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October 11, 2015 | by  | in News |
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“No evidence” that a university degree is actually helpful

An announcement from major firms has raised questions over the value to employers of university degrees.

In the UK, leading employers Ernst & Young (EY) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are removing a degree classification from their entry criteria on the basis that there was “no evidence” that success at university guarantees success later in life (Jesus).

According to EY’s UK Managing Partner for Talent Maggie Stilwell, “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 the future success”.

PwC Australia has also removed candidates’ academic results as a measure for law graduate recruitment according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

While PwC New Zealand has yet to make similar announcements, PwC Partner and business advisor Scott Mitchell did acknowledge back in June that due to a skills gap, “new places, geographies and new pools of talent must be looked at—organisations can’t afford to recruit people as they’ve always done”.

New Zealand recruitment company AbsoluteIT director Grant Burley also told The New Zealand Herald that employers should consider measures other than university degrees.

“Take the research these large organisations have done and know that some of the most successful, innovative and motivated thinkers might not have thrived in a traditional learning situation, but they could in [a company’s] work environment,” Burley said.

Around 4000 students in New Zealand graduate with a research degree every year.

The announcement from EY and PwC follows research from Universities New Zealand into the top 25 jobs secured by 650,000 graduates aged 29–38, which found that 90 per cent of graduates in New Zealand end up working in a job related to their degree.

Universities NZ Chief executive Chris Whelan said that only 2 per cent of arts graduates ended up unemployed, while people with BA or BSc degrees in traditional subjects such as math, physics, English, chemistry, biology and history mainly ended up as secondary school teachers.  

“A lot of people perceive many with arts degrees will end up working in service jobs but that is not the case,” Whelan said.

Jayne Ruiter, a soon to be psychology graduate, told Salient that “the fact that we aren’t actually taught how to utilise our degree or what we can get out of it post-graduation” might be the most significant factor hindering students’ transitions from university into employment.

“It’s not only a qualification but the experience which shapes you as a person and introduces you to a world of opportunities that you may not have been exposed to without the university studies,” Ruiter said.


2% of arts graduates ended up unemployed.

In 1992, 8.2% of the population had a uni degree. In 2013, 21.6 had one.

90% of NZ graduates end of working in a job related to their degree.

1.4% of New Zealand arts graduates work in the hospitality sector.


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