Clegg is wrong: The public sector wants more Oxbridge grads

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Nick Clegg’s recent comments regarding the “prejudice” faced by Oxbridge graduates pursuing a career in the public sector represent a misguided view of the expanding range of prospects which recent graduates enjoy.

In fact, many public sector employers are working hard to increase the number of Oxbridge graduates applying to their schemes, as evidenced by both the presence of recruiters at Oxford and Cambridge and the number of Oxbridge graduates within public sector industries.

Some of the most successful schemes in the sector, including Frontline, Teach First, the Civil Service Fast Stream and the NHS graduate programme, ran a highly successful panel talk in Oxford two weeks ago, in which the representatives from each scheme were Oxbridge graduates.

Furthermore, the presence of Frontline and Teach First at Careers Fairs in Oxford and Cambridge for the past few years has been impossible to ignore.

While it may be the case that certain public sector employers are shunning Oxbridge graduates in an attempt to shed the image of “elitism”, there are plenty of others who are aiming their grad schemes specifically at Oxbridge students.

For students who want to make a difference and, in Clegg’s words, “give back”, schemes such as Frontline and Teach First are leading the way. 1 in 10 Oxbridge students apply to Teach First, and Oxford University alone contributed 96 graduates to Teach First’s 2013 intake of 1200 people.

Frontline, a brilliant new graduate programme that has a similar structure to Teach First and focuses on child protection social work, has also contributed to a surge in Oxbridge applications to public sector jobs. Of Frontline’s first cohort, 73% are from Russell Group universities, including 20% from Oxbridge. Only last week, a Frontline representative was in Oxford calling on more final year students to apply before this Friday’s deadline.

Frontline’s success represents a real change in attitudes towards public sector jobs among Oxbridge students. Clegg’s claim that employers from the public sector do not want Oxford graduates is far from the truth and potentially damaging to both teaching and social work, at a time when both are benefiting from a real surge in top graduates.

Upon gaining a place on the Frontline programme, Francis Goodburn, a recent Oxford graduate in Computer Science, said, “The two things I most want from a job are to know what I am doing is truly worthwhile and to take on varied, challenging work every day. With this in mind, social work seems like a fantastic career choice. I’m particularly excited about Frontline’s model of on-the-job training, and learning leadership skills that could help me make a difference to the lives of children and families. Having now secured a place on the Frontline programme, I’m looking forward to embarking on a career I may not otherwise have had the opportunity to do.”

Students like Francis must not be put off from applying to life-changing schemes like Frontline. Public sector grad schemes are not prejudiced towards Oxbridge graduates Mr Clegg; they are targeting and having great success in drawing in the brightest students and graduates.

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