Oxbridge suits no longer the obvious pick for Civil Service recruiters

They want more people to step up and apply

Facts About the Fast Stream no ad

The number of successful Oxbridge applicants in this year’s crop of Fast Stream graduates, fell from 26.6 per cent in 2012 to 22.2 per cent this year, despite a rise in the number of Oxbridge applications.

Although the Fast Stream remains as meritocratic and competitive as ever, the millennial face of the Civil Service is made up of graduates like Emma, a 26 year old Derby girl who graduated with a first in Economics and French from Leeds in 2011.

Finding the brightest and the best from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Find out more about applying for THE CIVIL SERVICE FAST STREAM.


Emma flying high in Abu Dhabi before she joined the Fast Stream

After two years working in an international school as a teacher in Abu Dhabi, Emma applied for and was accepted onto the Civil Service’s prestigious Fast Stream programme, which has seen a 20 per cent rise in recruitment since 2012, the highest level of graduate recruitment growth of any Times Top 100 employer.

Now in her second year of the Fast Stream, Emma is on her third posting in the Strategy Unit in the Department for Education. We met her for a coffee, a la Whitehall.

On one of her 22 days holiday

On one of her 22 days annual holiday

It’s so easy to compromise and not take the plunge. If I’d done that I’d probably still be living overseas, maybe New Zealand or Singapore, but probably in a job I hated.

I don’t think five year career plans are worth making. There are so many different options and paths you can take when you are selected for Fast Stream and I think it’s healthier to just work on a 6 month basis.

“The kind of leadership experience that simply can’t be gained anywhere else.” Find out more about applying for THE CIVIL SERVICE FAST STREAM.


That’s a winning smile

No-one knows what they want to do when they graduate, even the pretenders, you have to figure out how the world works. But I was always drawn to the public sector, I wanted to do something for the ‘greater good’ of society. My family have all always worked for the public sector and I didn’t really know any different.

You’re very aware of your responsibility to the public but ultimately, decisions are made by Ministers, we can only advise and make recommendations.

Emma practising her diplomatic skills in Indonesia

Emma practising her diplomatic skills in Indonesia

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After a good week, I love going to Polpo in Covent Garden or the late night bowling alley near my flat in Finsbury Park.

I’m very lucky to work alongside inspiring people. I work with some incredibly intelligent, dynamic and interesting people who are amazingly competent and a lot of fun.

Most of my friends assume I work for MI5. It’s a myth I don’t necessarily dispel.


A bunch of MI5 agents at the weekend

It might be a cliche but preparation is everything. I didn’t realise how much you can do to prepare for each stage of the application process of the Fast Stream. The assessment criteria are very clear and transparent.

When you get thrown in the deep end, you’ve got to swim. I remember being asked to brief Vince Cable (the Secretary of State for Business) on my second day on the job. It probably wasn’t perfect, but I did it.

Integrity is really important to me. If I’m not willing to tell my Mum about it, then it probably isn’t the right thing to do. 


You’ve got to follow your instincts. I was asked to run a marketing project on my own and I felt that the strategy was wrong. It was daunting challenging my new boss within 2 weeks of starting the job but it was the right thing to do.

Leaders are always three steps ahead. They’re the people you work with that are prepared to take on the difficult challenges and wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that they weren’t prepared to do themselves.

Coffee is key. Lots of it and strong.

It’s important to get away. Last year I went trekking in Sumatran jungle in Indonesia and a wild orang-utan grabbed my hand and dragged me into the bushes, it was a surreal experience.

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