Southampton wins AGCAS Award for Academic Engagement 2016

04 October 2016

The 2016 AGCAS Award for Academic Engagement, sponsored by Gradcore, has been awarded to the University of Southampton. Their impressive partnership between the Careers and Employability Service, the School of Geography and Grosvenor has created tangible and long-lasting benefits to students.

The project

The Careers and Employability Service established a partnership with Grosvenor Britain and Ireland at the beginning of the academic year 2015/2016. Grosvenor are 'placemakers', renowned for the developments of Mayfair and Belgravia, and are currently completing the new cultural quarter development in the heart of Southampton. Southampton's aim of being the UK's City of culture in 2029 means that this development is of significant interest to academics within the School of Geography; engaging Grosvenor with academia and employability at the university was crucial.

Unique opportunities

As part of the partnership, Grosvenor co-sponsored the university’s Careers and Employability Festival, which attracted engagement from over 4,500 students. Grosvenor also held an extremely successful ‘Insight Into…’ event, aimed at informing and exciting geographers about the possibility of a career within the planning industry. As the first event of the academic year, it truly set a precedent for students to engage with the Careers and Employability Service: within October and November alone, the department was able to engage more geography students than the entire previous academic year.

The collaboration also created unique research project opportunities in the form of 10 practical collaborative dissertation projects. These provided the opportunity for geographers to explore the development of the city, the local economy and its social connectivity. Unlike most dissertation students, those working on this topic benefited from access to resources and key stakeholders within Grosvenor. They also had the opportunity to visit other project sites in London, present their final reports to senior members at Grosvenor and were offered access to their graduate schemes.

Finally, the partnership provided benefits to academic staff researching cultural-economic development in Southampton including opportunities for public engagement and assistance with collaborative grant applications.

Geography student Matthew Evans commented:

“Attending the Grosvenor event confirmed my intentions to pursue a career in planning. I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to undertake my dissertation exploring the influence of the cultural quarter. This exciting opportunity has not only developed my understanding of the impacts of planning but it has also enhanced my research skills. This adds a unique experience to my dissertation and key skills for when I graduate."

Charlie Barton, Work Experience Manager at the University of Southampton, said:

"Winning this award is such an honour for us. Not only is it wonderful to have been recognised for our achievements by our professional colleagues, but also a fantastic boost to our credibility as a service across the institution. We couldn’t be happier with this acknowledgement and to be able to call ourselves an ‘award-winning service'.

Judges' comments

Awards judges were impressed at how the relationship between the Careers and Employability Service, academic staff, and the employer partner had been able to offer so many unique opportunities for students to enhance their employability. They felt that the impact had been both immediate and obvious due to the record levels of student engagement within the School of Geography. Civic engagement is very much on the agenda within higher education and the judges found this partnership to be a great example of how it can work in practice.