Employers miss out on diverse talent pool by sticking to top 20 universities

Employers are missing out on a major pool of talent by purely focusing their graduate recruitment on the top 20 universities in the UK, campaigners have warned.

The call came after research revealed that ethnic minority graduates still find it harder to get employment than their white counterparts, despite almost doubling their representation at university since 1995-96.

The report, by campaign group Race for Opportunity, shows that 16% of UK university students were from an ethnic minority background in 2007-08 – up from 8.3% in 1995-96.

But despite this increase, 56.3% of ethnic minority students who graduated in 2007-08 found work within a year, compared with 66% of white students. This is only a slight improvement from 1995-96, when 51.6% found work within 12 months, compared with 65.4% of white students.

Ethnic minorities were under-represented at the majority of institutions in The Russell Group – which represents the top 20 universities in the UK – with a worryingly small number making it into the likes of Oxford and Cambridge, the report also found.

Sandra Kerr, national campaign director at Race for Opportunity, part of Business in the Community, told Personnel Today that employers “can make a big difference” to this trend by broadening their recruitment outlook.

“Employers should place less importance on where someone studies – many ethnic minorities are simply not aware of the importance employers ascribe to going to a ‘proper’ university – and value them for what they could achieve rather than what they already have,” she said.

The government’s commitment to ensuring 50% of all school leavers go to university means that many talented students will go to non-Russell Group institutions, Kerr added.

“Focusing on the top universities is fine, but it shouldn’t be at the complete exclusion of others,” she said. “It is often a cultural thing – ‘this is how we have always done it’ – but it shows employers are not moving with the times.”

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