Better Uni or better degree classification

(54 Posts)
stubiff Tue 14-May-19 12:04:41

If you were a graduate employer what would you prefer (all other things being equal):

3rd from Cambridge or 2:2 from East Anglia or 2:1 from Reading or 1st from Bradford?

Have picked the above at random, this is not a real life problem. There are roughly 20 places between each university on the CUG league table.

Or this one:
2:2 from Cambridge or 2:1 from East Anglia or 1st from Reading?

Let's assume the degree is in an area of relevance, e.g. IT employer and a Computer Science graduate.

OP’s posts: |
Xenia Tue 14-May-19 13:42:09

Ah, I suspect none of those grades and places would get you into a law firm which pays a high rate of pay as you need a 2/1 or higher and it needs to be from a good university.
So I suppose the second question might get us one person - 2.1 East Anglia (UEA 27th position, 0.06% of solicitors to the bigger firms does not really give you a massively good chance)

The problem for the less bright candidates if that there are loads of people both with high grades and at the best universities to choose from a lot of whom want the higher paid jobs.

BikeRunSki Tue 14-May-19 13:47:24

I imagine most professionals have a feel for the quality of the graduates in their field from various institutions, and will consider that. Having said that, I would probably take on a graduate with a 2:2 from anywhere over someone with a 3rd from the leading institution in my field. But- there are many other variables.

stubiff Tue 14-May-19 13:48:12

Xenia, appreciate the (leading to) high powered jobs would require a/the top grade from a great/very good Uni.
Let's talk generally/averagely.

OP’s posts: |
RedSkyLastNight Tue 14-May-19 13:50:30

For IT, I'd be more interested in experience than the degree itself. Though I'd probably question why someone who presented as a good candidate hadn't obtained a good result.

titchy Tue 14-May-19 14:01:05

For something vocational like computing or engineering most employers would be aware of which university's graduate come with the required skills - many would prefer the hands-on knowledge that a 1st from a former poly indicates, than the theoretical that a 3rd from Cambridge might imply.

For more generic subjects though, e.g. history or english, a 3rd from Cambridge trumps a 1st from Bradford any day of the week.

BubblesBuddy Tue 14-May-19 14:07:35

Well grads have to start somewhere to get the experience. Companies have to employ grads to give them the chance to gain experience. They don’t come ready made!

A 3rd is pretty useless and no one should get one from Cambridge and if they do something has gone seriously wrong. Not employable. A 2:2 will also present problems as many grad schemes won’t look at 2:2 either. A friends DS took over a year to get a job with a 2:2 in maths from Cambridge.

As for other universities, I would look at entry requirements and the actual grades the students have. The better the students, often the better employment rates. University ranking is important for subject and this should be considered. However you cannot assume anyone will get any higher degree classification if things go wrong or the course doesn’t suit!


Teddybear45 Tue 14-May-19 14:17:08

I hire trainee investment bankers via various grad schemes. We always look at grades first, then course (if it’s numerical / business orientated then the student automatically gets placed higher than if it’s not), then experience / interests.

To give you an example I managed to hire a full house of 1st Class Honours students this year. All studied either maths, economics, IT, or business; and all had worked with us for at least one summer during their degree. They all speak a second language too but that was accidental; we usually pay for language courses for the right candidate.

Teddybear45 Tue 14-May-19 14:18:26

From a uni perspective they mostly came from Northern Universities. I think there was one student from LSE.

stubiff Tue 14-May-19 14:46:57


Think Carol Vorderman and David Dimbleby would be upset with you saying a 3rd is pretty useless. They have been fairly employable!

OP’s posts: |
Teddybear45 Tue 14-May-19 15:03:08

Anyone can be employable. I dropped out of university and still got into a top banking related grad scheme through the back door because I called and impressed the recruiting manager enough to have them willing to take me with a diploma. That doesn’t mean anyone who dropped out of uni could do that. Similarly most people who get 3rds end up in jobs that do not place a huge focus on their degrees.

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-May-19 15:11:19

Not an employer, but interested.

I really hope a third in English from Cambridge doesn't trump a first from somewhere further down the lists.

Very, very few students get thirds. Maybe 2 or three a year, out of perhaps 110 students. Cambridge makes enormous efforts (and has the personnel capacity for a lot of one-to-one support) to stop students from getting thirds. Of the students who do get thirds, some will have had really difficult problems - they had a crisis and didn't get to one of their exams, or similar. So I'm sympathetic. But it seems ridiculous and unfair to presume a third from Cambridge is somehow 'better' than a first from somewhere else. Why? What does it prove? confused

Also, does anyone know - how much difference do references make? Eg., if you had a referee who could explain why you got a third (presuming the reason indicated your ability was much higher and things were to some degree out of your control just then), would that be taken seriously?

Xenia Tue 14-May-19 17:30:13

I suspect our Cambridge third is probably very beright and has incredibly good GCSE and A level grades and useful extra curriculars and probably is good at talking to clients and colleagues and has very good written English too which might in rare cases put him above someone with a first in knitting from London Met/any other ex poly etc. Or he might be very lazy and pretty useless which is why the good law firms have their criteria largely of needing both the 2/1 and the better university and the good A level grades plus all the rest (although some recruiters are trying to recruit institution and I think results blind see - I suspect first you heav to get through the computer's hurdle - have loads of UCAS points, have a 2/1 and pass the personality test on-line and pass the first interview it is not quite entirely a blind anyone off the street recruitment even then).

BubblesBuddy Tue 14-May-19 17:32:04

David Dimbleby comes from TV Royalty. Plus he is well over 70 so he comes from an era when few went to university. His connections were the best in the country for his chosen career! Similar to being called Attenborough or Snow!

Carol Vorderman has a degree in Engineering and did work in Engineering for a bit. Years ago, fewer engineers were being trained and she had a job in a power station so hardly hitting the heights. She didn’t stay in it though and did work her way up in TV which had little to do with Engineering. She would be very lucky to get any job with a third now. Employers would think you were lazy and incompetent at engineering if there were no mitigating circumstances. DH is an engineering employer and 2:1 or above is what they look for. Less bothered about university but they want decent A levels too.

Most employers will not circumvent their own recruitment schemes due to the need to have transparent and fair recruitment policies. No one should get in through a back door and prevent others getting considered for a post. No one would consider that to be a fair recruitment practice in any other role and it should not be a way to recruit grads.

Economics grads from the UK who don’t have family members who speak a language rarely present as bilingual. Such is the state of language take up in the UK. It’s not seen as important.

UEA and Reading are not very different. A 1st or 2:1 from either is fine.

GlacindaTheTroll Tue 14-May-19 17:35:05

From Cambridge, even a low degree classification in Comp Sci will be snapped up by tech companies, probably on a higher than average starting salary. Seriously good course with excellent reputation that you have to be very clever to win a place on. Ditto places like Imperial and a handful of others.

Other subjects, or using your degree to go onto a graduate programme where any degree is accepted, and it might be a considerably harder sell.

Teddybear45 Tue 14-May-19 17:56:41

@GlacindaTheTroll - what tech companies? The big ones would rather not meet their grad intake criteria than hire anyone with less than a 1st (occasionally a 2:1 if you have significant experience) or have global grad positions to ensure they only recruit people with 1sts. They would rather have a 1st class honours student from IIT or Harvard than a 3rd class dropout from cambridge and often do get that too.

pinkcardi Tue 14-May-19 18:45:17

I recruit graduates. From scenario 1:

I would probably ask Cambridge, Reading and Bradford for a telephone interview and take it from there. East Anglia only if the relevant work experience was stand out, but if there were multiple stronger candidates I suspect they would get a polite reject at point of application.

Scenario 2: assuming the course was relevant and they had the necessary work experience that we look for (still a graduate role) then they'd all get a telephone interview.

At telephone, aside from the requisite tech skills, we look for: communication skills, interest in the role, general 'smarts', passion and drive. This for us is much more important than academics.

GlacindaTheTroll Tue 14-May-19 19:04:01


I think we may be at cross purposes. Of course a graduate with a first from Cambridge (or similarly ranked, world class university) will be preferred to knee with a third from Cambridge (or similarly ranked, world class university)

I had understood OPs question to be about how those graduates (and she did specify Cambridge Comp Sci going into tech careers) might be compared to those with degrees from lower ranked courses.

AFAIK, graduate unemployment from Cambridge CompSci is zero, and the overwhelming majority is in directly related tech companies.

As you asked which firms, here's the list of those actively recruiting from that course (via proxy measure of those who (pay to?) attend the tech fair and specify CompSci):

But Comp Sci is also the Cambridge course which has most start-ups by graduates (not sure of the timelines and how long employment history before starting up behind each one)

LolaSmiles Tue 14-May-19 19:12:20

I wouldn't rate a 3rd from a top uni better than a 2.1 from a high mid uni. I'd want to probably know a bit more about their situation.

On the other hand, I would rather have a 2.1 or 2.2 from a good university with a solid academic grounding than a 1st from a course that takes people on Ds and Es at A Level. I'm involved in teacher training and there are some universities where the trainee subject knowledge year on year is utterly abysmal, but they have 1st and MA degrees.

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-May-19 20:52:21

I suspect our Cambridge third is probably very beright and has incredibly good GCSE and A level grades and useful extra curriculars and probably is good at talking to clients and colleagues and has very good written English too which might in rare cases put him above someone with a first in knitting from London Met/any other ex poly etc.

confused Is this a specific person you have in mind, who has a Cambridge third?

Devondoggydaycare Tue 14-May-19 22:03:10

At least one blue chip employer in my sector doesn't include a section in their application form for the university, degree or outcome. Non graduates sit alongside Oxbridge students and those from universities which many on the HE threads would see as not being worthy of even awarding a degree. With the rise of level 7 apprenticeships, this will very quickly become the norm.

Xenia Tue 14-May-19 22:09:26

It will depend on the job. We probably don't want our GP or brain surgeon going in qualifications/institution blind who didn't study medicine or failed most of their exams or only passed on the 5th attempt and had CCD in his science A levels.

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-May-19 22:12:38

There are a lot of brain surgeons around who didn't study medicine, are there?

Not a sensible comparison.

bevelino Tue 14-May-19 22:15:48

Some firms would also look at A’level grades to help decide.

jayritchie Tue 14-May-19 23:17:15

I recruit in accountancy - industry rather than the profession. The ranking of specific courses matters.

For accounting undergrads some of the best in the country go to Reading (due to a degree tied in with PWC and another 3 year course with a year in Venice). The graduate with a 2:1 may be top of the list with lots of employers. Likewise some specific, associated courses such as quantity surveying are very strong there.

Looking at unistats around 40% of Bradford Accounting and Finance graduates get a first. So top 40% of a group with lowish admissions grades. I'd be looking at A level results pretty closely before deciding whether to interview unless the candidate had very strong work experience/ extra curriculars.

Not sure what to make of the third from Cambridge. If I had a long term temporary position I'd probably interview on the basis of A level grades and see what happened at university.

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