Is the 2:1 the ‘golden ticket’ to success?

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IN 2012/13, nearly 190,000 students graduated with a 2:1.

Out of the 400,000 students that graduated that year, more were getting 2:2s than firsts, according tothe latest Higher Education Statistics.

But what is it about the 2:1 degree classification that is so desirable?

Should you aim for a solid 65 and exploit what else the university has to offer?

Speaking to the Guardian, Abigail Morris, employment adviser for the British Chamber of Commerce said: “SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) often do not have the time or HR resource to go through all those CVs, so they use the 2:1 to sift.

“But what businesses tell us is that they don’t trust qualifications as a whole. Of a survey of 6,000 businesses, only 45% said they were very or fairly confident of taking on a graduate.”

Adam Curtis, graduate and co-founder of the Swansea based online conveyancing software company Hoowla said when he is recruiting he looks for the grade and the reasons why a 2:1 was not achieved:

“For an employer, for me the grade is as not important but I look to see what else they have done. A lot of people have degrees now but if they got below a 2:1, I would be looking for the reasons why.

“On a CV, I also look for extra curricular activities to see what hobbies and interests they have as well as any volunteering or charity work they have been involved in.

“Once I receive a CV, I will instantly Google their name and find out as much as I can about them.

“It’s okay to have pictures at parties but I’m cautious if there’s inappropriate content with a lot of swearing on their social media.

“It is always about the attitude of the employee too. It is easier to train a person than to change their attitude.”

Joshua Hale graduated from BSc Psychology in 2013 with a 2:2 and has gone onto study a Masters in Research methods in Psychology MSC. Whilst studying for his undergraduate degree, Josh was heavily involved with the students’ union and societies.

Last year, he ran for Welfare Officer, took part in active campaigns and has recently been elected on to the NUS Wales Disability Committee.

“I don’t feel a 2:2 has held me back at all,” said Josh.

“I am currently averaging a distinction in my masters 72% and I always knew I wouldn’t get the top grade as an undergraduate because I threw myself into university life and did everything else that was on offer.”

Alexandra Gibbs graduated with a 2:1 in BA English Literature last academic year and had the role of Music Editor at The Waterfront throughout her degree.

She said how expectations are stressful at university and it can turn into friendship wars based on results:

“There’s a lot of pressure nowadays to get a 2:1; not only from the hearsay you hear about getting a decent career but it can sometimes feel like a competition between your friends too.

“In every level of studies from GCSE to postgraduate there’s a desire to get the highest. For me, it was imperative to get a 2:1, as many said that a 2:1 is the cut off line between being considered by a company or not.”

There has been increased debate over the last five years about whether a 2:1 is considered not only an advantage over lower grade students, but also above those who achieve a first.

Jake Wilson, a BA German graduate, tells of his experience with the qualification:

“The latest notion that a 2:1 is better than a first is, like most of these statements’ something that can apply in certain cases. I graduated from Swansea last year with a 2:1 in German and was able to walk into a £23k+ job two days after graduating.

“It wasn’t my degree that got me my job, but work experience that I had accumulated before university and in my summer and Easter vacations. It’s this situation, where a candidate with a 2:1 and significant and relevant work experience, may appear more desirable than a student with a first, but with no work experience.”

Dependent on what your career aims are, in many cases your degree classification, whether it’s a first or a third, may be meaningless if it is on an empty CV.

Rebecca Vaughan, a Swansea University careers adviser, explains how a graduate’s employability is not just about the grade on your transcript:

Rebecca said: “It is important to present a rounded picture to employers. The employability of a graduate depends on the whole package: skills, relevant experience etc.

“Desirable skills are changing all the time and many employers would take into account whether a graduate has been involved in societies; part-time work etc, and has a creative, innovative mindset over and above a specific degree classification.”

Swansea University’s Careers Department offers help to graduates and is open over the summer for advice and assistance.

For advice and appointments with an adviser in the careers department, visit

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