Labour plans to end qualification 'snobbery' in civil service

Angela Rayner says ending the requirement for degrees where they are not necessary would help boost diversity in the civil service

Photo: Flickr/ Angel Abril Ruiz

By Richard Johnstone

20 Nov 2018

A future Labour government would end what the party called the “snobbery” over qualifications in the civil service, as it pledged to end requirements for academic qualifications across a host of government jobs.

In a speech today, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said stopping the inclusion of qualifications such as degrees or A-levels in government job adverts unless they are relevant to the role would help establish genuine ‘parity of esteem’ for vocational qualifications.

Under the plan, public job adverts for civil service roles, as well as recruitment shortlisting requirements, would not be allowed to use qualifications as “a basic entry requirement for jobs in Whitehall”, Rayner said.


According to Labour, graduate-level jobs within the civil service automatically require a degree with upper second class honours (2:1) or above as a minimum. But Rayner said there remained a considerable attainment gap between the proportions of white British students receiving these degree classifications compared to UK-domiciled students from minority ethnic groups.

Companies such as Google, Penguin Books, Apple, IBM and Virgin Media have stopped asking for degrees and other academic qualifications for jobs where it is not an occupational requirement, she said. Expanding this to the civil service would ensure it better reflects British society and show government is taking the lead in creating a culture where different kinds of education are valued, she added.

“We will end the snobbery that underpins attitudes towards different types of qualification and end the assumption that academic qualifications should be a basic entry requirement for jobs in Whitehall, limiting them to where they are necessary,” Rayner said.

“Government itself will lead the way in setting a clear example to other employers that a person’s skills and experience is as valuable as any particular type of qualification.

“And we will ensure that those working at the heart of government become more representative of the country they serve.”

Labour highlighting that only 4% of appointees for the civil service fast stream had parents who worked in routine or manual work, and last year, not a single person of Black Caribbean origin won a place on the fast stream.

The party’s proposal comes as the government overhauls recruitment though its new success profiles regime. This will allow departments to recruit using five criteria – experiences, abilities, strengths, behaviours and technical/professional skills – picking the best for for each role. The new approach will replace the existing civil service competency framework by early 2019.

Responding to Rayner’s comments, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “There are already many ways people can join the civil service without a degree and many frontline roles do not require this level of qualification.

“Central to our ambition of becoming the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, apprenticeships are another route into the civil service.

“Not only do they support our commitment to building a broader set of skills in the civil service but they allow us to offer more varied careers that will help us retain and attract the best talent.”

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