As Cambridge students we should oppose ‘institution blind’ recruitment
We worked hard to get here, we work hard here and we deserve that to be recognised
There comes a point where you realise that the likelihood of you staying in Cambridge forever is pretty slim, and as much as we might like to put it off, applying for jobs is an inevitability.
If you’re now in third year and regret leaving applying ’til when you prepare for finals, or you’re a Fresher super-keen on getting that corporate job, you probably haven’t been able to avoid encountering ‘institution blind’ recruitment.
When you arrived in Cambridge, you probably thought you’d leave with a degree that had meaningful currency: ‘institution blind’ recruitment threatens to erode that, does us all a disservice. This has been an issue raised in the ongoing CUSU election, and so far only one candidate, Jack Drury, has put it in his manifesto or addressed it in any way.
A recent Varsity article claims that we should embrace this kind of recruitment because it stops firms becoming old boys’ clubs. The article’s fine in what it does, beating the straw man of some outdated vision of interviewee and interviewer noticing each other’s ties and winking. But it fails to defend institution-blind recruitment against the charges that opponents (including Jack) level.
There’s something of a contradiction, it seems to me, in the University, Colleges and many students throwing what they can at encouraging applicants from non-traditional backgrounds to make the enormous leap to applying here, and then telling them at the end of their three years that they can’t mention it on job applications. It should be celebrated that increasing numbers of people from non-traditional backgrounds are coming to Cambridge, and celebrated that they’re leaving Cambridge with degrees with the kind of currency that generates social mobility.
When a study in September showed that recruitment in certain sectors is affected by ‘rules’ about things like shoe colour, shouldn’t we rely on the degree-awarding institution to be the equaliser? Institution, rather than what else might be relied on, is the fairest thing for recruiters to zoom in on.
Institution-blind recruitment offers only a veneer of meritocracy and nothing more. The Varsity author is right to say that institution-blind recruitment is in vogue, and it tallies with disturbing parallels in society more broadly. How different is refusing to acknowledge the strength and value of an Oxbridge degree to Gove’s anti-expert-ism?
As Alan Rusbridger has powerfully argued in Oxford, there is a huge difference between being elite and being elitist. What I and most Cambridge students who tried hard to get here believe is that Cambridge should be the former, and absolutely not the latter.
But our representatives are shit at saying that publicly, and that’s why it’s so meaningful that a CUSU candidate like Jack is prepared to stand on a platform unapologetic about it.
Many of us feel awful Cambridge guilt, and are shy about saying what we really think; that we’re quite proud of having been here. Jack’s prepared to spare us the embarrassment and say it for us.