PwC, one of the UK's largest graduate employers, is to scrap the UCAS tariff as an entry criterion for its graduate scheme. It’s a move that could drive radical changes in the social mobility and diversity of the professional services' industry, and how companies assess potential more broadly.

Applications to PwC’s graduate schemes rose to 25,573 last year, 17 applications for every role, this is expected to rise considerably this year, as more candidates are eligible to apply.

Mark Smith, regional chairman at PwC in the Midlands said:

“As a progressive employer we recognise that talent and potential presents itself in different ways and at different stages in people’s lives. Removing the UCAS criteria will create a fairer and more modern system in which students are selected on their own merit, irrespective of their background or where they are from.

“We're hiring almost 120 graduates and school leavers into the Midlands practice this Autumn and have a further 90 work experience places available to undergraduate and year 12 school students. By making these changes, we hope to attract a broader and more diverse range of applicants.”

The strong correlation that exists in the UK between social class and school academic performance suggests that by placing too much emphasis on UCAS scores, employers will miss out on key talent from disadvantaged backgrounds, who can perform less well at school.

Removing UCAS scores as an entry prerequisite follows analysis of applications to the firm from students who have not achieved the normally required A Level grades. The move will enable the firm to further diversify its graduate intake through broader access to talented young people, who may not have strong historical academic performance at school, but have gone on to perform well at university and have all round proven capabilities.

The firm's graduate programme, voted the top scheme in the country for 12 years in a row, will continue to filter applications by university degree results and through online behavioural and aptitude assessments that test students more closely on their capacity to learn, personal skills and overall suitability for the workplace. This approach will maintain the high level of talent that PwC demands from its graduate recruits.

Lauren McCafferty,student recruitment manager at PwC in the Midlands, said:

“We want to target bright, talented people and extend our career opportunities to untapped talent in wider pockets of society. Our experience shows that whilst A Level assessment can indicate potential, for far too many students there are other factors that influence results.  Competition and assessment for our graduate roles will be as tough as ever - but those that want to get on with a career in business can do so.”

Stephen Isherwood, from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said:

“Using a candidate’s UCAS points to assess their potential is a blunt tool and a barrier to social mobility. This is an innovate step by one of the most significant graduate recruiters in the UK. Other graduate employers should follow their lead.”

Across all student programmes the firm will recruit around 2,500 students to graduate, school and college leaver and work experience roles. The firm has pioneered new approaches to recruitment and assessment including sponsored degree programmes and offering the first Higher Apprenticeship in professional services.

The UCAS tariff will continue to be used in filtering applications for the firm’s school leaver roles, employer led degree programme, ‘Flying Start’, and for a small minority of graduate roles where particular subject matter expertise is a requirement.