IS a university degree valuable to an employer?

This question is definitely one that parents, students and careers advisers should consider.

For the first time in the UK over 50 per cent of young people attend university. Thirty years ago only a third of undergraduates achieved a 2:1. Today over 70 per cent achieve an upper second.

There are 168 institutions awarding degrees in the UK and some 1.7 million undergraduates doing thousands of different subjects.

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These institutions, new and old, are no longer just academic places for our young people to learn and grow, they are large multi-million pound commercial enterprises and yet they are still reliant on tuition fees.

Oxford Mail:

With the low birth rate in the early 2000s there is now great competition to attract today’s 18 year olds.

Now more than ever there is flexibility in entry requirements, and some universities are even making unconditional offers.

If a student is given an unconditional offer do they feel they can coast with their school exams not realising that their A level results will actually count for at least the first five years of seeking jobs?

This summer’s grades will add another unknown dimension.

Surely a degree is essential?

The ability to hand in an essay on time shows good organisation skills, the staying power to keep studying shows tenacity, a 2:1 or a first is an indication of academic ability, being the captain of a team is an example of leadership but do any of these indicate an understanding of the world of business and give them the real practical skills to fit all requirements?

The graduate marketplace is highly competitive and already near saturation point, a university degree on a CV might not be enough to stand out and additional skills attractive to businesses may make the difference in acquiring that all important first job.

What do employers look for?

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Employers today are faced with a huge dilemma with so many graduates applying for jobs. How do they tell them apart

Either before university as a Gap Year, after a degree, or indeed as an alternative to university, students should be aware that they need to offer great workplace skills as well.

Students who will go on to thrive in the workplace are those with a broader range of business and office skills.

Oxford Mail:

In addition to good academic qualifications, employers are looking for advanced IT skills, a demonstrable understanding of the business world in general and preferably of a given sector or role, as well as more valuable soft skills such as time management, communications skills, customer service and emotional intelligence.

Any potential new recruit who can demonstrate these skills in addition to academic excellence, will create a powerful CV that will certainly catch the eye of any recruiter.

What is the best route to a career?

The employment market is difficult at the moment and it might be a good idea to buy some time until the economy recovers by adding some workplace skills to a degree either before or after university.

A reality check is important and standing out from the crowd is essential.

Alison Bloomfield is marketing and communications executive at Oxford Media & Business School