Ernst & Young scraps academic requirements for trainees

One of the world’s biggest accountancy firms is to scrap all academic and education details from its trainee application process.

Ernst & Young, one of the country’s largest graduate recruiters, will use applicants’ performance in online tests to make decisions about who to interview for its trainee programme.

The company will no longer require applicants to its graduate programme to have a 2:1 degree and the equivalent of three Bs at A-level. Instead, it will use numerical tests and other online “strength” assessments to pick their trainees.

It follows a similar move by another accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which announced in May that is to drop A-level grades as a means of selecting graduates.

But Ernst & Young has gone further by removing the minimum requirement at degree level, stating that it found “no evidence” that university success correlated with future success in professional qualifications.

The move is part of the firm’s bid to improve diversity in its workforce. Just 4 per cent of its most senior staff are from ethnic minorities, and less than a fifth are female.

Maggie Stilwell, Ernst & Young’s managing partner for talent, said the changes would “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.

“Academic qualifications will still be taken into account and indeed remain an important consideration when assessing candidates as a whole, but will no longer act as a barrier to getting a foot in the door, she said. “Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment.

“It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”

The decision follows a report published, by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in June, which said that bright working-class young people were being denied the opportunity to work at blue chip companies by an overreliance to select applicants from Russell Group universities.

The changes will come into force for Ernst & Young’s 2016 recruitment programmes, which opened for applications on 3 August.

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