University, paid for by KPMG

Here's one solution to the problem of higher tuition fees: get your future employer to pay them for you...

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 25 Jan 2011
KPMG has already pledged to take on more school leavers, but now it's come up with another headline-friendly recruitment policy: it's offering to fund potential trainees through four years of higher education. Although they'll have to spend some time working at the firm during the holidays, so it's not all good news...

The accountancy firm’s offering a six-year programme that’ll eventually lead to a BSc degree in Accounting plus a chartered accountancy qualification.  Launching with 75 places for school-leavers, it’ll involve four years studying at Durham University; with a further two years' training after graduation - during which the trainees will be paid a salary of £20,000. The firm apparently hopes that school-leaver schemes of this type will eventually account for the majority of the recruitment to its annual trainee accountant intake, which currently numbers around 400.

Many businesses have introduced school-leaver recruitment programmes over the last couple of years in order to attract bright students who might be put off university by the rise in tuition fees.  Last year Deloitte, one of KPMG’s rivals, announced it would be taking on 100 school-leavers from September 2011.

KPMG is taking this idea further, in that they’re offering their trainees the chance to get a degree first.  But while it’s new for KPMG, it’s not the first company to be offering such a scheme. Morrisons is sponsoring 20 students on an undergraduate programme at Bradford University, followed by three years working at the supermarket chain. Harrods is also partnering with Anglia Ruskin for a two-year degree in sales. Then of course there’s McDonalds, where staff now have the opportunity to do a two year foundation degree in business management, accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University.   

As expected, such schemes are incredibly popular.  After all, you could argue that students get the best of all possible worlds: they can go to university and enjoy themselves without having to worry about paying tuition fees and without having to worry about getting a job at the end of it (since they'll almost certainly have one already, unless they do something particularly heinous during their holiday stints).

But while this is clearly an attractive alternative for school leavers, we can't help wondering about those who decide against the degree route and start work immediately. Will they forever be classed as second-class citizens within the firm, even though they've actually got more practical experience? And if so, is that fair?

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