As Penguin scraps degree requirements for all jobs, should other employers follow suit?

Penguin has decided to scrap degree requirements for job applications (Source: Getty)

Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent at EY, UK & Ireland, says Yes.

To modernise the workplace, fit for the present and future, major employers must take a long hard look at their recruitment processes, which are often outdated. With many citing a skills shortage as a major threat to their growth plans, it’s time to cast the net wider and remove some of the barriers to entry into the world of work. At EY, we have removed academic qualifications from our student recruitment entry criteria. It means we are receiving more applications from talented individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds. And that in turn spells good news for our business. We have experienced first-hand the positive impact diverse teams with different opinions and skill sets, working in an inclusive environment, can have. Ultimately, it results in a better service to our clients and a better business performance. As in our case, academic qualifications can remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but crucially will no longer act as a barrier to youngsters getting a foot in the door.

Len Shackleton, professor of economics at the University of Buckingham and economics fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says No.

Publishing gets sackfuls of job applicants – you would’ve thought Penguin would stick with a criterion that narrowed the field a bit. But Penguin in 2016 is different from Sir Allen Lane’s day. Bespectacled arts graduates may feel out of place at a publisher which brands Morrissey’s autobiography as a Penguin Classic. A more “diverse” staff that prefers cookery books and misery memoirs to high culture may be just right for today’s market. Possibly, though, Penguin has had bad experiences with some recent graduates. Universities certainly need to sharpen up their act when preparing students for work. But most employers grudgingly admit that graduates usually have an inkling of disciplined thinking. Those with a good degree have demonstrated some commitment. There will always be good non-graduates out there – though probably rather less now that half the age group goes to university – and genuine talent should never be excluded from applying. But relatively few employers will want to follow Penguin’s lead.

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