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TUITION FEES NOT AN ISSUE FOR GSK RECRUITS

Tuition fees have long been a worry for potential university goers and in recent months, with the announcement that universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year from 2012, these concerns are very likely to have been exacerbated.

Since the tuition fee hike was revealed, 60 universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, have announced they will be charging the full £9,000, while even London South Bank University, which ranked lowest in the UK last year, will charge over £8,000.

And it is not just students that the rise in tuition fees could prove problematic for. If promising students are put off university due to the high costs, it could mean that firms are faced with a dearth of talent in years to come or have to find more creative ways of training up skilled workers.

This is just what one pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has opted to do. The firm, which recruits around 50 to 100 undergraduates each year, has announced it will reimburse all tuition fees paid by its students from 2012.

The move will cost GSK around £3 million a year, however, it will help it ensure the future of the workforce as trainees will have to remain with the company for a minimum of two years after the fees have been repaid.

And it is not just students with scientific brains who can benefit from the programme, as well as scientists, chemists and pharmacists, the company needs lawyers, IT specialists and economists to keep its other departments ticking over, meaning there are opportunities for bright undergraduates, whatever their skill sets.

As well as providing graduates with the cash for university, the GSK scheme has another huge benefit, as it provides people with a job upon graduating.

Recent data from the Association for Graduate Recruiters highlighted that there are currently significantly more graduates than graduate employment schemes, with less than 21,000 of such opportunities being available in 2011, despite a rise of 3.8 per cent.

Speaking to Sky News about the scheme, GSK's chief executive Andrew Witty said: "The biggest reason we are doing this is that we want to get the absolute best possible graduates we can to work for GSK.
"This is a great way for us to try and ensure we get that next brilliant scientist."

And with many of the best graduates sure to be attracted to GSK's offer, it could leave its competitors scrambling to find good recruits themselves, unless they implements similar schemes.

GSK is already a popular employer among graduates and featured in the top ten graduate recruiters list compiled by the Guardian, ranking third overall. It was the only pharmaceutical firm to make the top ten, with its nearest rivals Pfizer and AstraZeneca languishing in 40th and 41st places respectively, having both dropped from the previous year. This indicates the already strong pull GSK has for graduates, something which is only set to increase thanks to its latest plan.

Ministers are certainly hoping so and are encouraging businesses in all sectors to look at what they can do to help nurture top talent in the UK. While pharma firms may be unlikely to announce their own tuition fee payment schemes in the coming months, they are certainly likely to be watching GSK closely and wondering how they can attract the best graduates themselves.