No university place?

August 19, 2011, 8:00 PM GMT+0

Yesterday saw students across the country receiving their A-levels results, with pass rates rising to a record high of 97.8%. Some students, even those with A and A* grades, have been struggling to secure University places as competition for places intensifies ahead of the tuition fee hike. All is not lost for the next year, however - our survey of British HR directors has found that UK recruiters back a working gap year as an ideal alternative as students consider their options.

  • 85% of the UK HR professionals surveyed agreed that relevant work experience was more valuable to a job-seeker than an average non-vocational degree
  • 63% said that a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience overseas made a job application stand out

The survey of more than 250 UK Human Resources professionals was carried out by YouGov in July this year for the travel social network Positive responses suggests that even those planning to reapply next year should look hard at the constructive gap year option.

  • Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they would be more likely to employ a graduate with gap year experience involving independent travel, working or volunteering overseas than one without
  • And more than half (51%) thought young people taking constructive gap years tended to get better value out of subsequent education

Tom Griffiths, founder of, said: ‘It’s never been more important for young people to make the most of their time between school and career. This survey shows that a constructive gap year involving independent travel, volunteering or work overseas makes a big difference to potential employers.

It’s understandable that anyone with a university place this year won’t want to defer, but, for the many thousands without that option, a constructive gap year has to be one of the best alternatives. There are lots of temporary jobs going in places like Australia. And that sort of work can easily be combined with time spent volunteering in South East Asia or language-learning in China or Japan.’

Those surveyed offered a number of top tips for students who miss out this year. Among them were:

  • Volunteer for an organisation in an area related to your long-term career plans, preferably as part of a structured gap year
  • Find a job that will give you additional skills; even working in a bar can lead to management and other skills
  • If possible, go abroad – the difference overseas travel makes is obvious

‘This is going to be a tough time for a lot of people,’ said Tom Griffiths. ‘But missing out on university is not the end of the world. Our survey of HR professionals proves that a gap year involving work, learning and experience can be either a good alternative to university or the ideal preparation.’