edResults in the Global Employability Survey 2016, show the two most important factors for employers were professional experience and having a high degree of specialisation. Even participating in extra-curricular activities was viewed as important as accomplishing excellent academic results.

The underlying cause of the paradigm shift is suggested to be the increase of high achievers. Newly released statistics by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), show a record number of first class honours awarded in 2015/16. In the year, 23.6% of graduates obtained 1st class honours, an increase of 8.1% since 2010/11. It seems as the popularity of top-class honours grows, the prestigious achievement is losing its worth amongst employers.

In contrast, Yazid Lallmahomed (pictured below), founder of student career website robincould.com, feels the issue lies not with the number of graduates obtaining top-class honours, but within the course criteria itself. “Many degree titles are misleading and do not teach the skills and characteristics that employers require. For example, a degree in Architectural Venue Design, doesn’t contribute to becoming an official Architect. It means employers have to rely on other experiences to evaluate whether an individual is the right candidate.”

To counteract, the introduction of the new Higher Education & Research Bill aims to make universities do more for students than just award high grades. Universities will be rated gold, silver or bronze depending on the quality of teaching and the employment rates of their graduates. It provides a bigger consequence for universities if their courses fail to guide students into employment. However, there is uncertainty of how effective the new rating system will be.

ed.2Yazid believes providing expert career advice along with more specialised degrees for careers, would enhance the degree’s profile. “Identifying a career you wish to achieve early, becomes critical in this competitive market. Expert career advice will enable students to develop the right skills at university in order for them to achieve the career of their choice. Not only would it increase graduate employability rates, but obtaining a degree at university will be more desirable.”

The achievement of obtaining a university degree for students cannot be overlooked. However, as honourable it may be for the individual, it’s clear that the value of the degree is playing less of a role in employers’ recruitment decisions. It’s something universities need to consider, otherwise individuals may opt for other alternatives than degrees.