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Employer demand for 2:1 degrees drops below 50%

For the first time, less than half of employers are setting a 2:1 as a minimum qualification for graduates, according to research from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE).

The research showed 48% of employers demanding a 2:1 degree as a minimum entry requirement for graduate jobs, down from 57% in 2021 and the first time the figure has dropped below 50% since ISE started collecting records.

A fifth of companies (20%) ask for at least a 2:2 degree, while just 13% set a UCAS point minimum.

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Ben Rosen, CEO of graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns, said companies are placing a greater focus on attitude rather than achievement when selecting graduates.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "We have found over the past few years that companies are now hiring with a focus on the graduate’s attitude and work experience background, rather than their degree classification. Candidates with a 2:2 degree and great internship experience can compete on a level playing field with other graduates who have attained a 2:1 or a first-class degree. 

"Candidates who think about creating a punchy impact by describing what they can bring to the role massively increases their chances of landing their first graduate job."

Research from jobs site Indeed in August 2022 found 75% of employers were less interested in university degrees than they were a decade ago, while 87% said they valued a positive attitude over qualifications for entry-level roles.

Companies are increasingly removing minimum requirements altogether. More than a quarter (26%) of businesses had no minimum requirements for graduates, up from 21% in 2021.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive at the ISE added: “Most graduate employers use a wide range of different approaches to select the right candidate. However, many have questioned the use of UCAS tariffs and degree results as selection criteria and this has been in decline over a number of years now.

“This highlights a broader trend in the labour market, whereby employers are placing more trust in sophisticated selection tools. They want to broaden their potential talent pool and the universities, colleges and schools they hire from by expecting less educational requirements.

“This makes sense considering the emphasis on creating more diverse workforces. The shift also reflects the lower application to vacancy ratio in 2022, and the increased difficulty with filling vacancies this year.”