Penguin Random House HR Director Neil Morrison announced last week that the company would no longer require candidates applying for jobs to have university degrees, and people were mad.
Understandably, recent graduates took to Twitter to express their disappointment, while interns across London danced in the street with happiness. A lot of the conversation has focused on whether it is fair on graduates as, after years of studying to attain a degree, it seems that publishers no longer want them. But to me, the issue is a lot more complex than that.
In an economic climate where many are opting out of the traditional university route because of skyrocketing tuition fees, companies are finally starting to see the value of candidates that have working experience and immediate skills. With the changes towards diversity and inclusivity we’re seeing in books recently, it’s only natural that publishers will want to open their doors to people who have had to use their creativity and love of the industry in an environment that is constantly telling them they’re not wanted.
The job search isn’t easy for anyone, graduate or not, but being told that someone with a degree in any field takes precedence over someone with first-hand experience of working in publishing says a lot about the industry’s view on people who want to take a different route. In my experience, publishing has so far been extremely biased to graduates, and this view made sense in the past: who wouldn’t want to hire someone who has the commitment to get through three years of study and a dissertation? But a degree should never be an indication of someone’s work ethic more than a candidate who has put time and effort into working (often unpaid) for months on end, just for the chance of an interview.
Announcements like these can only change publishing for the better now that capable and creative people, who may not have had the option to go to university, are being given as much a chance as those who have. PRH stated that it wanted to “make publishing far, far more inclusive than it has been to date”, and the publishing giant has made a great first step in doing just that. Books reflect our culture, and the curation of this should not be made available for the few who happen to be in the position to obtain a degree. Penguin has not once said that it no longer wants to attract graduates, they are just finally levelling the playing field.