UK AGR Conference 2013

Posted by Daniel Purchas

I have recently attended the AGR conference (UK version of the AAGE) from the 7th - 9th July which was held at the Celtic Manor in Wales

Celtic Manor

Celtic Manor, Wales, venue for the AGR 2013 Conference

I was driven down from London to Wales by Ed and Alex from, a similar site to GradConnection, founded by a team similar to myself Dave and Mike around a similar time that we started GradConnection in 2007/2008. We also ended up having an Australia vs. UK mini-golf tournament which I managed to narrowly win in the end, so now I can say I’ve represented Australia at something.

Alex about to shoot the gap on the Celtic Manor mini golf course

Alex about to shoot the gap on the Celtic Manor mini golf course

There was a small Australian contingent attending this year out of around 550 delegates in total, with Ben from AAGE  as well as Paula & Dave from Fusion GMS also attending.

I was interested in attending the conference largely to see how the UK market operates as we have heard that it is one of the more competitive market places in regards to graduate and intern hiring globally and were keen to see how the Australian graduate recruitment practices compared to the way things are done in the UK.

UK Vs Australia – Branding and Attraction Channels

One of the immediate things that struck me was that there are a tonne of graduate careers sites in the UK with around 5 being larger in size in regards to employer advertisers and student traffic and around 10+ smaller niche sites.

There was also a lot more employer branding agency involvement across the board for campaign design and channel selection compared to Australia. This could well be due to there being a far larger set of marketing channel options.

Quite a few marketing channel providers were on campus events companies having quite a large presence at the conference. There also was more a focus on putting together video as part of campaigns over there with a variety of video production.

UK Vs Australia – Assessment and Selection benchmarking

Speaking to David Cvetkovski from Fusion GMS who had also travelled over for the AGR conference specifically about the selection and assessment space which is far more their area of expertise than my own, he seemed to think that in comparison, the best industry practices in Australia fare well against those practiced in the UK. David thought that due to the increase in scale of the UK and the fact that Europe would also need to be included as part of planning for Assessment and selection methodologies, it made for a more complex environment that was not as advanced as first expected compared to the Australian market.

Graduate Market Research in the UK

Graduate market surveying and intelligence companies play a really major part in planning where and how to recruit in the UK. There seemed to be 4 major players in the market – High Fliers (the AAGE surveying provider), Universum, GTI Media and CFE Research.

Campus strategies are often worked on based on a review of 2 – 3 different market research organisations as well. The market intelligence data would provide information on where to find the right student hires for an organisation and then offer the information on how best to attract them as well.

AGR Awards Gala Dinner

AGR Awards Gala Dinner

On the final day of the conference I attended the recently released graduate market survey results session and while it was no Tim Wise from High Fliers presentation, the stats were quite interesting:

  • Overall the number of vacancies per employer dropped by 3.9% from 2012 with the hardest hit sectors being Law, FMCG, Accounting and Banking
  • The average number of vacancies per employer was 98 in the UK
  • No real salary increases since around 2009 for graduates across the board in the UK, a quote from an employer explaining this apparent freeze in graduate salaries was “we feel that we have reached a ceiling in salary levels where we get the number of applications we need without changing salary
  • The range in salaries was from around £22,500 – £38,000 pounds which is appx $38,000 - $64,000 AUD
  • Applications per vacancy are now sitting at 85, this has been a large spike in application numbers since the GFC began in 2007 where apps per vacancy were sitting at 30


So the UK Grad market is ‘bigger’ but does that mean things are better in that market? I wouldn’t say that the UK is better but the scale of the market there has made it different and allowed for solid niche areas to develop that Australia would not be big enough to support. An example of this was a marketing site called GradCracker. They had around as many clients as we work with at GradConnection in Australia, however they only work with Engineering and Technology recruitment campaigns whereas we work with all industry sector recruiters.

One of the big takeaways that I found in a larger and arguably more competitive market did seem to be a more transactional and ‘salesy’ approach from a lot of suppliers. With a larger competitive market, a lot of suppliers have innovated and differentiated themselves, however some are just selling harder to get uptake from employers and I think the same thing has happened in the employer space as well when targeting top tier students.

Havas Worldwide

Havas Worldwide, an employer branding agency brought their own Delorean to the expo

Bigger budgets can come up with good ideas in the battle to stand out against the competition. One of the more interesting marketing campaigns that was showed cased at the conference was the “Mars Tweet Shop” which was a twitter activated vending machine which dispensed Mars products when a student on campus sent it a tweet. This was a campaign that was executed with a “small” budget of £60,000

Some of the challenges faced in the UK are still the same as Australia though, specifically around international students where many students do struggle to find employment after completing their degrees in the UK.


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