Does the Russell Group Reputation Still Have Prestige?

As final year students across the country begin to prepare for life as a graduate, those who have studied at the University of Leeds may expect to find themselves in a more advantageous position than those at their neighbours Beckett and Trinity. The Gryphon investigates the extent that an institution’s reputation can bolster the chances of a candidate’s success outside the world of education.

CrestIt has always been a British obsession to rank everything, and universities are no different. This has created a stigmatism against more modern universities such as Leeds Beckett, which has recently been rebranded. Many will assume that this was motivated by a need to disassociate itself with the ‘Metropolitan’ image, which is seen as somewhat second class because of the vocational courses institutions like Beckett offer that are blacklisted by Oxbridge.

This stigma is helped by the constant publication of university league tables. The QS World University Rankings recently released its latest league table. Six British universities were in the top twenty, all of which belong to the Russell Group.

For many employers though, these figures aren’t crucial. A spokesperson from Deloitte, which was named in The Times’ list of top 100 graduate employers, said, ‘The university a candidate studied at has no bearing on our selection decisions. Last year we hired from 80 universities in the UK and value the diversity of thought, expertise and skills that this wide reach brings us. We are very aware that ignoring other institutions would mean missing out on some very talented individuals.’

The University of Leeds’ Careers Centre agrees that the reputation of an institution isn’t too significant when moving on from student life, ‘Last year, our Careers Centre provided hundreds of opportunities for Leeds University students to meet with potential employers, but it is up to the students to make sure that they impress those employers, who are looking for a range of skills and competencies from their graduate recruits. A degree from a University such as ours gives you a head start in evidencing academic and research skills, but employers are equally interested in broader transferable skills.’

A degree from a University such as ours gives you a head start in evidencing academic and research skills, but employers are equally interested in broader transferable skills.’

Despite these opinions, recent statistics published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Study found that 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior officers in the armed forced and 55% of top civil servants. Moreover, a Russell Group graduate earns on average 16% to 19% more than those from other universities. Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission, believes this is something which needs to be addressed, ‘that is not a recipe for a healthy and democratic society’.

However, there are positive signs regarding the employability of graduates from non-Russell Group universities. Leeds Beckett claim that 93.7% of their graduates find work or further study six months after graduating, whilst Leeds Trinity boasts a figure of 94%.

The Russell Group claims its universities are ‘committed to the highest level of academic excellence in both teaching and research’. This is reflected by both the higher entry requirements for its institutions, and the stereotype of a Russell Group graduate as articulate, intelligent and independent. In reality, the reputation of an institution does not have a massive effect on graduate jobs, but it could determine how far someone can reach up the career ladder.

Victoria Hesketh

Photographs: Alice Greenfield and Flicker

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