The voluntary sector will be even stronger and more inclusive if it is Open To All.

Getting a degree has become very expensive – too expensive for many young people to consider, especially when it may not increase their chances of finding a good job.

We believe the voluntary sector should be as open and accessible as possible to people with the passion and skill to contribute – whether they can afford to do a degree or not.

There are thousands of people already working in our sector who don’t have degrees and are great at their jobs, including Finance Directors, Campaign Managers and Chief Executives.

Some of them have shared their stories as part of Open To All.


The Open To All campaign encourages all charities to look at their job descriptions, person specifications and recruitment adverts and check whether they really need to require a ‘degree or equivalent’ for some of their roles.*

Over half of the people we asked admitted they didn’t really know what ‘degree or equivalent’ means in recruitment material, unless it’s stipulated very clearly. And a third said they’d been put off applying for a charity job because they didn’t have a degree.

Sign up to the Open To All pledge.


This is a priority for the children’s voluntary sector

We don’t want to exclude talented people from the voluntary sector – especially not young people who face so many barriers to finding work, earning a decent wage and becoming independent. We also recognise that this is especially important in social care, where staff may be on lower wages than public or private sector staff and debt is therefore even more of a burden to take on.


It’s not just about ditching the degree

Although our recruitment copy might stop mentioning degrees, we can go further to support young people who don’t feel they have an obvious alternative route into a charity job. This could include encouraging applications from ex-service users; giving examples of voluntary work that qualifies someone for the role; and being clear that we don’t expect applicants to be ‘finished products’ – that we’re looking for a core set of skills and attitudes, and will provide training and development opportunities so staff can grow into the role.

We’d be delighted to share any good practice your organisation has, for example in 

  • promoting job opportunities to school and college leavers
  • measuring candidates’ skills without reference to a degree 
  • providing traineeships and other routes into employment ensuring the children and families you work with are supported by the best workforce possible.

 See who has signed up already.


Why pledge to be Open To All?

"I have always believed that recruiting great people is linked more to organisational culture and life experience than degrees. Although we advocate for education we are also well aware of the benefits of apprenticeships, vocational training, and practical experience. This is a great initiative and COCO definilty fit the bill!"

Centre for Mental Health
"Open to all is important to the Centre because we stand for equality and inclusion. We already employ people based on skills and experience and will only ask for a qualification if crucial to the role."

Participation People
"We know that some of the best practitioners, managers and leaders do not always have degrees – some of our BEST staff have come to us through more vocational, work-based routes."

UK Youth
"We believe young people dont have to have formal qualifications or accreditation in order to learn and can often pick up essential skills through non-formal or informal learning styles."

"The Open To All Pledge is important to us because we want to eradicate inequality. We understand that social barriers, including cost of education, institutional discrimination and a failure to recognise non-academic learning means that opportunities are not open to everyone equally. This distorts the chances people have not just as individuals but as whole communities. At Macc, we believe that every individual and community has unique skills, talents, knowledge and insights that are important - and our collective skills, knowledge and lived experience uniquely equip us to do the work we do. As a charity which works to support other voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises in Manchester, our work is skilled but knowledge and skills can be transferred, developed and grown. We believe our sector could lead the way in being inclusive employers which nurtures diverse skills and talent."

Support Staffordshire
"We want the best people, not those with letters after their name, unless those letters are genuinely relevant to the role."

Bolton CVS
"As an organisation, our values are Fairness, Friendliness and Flexibility and we believe that our people need to espouse them and you don't need a degree to be fair, friendly or flexible! Yes from time to time we may need to build a power station or a fly aircraft and at that point, we'll be really specific about what we need... ...but unless we need to do that, we'll commit to removing arbitrary barriers!"

the black fish
"We strongly believe that a university education is not the only measure of a person's aptitude, intelligence or work ethic. We also recognise that a university education is not possible or right for everyone and that to insist that all staff have degrees is exclusionary to many people, including those who do not come from backgrounds where a university education is normal or encouraged, people with specific learning difficulties, those who experienced disruption of any kind during their educational years, those who do not have access to the financial means to attend university as well as many others. We strive to be an inclusive organisation, representative of all parts of society - we cannot change what we do not reflect!" 

Leap Confronting Conflict: "Because we're interested in talent and potential, particularly that which comes with the combination of lived and professional experience, to make the best decisions in our teams and in our work."

The Edge Foundation champions technical, practical and vocational education,
which we believe should be valued equally with academic forms of learning. People learn in different ways at different times of their lives and careers. Learning by doing has a huge part to play in people’s lives – it’s high time we recognised its importance to people, communities and employers.”

Fair Train supports Open To All: “The Open To All campaign highlights the need for more forms of work experience and vocational training in charities, which is beneficial not only to the young person but also to the employer as an effective recruitment tool.”

Children and Families Across Borders pledges to be Open To All: “We work to support children who have been separated across borders from their families, providing expert inter-country social work advice and case management services. Last year, we helped the resolution of cases involving 132 countries. This pledge is important as, in line with the philosophy underpinning social work itself, CFAB believes in equality of opportunity and seeking to end prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage. Requiring applicants to have degrees where these are not necessary inevitably reinforces privilege and prejudice.”

Salford CVS pledges to be Open To All: “Salford CVS is the local infrastructure support organisation for Salford’s VCSE sector. This pledge is important as it helps reinforce that the principles of equality and accessibility should take centre stage in all that we do.”

Allied Resource Community
"Academic qualifications do not necessarily fit the requirements of a particular post"

*There are, of course, plenty of roles in all sectors where certain qualifications are essential, such as social work, medicine or accounting. Open To All doesn’t aim to change recruitment practice for these more specialised jobs.