Prestige, prestige, prestige.

It’s a battle cry often heard echoing the halls of the most reputable universities and repeated with an unwavering insistence from certain parents: “My child will attend only the highest ranked university.” For those parents, though, hoping a gold star on the academic leader board will be enough to guarantee success for their children, think again.

According to a recent survey, carried out by US research company Gallup earlier this year, only nine per cent of businesses said university choice was ‘very important’ when it comes to selecting new employees. Four out of five said ‘applied skills’ were of the greatest importance, while 84 per cent said they looked for ‘knowledge in the field’.

Does this mean that treading the path to Oxbridge is a waste of time? Similarly does a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, or any other top ranking university for that matter, still mean something to employers?

If you’re planning on becoming a film star or the next Victoria Beckham (the fashion designer, not the *cough cough* pop singer) there are probably going to be universities that are better suited to your needs than others.  But, I speak for us “everyday” students when I say, universities that provide the best education have less relevance than ever before. The same way there will be Cambridge grads who have squandered their entire loan – and time – at the student bar and have struggled to find work, there are plenty of graduates who will jump at the opportunity to secure work placements, join university projects and establish a passion for their chosen career.

The skills that employers need can be developed in many ways. So, don’t rely on a top ranking university to hold your hand and lead you down the road to success. Show initiative. In the words of Colin Powell, a retired four-star general in the US army: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” With strong evidence that students with previous work experience are more likely to find a job and be successful, it’s hardly surprising companies are increasingly investing in internships and work placement programs.

My advice:

It’s not an easy concept to grasp and, as likely, you’re probably still not convinced? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to your future. For starters there’s an economic recession, a job market in which less than 50 percent of university graduates land a position, skyrocketing tuition rates that far outpace inflation and the record trillion-dollar student loan debt! These factors contribute significantly to your choice of university – as do circumstances, characteristics, and life goals of each student. If, like most, you don’t have the luxury to acquire a top rate education – don’t fret. My advice is to focus on the university offering the best possible outcome for you – remember financial insecurities shouldn’t discourage your desire to succeed, even in a down economy.

People have very different views on the matter. So, I’m curious to hear yours. Do rankings matter to you? Did they influence your university decision?