities, while the figure was five in 10 for government departments and agencies.
The index, created by the Social Mobility Foundation with the sponsorship of the City of London Corporation, ranks the 50 best-performing employers for boosting diversity. Organisations at the top of the list included KPMG, Grant Thornton and the Ministry of Justice.