Does university prestige matter?

Sandstone pillars: a feature of ancient Rome, courthouses and really prestigious universities.

Does university prestige REALLY matter?

Good question. The prestige of an institution probably doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think it does. In fact, it might not matter at all. The reputable Grattan Institute conducted research on whether graduates from prestigious universities earn more money.

This is important because, in theory, the better the graduate, the better the job they will get and the more money they will earn.

(Of course, money isn’t everything… but let’s assume it is of the purposes of this post. Keep reading.)

The Grattan Institute concluded that…

“…there are ‘no significant salary differences’ between graduates from different types of university.”

The report concluded that graduates from technology universities (such as RMIT in Melbourne and UTS in Sydney) earn just as much as graduates from prestigious “Group of Eight” universities like Melbourne Uni, Sydney Uni and the University of Western Australia. Technology universities have much lower rankings than Group of Eight universities and are therefore considered to be less prestigious.

Any human resources person worth their salt knows that which uni a graduate went to isn’t the most important factor when it comes to recruiting the best candidate for their organisation.

But don’t take my word for it.

I asked this question of a HR person working in one of the most conservative professions of all time: the legal profession. She worked in one of the lands biggest and most prestigious law firms and this is what she had to say:

“Perhaps we once focused on a couple of key universities but the other universities now are producing such fantastic graduates . . . I honestly don’t think it factors in any more.”

The bottom line is that employers want the best people for the job, and they usually know that the best person for the job isn’t necessarily someone who came from a prestigious university.

Of course, there are always going to be boring, old fashioned, crusty old types who think prestigious universities are better than the rest. In fact, when it comes to teaching quality, they’re usually worse based on student feedback – see this post to find out more.

Employers who are savvy recruiters know that the name of the institution does not of itself mean a graduate is better or worse than any other.

There’s a lot of talk within industry about “work-ready graduates” at the moment.  That’s what employers want: someone who has skills they can apply in their chosen profession. That might mean good communication skills, critical thinking skills and practical knowledge they can put to good use. It’s the sort of stuff that means the employer doesn’t have to teach them everything from scratch.

Finding the university that’s right to you is a tricky business. It MIGHT be a prestigious uni – they have a lot of great courses and academics. OR it might be a not so prestigious university that has the degree and teaching quality that’s perfect for you.

Here is a post which gives you some hints on how to find the right university for you.