BIG four accountant PwC will start recruiting graduates who missed out on a 2:1 degree at university, the firm announced today, in a bid to “diversify” its intake amid an ongoing City talent war.
Graduates who received a 2:2 – colloquially known as a “Desmond” in reference to the late South African priest Desmond Tutu – or a third can now apply for the audit giant’s graduate scheme.
The move has created a divide within the group of the UK’s largest accountancy firms.
KPMG still requires university leavers to have achieved at least a 2:1 for their grad schemes. It is believed Deloitte also require at least a 2:1.
A spokesperson for KPMG told City A.M. they keep their “academic requirements under constant review”.
EY has already scrapped the threshold.
PwC said the move is intended to “further diversify its graduate intake through broader access to talented young people, who may not have the top academic achievements but have the attributes and all round proven capabilities for a career with the firm”.
It could unlock a pool of over 70,000 more university leavers a year. Economists expect the workforce to expand this summer when a big influx of graduates enter the labour market.
Ian Elliott, chief people officer at PwC, said: “Whilst academic achievement has its place, for far too many students there are other factors that influence results.”
There are four pass marks on the UK university grading system, with 2:1 and first class marks the top two rungs on the ladder.
City firms have been grappling with intense worker shortages over the last year, partly caused by young people staying in education to wait until the jobs market picks up after it was hit by the Covid-19 crisis.
Firms have been hiking pay to lure graduates. A report from the Institute of Student Employers out today found graduate salaries climbed seven per cent over the last year, a record rise.
On average, salaries for those fresh out of university have risen two per cent per year since 2002, with the last peak coming just before the financial crash of 2007/08, when they climbed five per cent in 2006.
ISE chief Stephen Isherwood said the soaring salaries in the past year were a “clear indication of a healthy recruitment market” and the rife competition.
“High salaries are one way to win the war for talent, but we’re also seeing additional benefits being offered such as support with wellbeing and flexible working patterns,” he said.
Candidates with offers to join PwC’s school leaver programme will keep their places even if they do not achieve the required A level grades, the firm also said today.
EY and Deloitte did not respond to a request for comment.