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University degrees: what’s the difference?

(105 Posts)
vickymeldrew Mon 21-Jan-19 22:37:14

My niece worked hard and was accepted on to a physics degree course at a Russell Group University. The entrance requirements were higher than at some other universities and it was generally accepted that this university is a centre of excellence for physics. Fast forward three/four years and she obtained a 2:2. She was disappointed not to get a first or a 2:1 but took solace in the fact that the course had ben demanding and the teaching inspiring. Now applying for jobs and/or other courses she finds the online application processes often automatically exclude applications with any result lower than a 2:1. It is not even possible to say where this degree was obtained to show any merit in the university or level of challenge. It is hard to disagree with my niece when she says she would have been better to go to a local college with low entrance requirements and patchy tuition where she might well have obtained a first. Surely the university you attend should make a difference?

SueDonim Mon 21-Jan-19 22:46:23

Unless it's Oxbridge, I don't think which university your degree is from makes much difference to employers.

dragonfly46 Mon 21-Jan-19 22:52:57

The problem is that so many young people have degrees now that employers weed them out by their grades. Can she maybe do an internship or work for an agency to get experience. Failing that maybe do a masters.

FountainPen Mon 21-Jan-19 22:57:51

You might find this interesting as it refers to a backlash from employers against elite universities.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38015829

I would deter your niece from the assumption that it would have been easier to get a better class of degree from a less prestigious university. Better she focuses her attention on creative ways to persuade potential employers that she is worthy of an interview by highlighting her skills and potential. Employers want to see initiative which means finding a way around online application processes or avoid altogether the employers who use them.

Deedaa Mon 21-Jan-19 23:09:20

DD avoided a lot of problems by staying on at her university and doing a PhD. She then stayed on to do research and it's now 26 years since she first walked on to the campus. I suppose she could have got a job elsewhere, but she's done a very good job of making herself indispensable!

dragonfly46 Mon 21-Jan-19 23:09:30

I believe there is a shortage of Physics teachers.

maddyone Mon 21-Jan-19 23:22:25

There are differences in universities, though many would not like to admit it. It is much easier to get into the universities that previously were polytechnics, and generally they do hand out a lot of first class degrees. My husband used to be a deputy head at a minor independent school, and one of his responsibilities was overseeing and advising on university applications, and later he was instrumental in helping students get admitted to a university when their grades were insufficient for the university of choice.
However, as Britain is generally very poor with getting students to study science, primarily because most schools do the combined science exam at 16, so students are ill equipped to study pure science at A level, and therefore they simply don’t apply for degree courses in the sciences, leading to a shortage of science graduates. This is well known, and part of the reason for a shortage of science teachers.
Therefore your niece, theoretically should be in a very good position to use her science degree, from a good university, to get herself a job. Has she tried putting her CV on LinkedIn?
Good luck to your niece with her job hunt. I’m sure she’ll be successful sooner or later.

Jalima1108 Mon 21-Jan-19 23:26:01

I hope she finds a way to circumvent the online application system if this is what happens - it hardly seems fair as there may be only a mark between a 2:1 and 2:2 and personality, experience, enthusiasm etc counts for a lot too.

A number of young graduates in our family (and not so young!) and friends took other qualifications after graduating. Many of them did jobs they didn't particularly want to do at first and perhaps not always related to their degrees - but gained experience and it is easier to get a job if you are in work already.

Good luck.

Eloethan Tue 22-Jan-19 00:51:41

An item in the newspaper recently said that 1 in 4 graduates now achieves a First.

2.1s are now quite commonplace so it leaves the remainder in a rather difficult position if they are only relying on their degree.

I think in such a situation it is important to think about other ways in which job applicants can impress prospective employers - cvs that are concise, well constructed and presented, and which are tailored to the (researched) needs of each individual company, rather than a generic cv that is churned out to every company, regardless of their specific needs. Other factors, such as practical experience, responsibilities and life skills - not least of which, social skills - are, it is said, also important to employers.

Having an impressive degree is not a guarantee of success, though, of course, it can give an edge when everything else is equal.

Davidhs Tue 22-Jan-19 07:56:07

I’m afraid there are far too many graduates, it is said that 40% are not doing graduate work, not enough students are choosing courses that lead to work. You may be passionate about History, Art or Environment but who is going to employ you in those disciplines, only the very best will find paid work in those areas. Conversely if you graduate in Medicine, Nursing, Engineering or Computer science you have plenty of openings and almost all will be successful.

Employers have to thin the applications to manageable numbers, qualifications come first, a 2.2 is not well regarded

CV second, an interesting CV that shows a wider commitment and grasp of the subject, gap year WORK, rather than backpacking, school achievements, sport, leadership, A level grades and subjects.

A really nice hand written introduction catches the eye and shows a well disciplined and organized candidate.

Having got your interview do your homework about the job and the company, present yourself and your personality as best you can. You can do no more, employers are looking for a candidate who will “fit in” and be productive in their organization, it might not be you, just keep trying.

My own 3 daughters did not want university, just not interested despite good A levels, teachers were mortified. They all got jobs at 18, two are Chartered Accountants the third a Midwife, she changed careers after having 2 kids.

Uni does not suit every one and will expose the weaker and uncommitted students, so if you are uncertain work in your career choice for a year that will count a lot if you do decide to go to university, if not there are plenty of good non graduate opportunities.

Grammaretto Tue 22-Jan-19 08:32:20

I am sorry but not really surprised by your story.
DS dropped out of university because he found his course boring. We tried to persuade him to stay and get the piece of paper but he was adamant.
20 yrs later he has worked himself up to a respected position in a career he loves.
I also would think your niece as a science graduate should be in a strong position to bypass these stupid forms.
Tell her to write direct to an employer with her CV.

Witzend Tue 22-Jan-19 08:44:19

When dds were at this stage, I seem to remember that application forms asked for A level grades, which are probably a fair indicator of how choosy/elite the university was.

FWIW, one of my dds missed her 2:1 by about half a percentage point - entirely her own fault - too much partying - but it hasn't affected her long term.

Once someone has their first job - I hope it won't take too long - the subsequent CV will count for more, and I'd have thought a physics degree would be well regarded by many employers.

yggdrasil Tue 22-Jan-19 08:55:39

CVs are important as has been said. My daughter could have got a 2.1, but ended with a 2.2 because she worked a lot for the University newspaper, and got involved in other Uni organisations too. She became a journalist so the newspaper and other outgoing work was important. This was some time ago, but the principle is the same

Izabella Tue 22-Jan-19 09:23:25

The post by davidhs is spot on. It is sad but a fact of life that a 2:2 is not really looked at when shortlisting candidates. Many organisations look for an MA too these days. It depends what the OP's niece wants as a career. There are shortened courses for graduates in nursing/midwifery for example - a career that can take her all over the world.

harrigran Tue 22-Jan-19 09:31:30

I have to agree, as most people have a degree now, the employers are quite selective.
DD got a first with honours in chemistry and where she went to work they only considered applicants with firsts.

Grandma70s Tue 22-Jan-19 09:55:53

I am not at all up to date in the world of employment, but I have a few opinions about degrees! There seem to me to be far too many universities, of very varying standards, so that a degree means little any more unless it’s from a good department of a good university. Oxbridge has unique status, of course, but also Russell Group universities such as Manchester are very different from the University of Nether Wallop or wherever. Some students don’t realise this, I’m afraid some teachers don’t, and I suspect some employers don’t. There are deluded people about.

Although I am long past needing a job, I still resent the fact that my MA (London 1964) involved two years of original research resulting in a fat two-volume thesis, a very searching viva and I think an exam as well. Now, I believe a postgraduate can get an MA for one year’s exam work. The value of the degree is quite different, yet we are both called MA.

For Oxbridge graduates, an MA was pretty much automatic, but everyone knew that. My son refused his, because he thought it absurd to have what appeared to be a postgraduate qualification when he hadn’t worked for it.

Jalima1108 Tue 22-Jan-19 10:04:06

I hesitated to say this, but I think that some young graduates do assume that the world is waiting for them and it's quite a shock when they realise it is very competitive out there and they may not always walk into a dream job straight from university, whichever university and whatever their degree.

Telling young people these days that 'You can be anything you want to be' is not a good trend imo. Most have to settle for pragmatic choices which may lead on to higher and better paid careers, but it's sometimes a shock to think that they may have to start on the bottom rung and work their way up.

The tips about CVs are good ones - tailor it to the firm, add any other non-graduate work which she may have done which shows commitment and a willingness to learn.

GrandmaMoira Tue 22-Jan-19 10:09:05

Whilst I am no expert in this, I believe lots of employers reject graduates from the newer universities which used to be polytechnics and only look at Russell Group graduates. Having a low grade should be overruled by having a science degree from a good university. All employers have different criteria so it's just a case of keep trying.

Jayelld Tue 22-Jan-19 10:11:30

I spent 4 years getting my landscaping design degree, (extra year due to car accident), in 2000 as a mature student. Only to discover that it wasn't worth the paper it was writen on. Employers wanted practical experience and a portfolio of gardens built. We didn't have that and only I girl got a job in design, family business, and 2 others set up their own companies, neither succeeded.
For myself, running my own business or working for and employer became moot when I went down with ME/CFS.
Degrees aren't the gateway into jobs any more and employers can afford to be very choosy.

MawBroon Tue 22-Jan-19 10:12:42

SIL a senior partner in one of the “big four” and DD who was a director in Financial Recruitment until DGC number 3, tell me CVs are no longer regarded as reliable as they can be fabricated so easily. References likewise are no longer allowed to be critical or negative so similarly useless.
And anything handwritten is an absolute turn off.

Jalima1108 Tue 22-Jan-19 10:18:35

I must admit some CVs used to be a source of great hilarity when doing a 'sift'.
However, those who were over-qualified for a particular role were quite often put on the 'reject' pile along with those who were under-qualified.

Esspee Tue 22-Jan-19 10:25:18

I would recommend she does at least a masters degree. Once you have a higher degree the grade of the first degree is usually ignored.

Witzend Tue 22-Jan-19 10:28:44

Re sifting or weeding out CVs, it's maybe worth mentioning that a friend of a dd, in a senior HR role for a major blue chip company, told her that one way she would weed out a mass of them with very similar qualifications, was to discard any with spelling/grammar mistakes.
And she was very far from being a fusty old pedant.

All too often IMO young people are led to believe that these things don't matter any more, nobody cares.
Many still do.

icanhandthemback Tue 22-Jan-19 10:31:54

My husband worked in HR in a public service organisation and the university grade or Uni made absolutely no difference to the recruitment process. The way the applicant sold themselves according to the job requirements meant far more. Your Grandaughter might find that post graduate training programmes will discriminate but most employers won't care. Get her to apply for specific jobs with a good CV. Having done a degree she will have had good experience with research, team work, working under her own initiative, etc. A bit of volunteering might also give her other skills.

counterpoint Tue 22-Jan-19 10:32:42

Sorry to hear of her frustration. I hope there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In the days when I was recruiting staff, I would look at all candidates, and was always willing to listen to explanations for setbacks such as a poor degree result. That was not a matter of virtue, it was because people who do not fit conventional assumptions can be excellent candidates and committed workers. So I hope that perseverance will lead to an opportunity with a team that is willing to defy convention.