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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Student origins

In 2005-06, the Careers Committee reviewed the promotion of the profession at UK universities (it does not promote in Ireland) and decided upon a strategy under the direction of the then chairman, Tim Stedman, that it hoped would maximise the return for work carried out by staff and volunteers. It grouped universities according to their apparent awareness of actuarial work (this was low at places such as Bath, Bristol and Manchester where there were highly rated mathematics courses), the number of actuarial employers who were already going to the universities (a high concentration at Oxford and Cambridge) and whether an actuarial course was running at the university (City, Kent, Heriot-Watt as examples). Since then, the Committee has been monitoring the statistics of new joiners to help identify whether the strategy is working.

Table 1 probably does not hold many surprises as it contains mainly the universities where there are accreditation or exemption agreements, but the top 20 degrees held when joining the profession (Table 2) provides a couple of interesting results. Given that we encourage students with a mathematical background to consider becoming an actuary, philosophy was a degree subject that we possibly did not expect to see in our top 20, coming above some engineering subjects. We also had students with degrees in medicine, pharmacy and psychology.

This research demonstrates that the strategy to target universities where there was little awareness of the profession is working for the majority. However, the Committee needs to consider the declining numbers from Oxford and Cambridge and the reasons for this and whether the trend is going to change if investment banks (which are one of the main competitors for these students) were not to recruit the same numbers. The drop in recruitment numbers could be true for all organisations and therefore we could see a reduction in all areas over the next year or so. Whatever happens, the promotion of the profession will continue to ensure that employers are getting the right calibre of student, whatever the discipline.

If you are interested in helping to promote the actuarial profession by attending school or university fairs or presenting to a group of students then please contact careers@actuaries.org.uk