Sussex wins AGCAS Award for Student Engagement 2016

17 October 2016

The winner of the 2016 AGCAS Award for Student Engagement, sponsored by CareerHub, is the University of Sussex's Careers and Employability Service for its First-Generation Scholars (FGS) Scheme, which addresses barriers to career success and progression and seeks to encourage more favourable employability outcomes.

Career development opportunities

As part of the scheme, which forms part of the university's Access Agreement with the Office for Fair Access, students are offered a comprehensive range of unique funded career development opportunities, including:

  • work shadowing for first-year students with support for travel costs;
  • paid summer internships for second years;
  • funded internships in China;
  • places on the Sussex International Summer School; 
  • funded places on summer schools in universities in South-East Asia;
  • paid summer undergraduate research opportunities at Sussex;
  • research placements at the University of Pennsylvania.

The programme also offers welcome events, study skills support, careers workshops and one-to-one careers consultations. The department has adopted a lifecycle approach to supporting students throughout their time at university.

Impact and engagement

The impact of the scheme is clear. In 2015, 100 ten-week internships were arranged for second year FGS students and qualitative research from student feedback showed strong development of employability skills, confidence and personal development. In 2016, 48 students benefited from funded places in summer schools in South East Asia and 45 students were accepted onto funded internships in China. Feedback from employers was also very positive, with many interns being offered further work and graduate opportunities.

In 2014-15, 79% of FGS students engaged with individual appointments and/or employability events. The university also ran a very successful social media campaign to further engage students with the schemes. There is evidence to suggest that the university's approach has led to the success and progression of FGS students. From the first graduating cohort in 2015, a higher percentage of FGS students achieved a 1st or 2:1 than their non-FGS peers, resulting in the early indications of improved employment outcomes and contributing to the social mobility of FGS students.

Judges' comments

Awards judges were impressed by the proactive and innovative approach of the careers team at Sussex in delivering FGS. They found that the range of opportunities offered, from internal and paid internships to work shadowing and international opportunities, spoke volumes for the effort and stakeholder collaboration that was taking place. Judges agreed that the scheme has already made a significant impact on the careers progression and development of this cohort of students.