Oxford graduates not team players

Oxford graduates are lacking in teamwork and business awareness, a recent study has shown.

The Oxford University Recruiters’ Survey asked employers why they recruit Oxford graduates and how these students compare to those at other universities in the UK in terms of eight employability measures.

Of the 750 companies surveyed by the University of Oxford Careers Service in June 2012, only 35 per cent rated Oxford students “above average” or “much better than average” both in terms of teamwork and business awareness.

Over half the respondents scored Oxford graduates highly in six of the eight categories. Initiative, self-management and communication are the skills most evident in Oxford students, with over two thirds of employers rating them highly in these areas.

61 percent thought Oxford graduates possessed above average planning skills while 59 per cent thought they made outstanding leaders. Just over half believed Oxford students made excellent entrepreneurs or innovators.

The majority of the respondents were small medium-sized enterprises with large national and multinational corporations also participating. All of the companies have been active employers of Oxford graduates in the last two years.

90 per cent of undergraduate finalists use the Careers Service, which has helped students to find employment for students with organisations such as Shell, Tesco and the British Red Cross.

Adam Eisenstadt, a Business and Management trainee at Unilever, graduated from Jesus College in 2010 with a degree in Economics and Management and believes that participation in extra-curricular activities alongside his degree enhanced his business awareness and teamwork skills.

He told The Oxford Student: “I did economics and management at Oxford so I think that helps a lot with business awareness. Economics and maths aren’t that useful for business awareness but the management side is obviously very applicable.

“Equally I’ve done quite a lot of things such as Young Enterprise or taken part in different challenges that have built that level of awareness in me as well.”

He added: “One of the things Oxford does is that it gets students thinking very academically and quite theoretically and that doesn’t naturally lend itself to business awareness. I generally over-analyse problems and that’s one of those things Oxford drums into you as you really need to rigorously think things through.

“I don’t think through tutorials and seminars we’re particularly well coached in teamwork compared to other international business universities such as Maastricht where people work as teams and present as groups. I think that’s better preparation in my opinion.”

Jonathan Black, the Careers Service Director, told The OxStu: “Students at Oxford can improve their teamwork and business awareness in many ways: taking an active role in a sports team, student club or society; by joining The Student Consultancy for a term; volunteering through OUSU or OxHub; and, of course, by taking an internship or getting some work experience.

He added: “Employers will look to see if you can demonstrate responsibility and achievement in any field (not just the world of work) – so get involved in an activity that you enjoy and volunteer for positions of responsibility.”

Current students believe that they will need to go beyond the teaching from their degree to develop all the necessary skills for the workplace. Michael Zhang, a second year physicist, said: “I have an internship at a company in Cambridge – previous interns there have used it as a stepping stone to go to other companies such as Google.

“I feel that the degree helps your chances – but companies tend to look for people who have demonstrated that they can apply their course knowledge in a business environment.”

Catherine Edwards, a second year German and Italian student, said: “I think in some ways it’s true as the tutorial system and teaching style is more traditional and focuses on independent learning, but this is equally important as teamwork. You probably develop business awareness once you’re in employment.”

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson told The Oxford Student: “We must ensure that graduates enter the labour market equipped to succeed. The higher education white paper outlines proposals that will deliver a greater focus on graduate employability.

“We will promote a new framework for business and universities to work together to ensure a better fit between graduates and jobs.”

According to the report, in 2011/12 recruiters posted 6,000 opportunities on the Careers Service website, while the pool of potential candidates leaving Oxford each year contains around 3,000 undergraduates or postgraduates.

Oxford has seen a 38 per cent increase in the last year, this follows three years of more than 25 per cent annual growth.

Common themes of “excellent reputation, high quality, consistent performance and ease of finding good candidates” were identified as reasons why employers recruit from the University.

The report also found that postgraduate students on average earn £4,000 per year more than undergraduates, while post doctorate students are paid £8,000 more. Postgraduates are also paid around £3,000 more by multinational corporations than other employers.

Careers in banking and law offer the best starting salaries to Oxford graduates, with multinational corporations paying between £35,000 and £40,000 per year.


Adam Eisenstadt’s views are his own and not those of his employer