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Santander drops 2:1 requirement for grad scheme

Santander UK has dropped its requirement for candidates to have achieved at least a 2:1 at university when enrolling in its graduate scheme.

Relaxing the requirement is expected to expand the bank's pool of potential graduate recruits by 64,000 and help it recruit from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds.

Graduate recruitment:

Graduate job market slows with inflation

Employer demand for 2:1 degrees drops below 50%

Sharp fall in graduate retention during pandemic

Anouska Ramsay, HR director of culture & capability at Santander, told HR magazine: “We believe in a broad definition of potential, and that by having access to a wider talent pool we can reinforce our commitment to finding the best candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, skills and experiences.

“Academic achievement is important, but it is only one of many factors we look at when searching for new talent.”

Santander is not the first to have relaxed its entry requirements for graduates. In December 2022, it was revealed that the number of employers asking for at least a 2:1 had fallen below 50% for the first time.

Sheila Attwood, senior content manager, data and HR insights at XpertHR, said dropping the 2:1 degree requirement was encouraging.

She told HR magazine: "An individual’s potential to grow and succeed in a role is just as important as the prior experience they might already have under their belt.

“A good graduate scheme will provide ongoing training, development opportunities, and regular rotations to give individuals the chance to work on a variety of different projects. Candidates who demonstrate they will respond and adapt well to this approach may well be the most successful hires straight out of university."

Relaxing graduate or early career roles' formal requirements can be a good way of improving diversity in any business, according to Attwood.

"Companies that avoid a rigid view of ‘essential’ qualifications, skills or experience at the early career recruitment stage will also be able to attract as diverse a range of graduates for their position or scheme as possible," she said.

Ramsay added that it will help the bank more accurately reflect the communities it serves.

She said: “This means breaking down barriers to accessing a career with Santander wherever we can.

“Given that there are so many roles within a bank, we want to encourage those people who might have initially thought a career with a bank would not be for them or that they needed to go to a ‘red brick’ university to consider a career with us.”

Santander, which employs around 18,000 people, was listed as a Top 75 employer in the Social Mobility Foundation's Employer Index 2022.