A press release on graduate employment released by the National Union of Students has turned into an attack on the recruitment policies of the UK's businesses, which NUS President Gemma Tumelty branded as an "old boys club".
The release was issued in response to the publication by the annual "Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education" survey, which collects and collates information about the immediate destinations of graduates when they finish their courses. The survey resulted in the following revelation from the Higher Education Statistics Agency: "levels of unemployment vary by degree classification". It shows that while only 4.7% of new graduates with first class degrees are unemployed, this rises to 11.3% for those with thirds.
NUS President Gemma Tumelty was pleased that so many students were finding employment after graduation, but said the NUS remains concerned that graduates may not be finding jobs which meet their "aspirations and qualifications". She highlighted the problem of students saddled with high debts having to find any job available to improve their financial situation, rather than being able to wait for their ideal job to come along.
Tumelty continued, attacking the current process of graduate recruitment which she claimed resembled an "old boys club", taking graduates from "so-called elite universities" rather than from across the "whole range of universities" in the country. Her description of graduates from these universities as "distinctly privileged" is likely to cause controversy, particularly among those graduates who feel they are not especially privileged. Those forced to endure assessment after assessment when applying for jobs in the City are also likely to object to the implication they have an easier ride into their jobs than those from other universities.
The universities being referred to are not explicitly stated, however it is likely to be the research-intensive Russell Group which includes Imperial. Tumelty attended Liverpool John Moores University and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Psychology.
ICU President Stephen Brown was unhappy with the NUS statement, telling Live!:
"If the NUS have any evidence of any institution's undergraduates being hired en masse in anything but a fair and transparent manner then they should publish it. Why is the National President using her position to unfairly paint high achieving graduates as undeserving, by lazily perpetuating the myth that they somehow have benefited from a mysterious 'old boys club'?
"Gemma's statement does not reflect the reality of modern graduate recruitment methods ... If the NUS wants to be taken seriously then it needs to stop promoting the politics of grievance at every opportunity."