A review commissioned by the Government has decided that employers who prioritise job applicants with top degrees from top universities are potentially discriminating against those with degrees from other universities. It has been suggested that three quarters of employers require good grades as a minimum but that this requirement goes against an employer’s duty to hire a diverse workforce.

This is all very well but given competition for jobs is at an all time high one has to ask whether it is unreasonable for employers to want to recruit the best person for the role available. It seems logical that the best person should be recruited for a role. However it is not always the case that the best person is necessarily the one with the best grades. It has long been standard practice to require a certain level of grades to apply for certain jobs but due to the current economic condition such a level has had to be raised to try and help limit the number of applications.

Of course a person may excel academically but have no social skills and so not be able to work well in the workplace. Thus going against the idea that those with the best grades are the ones best for the job Employers would do well to recognise this and look beyond academic grades.

It must also not be overlooked that there are able candidates from universities which are not able to compete with the elite. They may have achieved a top mark from a lower tier university but the stigma employers attach to their university goes against them. It is perhaps this which employers should be warned against – do not make assumptions based on someone’s university as you may miss out on the person best for the job. Not only this but it leaves employers open to a real risk of discrimination.

A person could bring a claim of indirect race discrimination if employers are only recruiting those from elite universities. If an employer has a policy not to interview applicants from certain universities then they may be indirectly discriminating on the basis of their race. Those who do not have the opportunity to attend elitist universities because of their race are clearly disadvantaged by a policy only to consider applicants from such universities. However, it would be open to the employer to seek to objectively justify such a policy. The decision on whether to employ someone should not be influenced by irrelevant factors.

An individual may have a good reason for not attending a top university or given the amount now being charged to attend university, the cost each university charges may have made the decision for them. The elite universities will be charging the maximum amount possible and so it is quite possible the normal Joe Blogs will not be able to afford this or wish to incur the debt. Likewise there will be individuals who failed to achieve top grades for various reasons but are still just as able to do the job very well. Employers should recognise this and be willing to make concessions and take this into consideration.