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The York Award

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Who: Offered by the University of York in partnership with leading public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

What: The York Award is a certificated programme of transferable skills training and experiential learning.

Why: To provide recognition of academic study, work experience and leisure interests carried out whilst at university, that help to develop a wide range of competencies that employers seek.

Where: The University of York.

When: Developed in 1998, the award has been presented alongside the degree at graduation annually.

Project description

The York Award provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to develop and reflect upon their experiences whilst in university, demonstrating a portfolio of skills and experience, to assist them when entering the workplace. Students apply in their final year of study, with successful applicants receiving the award alongside their degree during graduation.

The structure of the award is based upon a points system, with students requiring a minimum of 100 points to apply. These points are obtained through a combination of academic study, work experience and leisure interests. Students also have the option to gain points for the award through skill development courses provided by the careers service, language courses or voluntary schemes, such as a York Students in Schools placement. These courses contribute to from 5 to 20 points the award.

Assessment is carried out through a two stage process, consisting of an application form and a panel interview. Both aspects of the process are not only looking at a student's experience, but also their ability to reflect on the skills that they have been developing, and understand how these may be useful in the future.


  • Providing a framework to help students to manage an active programme of activities;
  • Offering a wide range of skill development courses;
  • Enabling students to reflect upon their experiences as required for graduate job applications.

Results and outcomes

What worked well

The flexibility of the award has proven to be highly successful. As many students undertake a variety of informal volunteering or work experience opportunities the award provides the opportunity for students to reflect on these experiences in a structured manner. This has been enhanced through the structure of the application, which resembles a graduate application form. Encouraging students to provide clear examples of how they have developed skills and how these are transferable to the graduate marketplace.

A key success of the York Award is the range of skill development courses available to students.

These have continued to expand, with more than 30 courses currently on offer throughout the academic year. The development of these opportunities is reflective of the support given to the Award programme by a broad range of employers and voluntary organisations, providing time to both the courses and assessment.

The York Award certificate is presented alongside students’ degrees at graduation; in addition the students are also invited to attend a celebration event in the final term, with a reception in the historic, King’s Manor, a cluster of beautiful Grade 1 medieval buildings in York's city centre. At this ceremony, awards are also presented to outstanding applicants, for York Award of the Year, York Award Community Prize and York Award Business Prize.

Lessons learnt

Over the course of the York Award we have faced learnt that is important to ensure the courses offered are the most relevant and useful for the students and reflect the skills most demanded in the marketplace. Maintaining good links with employers is vital to ensuring that we are confident that the course we offer are in demand.

Feedback from our students has suggested that there is a demand for alternative approaches to skills development. This has led to an increase in the courses available online, trialling the Numbers at Work and our Facilitation courses as a blend of face to face and online delivery.

The York Award is open to post-graduate researchers as well as undergraduates, though we have recognised a need to develop an award tailored more specifically at the professional skills developed through a PhD. This has led to a pilot of the York Award: Researchers to reward and recognise outstanding engagement in personal and professional development activities, in a more appropriate way for the employment market.


  • One full-time management post, 0.3 (fte) assistant and a 0.4 (fte) administrator;
  • Over seventy local employers regularly donate their time to interview; these partnerships have developed over time and we are assisted by York Cares who are based within the careers services;
  • There are a range of support materials and resources for students available, with review clinics held in the summer term for students to assess their progress.

Top Tips

  1. Provide feedback. Feedback is given to all applicants on both their application and interview. Those who are initially unsuccessful in either are given one more chance to reapply for the award.
  2. Engagement. The York Award relies heavily on the support we receive from employers, alumni and staff across the University to support the delivery of the course programme and the assessment process.
  3. Challenge. The assessment process is very resource intensive, but student feedback suggest that it is valued. Any future developments that look to expand the scheme will need to find an appropriate balance.


Heather Stout, York Award Manager, The University of York, Careers Service