'Degree- Educated Applicants Only' - Is It Discrimination?

When I told my Head of Year at senior school I wouldn’t be accepting my offer to attend a top University, it was met with uproar.

Richard Branson

‘Why are you throwing away your career?’ ‘But you’re a straight A student!’ ‘Everybody goes to University!’

It wasn’t a hard decision for me. Starting work at a young age, I immediately knew I loved the independence, the responsibility, and the life experience; things you get only from throwing yourself into a working environment.

So when I finished my 13th year of schooling, equipped with four A Levels at top grades, I made the decision that I was finished with sitting in a room, seminar, lecture, or in front of a textbook. I wanted to get out into the business world, and learn through living, from experience, and by trial and error. I believed if I looked hard, I would find companies that would accept me and train me ‘on the job’.

Over the last 2 years, it’s become apparent to me that there are companies that hire based on educational achievements, and there are those that look outside academics, and dig deeper for morals, energy, attitude and conscientiousness.

Are there equal opportunities for both degree and A-Level educated individuals? Many job adverts specify, ‘only degree-educated applicants need apply’, is this narrow-minded? Are companies closing the door on future managers or chief executives, by not even meeting them?

Individuals may be ‘graduate material’ without the degree – but should their ambition to start their career, limit their chances of getting in front of business leaders to fight for a job opportunity?

With 55% of English teenagers attending University last year (2014) and 41% of these leaving with a lower grade than a 2:1, could real, quality work experience be construed as MORE valuable, and rarer than a degree? To attain a 2:1, one must achieve an average of 60% in their exam results – why are so many failing to accomplish this? The average pass mark is set at 40%, does this achievement really carry the worth associated with being a postgraduate? It’s clear that some companies have bolted the door against non-degree educated candidates, but is this the right decision?

Currently, leaders and hiring managers are spending less and less time reading CV’s, (some surveys suggest the average is 10 seconds per CV), and are now relying more on face to face meetings between applicant and hirer. So should a certificate elevate an individual’s likelihood of getting to a stage where they can prove their worth in person?

It’s a known fact that people can turn out very differently to how they appeared on paper. By not taking the chance to meet a person, (who may be the ideal candidate); because they don’t have a degree is limiting, and potentially damaging to a company, if that brilliant Manager, Salesperson or Strategist joins a competitor.

Companies should be hiring based on the individual, their experience, and their demonstrated skills, enthusiasm, grit and determination to succeed. Maybe in the future it will be illegal to discriminate against the education level of a candidate, alongside gender, age or disability.