Big four consulting firm PwC has announced it will no longer require a 2:1 degree class or higher from its graduate recruits.
The company is one of the UK’s biggest graduate employers and wants to draw applicants from a wider talent pool and broader socio-economic background.
It said it would remove the upper second class requirement from all its undergraduate and graduate roles, internships and placements. Many professional services companies continue to require a 2:1 or higher when they screen graduates.
PwC’s announcement follows a call from the CIPD earlier this month for employers to stop using degree qualifications to screen candidates – urging them to focus on skills and potential instead.
PwC removed the requirement for candidates to have a certain number of UCAS points to apply for roles seven years ago, and uses a broad range of assessments to gauge candidates’ potential, it said.
It believes more than 70,000 more students a year will be able to access its graduate programmes due to the change. According to the Higher Education Student Statistics record of results, 14% of students in 2020/21 obtained a 2:2 degree, while 3% received a third class honours.
Chief people officer Ian Elliott said PwC had received more than 95,000 applications to its graduate and school leaver programmes this year.
“This move isn’t primarily about attracting more applications but opening our roles to students from a broader range of backgrounds, including those from lower income households,” he said.
“Removing the 2:1 criteria will allow us to make real progress in driving social mobility of PwC recruits. We know that competition for our graduate roles will be as tough as ever but we’re confident that our own aptitude and behavioural testing can assess a candidate’s potential.”
The company has also made clear that candidates who have been accepted onto school and college leaver programmes will have guaranteed places even if they do not achieve the A-level results previously required.
Elliott added: “Students who sat exams this summer experienced significant disruption to their studies through the pandemic and so we are keen to do all we can to ease the minds of those who are planning to join us through our school and college leaver programmes.”
Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said employers needed to value a “wider range of experience and qualifications”, despite the fact that most respondents to the HR body’s poll use specific qualifications as a screening criterion when recruiting.