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Copyright Matt Wright

US Employer Perceptions of UK University Degrees Earned in the United Kingdom, by Ipsos Public Affairs for the British Council

Most employers in the United States consider degrees earned in the United Kingdom to be the same as or better than those earned in the US. Employers are seeking candidates who are well-rounded, with a relevant degree from a reputable university or program, and they perceive these things to be generally characteristic of Americans who have studied at universities in the United Kingdom.

While most employers are favorable towards degrees earned in the UK, they are not fully knowledgeable about them. Employers’ favorability is best understood in the context the “halo effect” cast by the top UK universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Since many employers lack actual knowledge of the UK higher education system, it is unsurprising that they cite a number of barriers to assessing UK degrees.

To bolster the employment prospects of alumni from universities in the UK, it will be useful for institutions to build engagement with employers around the characteristics employers perceive to be most valuable. It is therefore a very positive finding that, when presented with the characteristics of the UK higher education system, employers are extremely positive towards these attributes.

The research has highlighted a number of areas where action can be taken to communicate with employers to improve perceptions and ability to assess candidates with UK degrees:

  • Communications with employers should emphasize the characteristics that make an education in the UK unique yet relevant (e.g. the tutorial system of learning, more independent study, and earlier specialization in a specific subject area).
  • Employers would like universities to have a page specifically for them to utilize on their websites, which includes information about programs, accreditation and grading.
  • It is critical to educate students about the importance of providing employers with additional information about their university and program.
  • Students should be made aware of the advantages of tailoring the information to which they provide employers according to the industry and size of that individual business or organization to which they are applying.

– December 2011

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