Stand out from the crowd

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Video transcript

Voiceover: At the University of Birmingham we offer students real opportunities to stand out from the crowd, to graduate with more than a degree, to gain transferable skills for life.

There are many ways for students to become involved in activities that enable them to develop new skills whilst studying at the University.

Professor Ken Dowden: At Birmingham we’re interested in the careers of our students, we’re interested in our students as people, people who will succeed in later life.

Lizzie Ralph: Well, when I first came to University I joined groups and societies cause I saw it as a fun thing to do, but I quickly realised that by doing that I was also going to learn a lot of skills which were going to be transferable, which is really important for when I leave University.

Voiceover: This year Birmingham hosted the European Indoor Athletics Championships. The University of Birmingham pledged a 100 student volunteers to support this event, working behind the scenes and on the trackside.


We also joined Student Volunteering England to work on projects at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

One group helped to refurbish a library for patients. They removed, catalogued and replaced old books with new ones donated to the hospital.

Another group spent a day replanting a roof garden for patients at the cancer unit.

There are currently 26 student-led projects in the wider community, supported by the Guild of Students at the University of Birmingham.

Students are also encouraged to develop leadership skills through involvement with the Guild of Students. There are 160 guild societies offering a range of political, educational and social activities.


Standing for election in the Guild involves students in campaigning, advocacy and representation on issues of concern for the student body. This gives students an opportunity to develop skills in organising events and volunteers, fundraising, public speaking and management; they also have a lot of fun in the process.

The Mix is an evening organised by student groups and societies. Societies such as ‘Fairtrade’ and ‘Art and Apathy’ are two of a number of groups that focus on social awareness issues.

The ‘Historical Enactment Society’ re-enacts battles and provides living history events for the local community.

The Advice and Representation Centre of the University provides students with support services. Student volunteers are actively involved at the ARC.


The Niteline listening service, also staffed by volunteers, provides help for students in crisis.

The Annual Guild Awards held each year, aims to celebrate the achievements and contribution of Guild societies to University life and the wider community.


The Vale Festival is reported to be the largest student organised event in the UK. Over 30 bands and musicians, 350 performers and 50 Guild societies normally contribute to this event.

Last year £26,000 was raised to support projects relating to AIDs education in Zimbabwe and India.

Problem Solving

The Residents Associations and Student Mentors work tirelessly to enhance the student experience at Birmingham. They organise social events in University Halls alongside social awareness campaigns.

Some societies seek to enhance social opportunities at the University. The Dance society and the Ballroom Dance society both won Guild Awards this year.

The Circus society has around 30 members who perform at community events and corporate functions. Students learn skills in acrobatics, juggling and fire throwing. They also undertake health and safety training.

Joining the African Drumming society not only enables students to learn the skill of drumming but also an opportunity to learn about other cultures. They share these skills in local schools.

Guild TV is a society where students can develop basic skills in film techniques, as well as providing a service to the Guild. Working on the Guild newspaper ‘Redbrick’ also gives students journalistic experience.

The University student body includes around 5000 international students. A team of 55 volunteers are recruited each year to assist in running a 5 day orientation programme: ‘Welcome Week International’.


Students are chosen who have an awareness and understanding of the challenges that face international students. Seeing the welcome team on arrival at the airport gives new students a good first experience of Birmingham and the University. Project planning, crisis management, team work and an ability to work under pressure are some of the skills welcome team members learn to use.


Student 1: on stage: ‘Welcome to the annual University of Birmingham….’

One of the highlights of Welcome Week is a multicultural event which showcases our cultural diversity. It is a fitting end to the week and something remembered by students throughout their time at the University of Birmingham.


6 British and International students are employed by the University to assist the International Student Advisory Service as student temps. Students carry out a variety of general office tasks. One of the most important tasks is to respond to emails from prospective students answering general queries on courses and University life. Their personal experience of the services and facilities available on campus is invaluable for this work.

Professor Ken Dowden: We have devised an environment called >>Progress>> that builds up this whole picture.

Lizzie Ralph: One of the really important things we can do is use >>Progress>>, which is where you can go and enter all the skills you’ve learnt, what level they are, its going to help you looking at what you need to improve, but also proving what you’ve done. It’s a really good way of putting that all down in one place.

Another development the University is very proud of is the Personal Skills Award which is a skills training programme students can enrol in to take alongside their degree.

Nanjala: Well I’m taking the Personal Skills Award which is just an opportunity to take some extra modules. And through that I’ve had a chance to study some French and taken some courses that have helped me in boosting my CV and its quite useful.

Voiceover: The Honey Pot Awards Scheme was set up to offer students’ financial support for internships and enterprise projects. Nanjala is one student who received this award.

Nanjala: The Honey Pot is basically a grant that you get from the University that enables you to travel during the summer to help you with your career prospects. Through that I ended up going to the Czech Republic. Part of the reason why I went to the Czech Republic was to work with a society known as AIESEC.

Project Planning

Since I’ve come back I’ve had a chance to run a project that allows graduate students from the University of Birmingham to travel to Kenya for a period of six, seven months to teach in schools in Kenya.


Voiceover: Glide is an enterprise project set up by two students with a Honey Pot Award. Based on the experience of students who encounter problems organising to pay bills in shared houses they sort to offer a solution. Students sign up with Glide, pay a monthly amount to cover utility bills and Glide deal with the service providers on their behalf. Glide has moved from strength to strength and is in the process of becoming a limited company.

IT Skills

Simon received a Honey Pot Award to purchase equipment and produce DVDs for the University. His work has included a series of short films in the Education department and a promotional DVD for the Enterprise Innovation Centre. Simon intends to pursue a career in film and video production when he leaves the University. He maintains that the skills he has been able to develop through his film work will be as valuable to his future as the degree he leaves with.


Adam, another student with entrepreneurial aspirations, saw the vast number of social events on offer to students at the University. Finding out about these events however, was difficult and confusing so he set up The website publicises events in and around the University and allows students to buy tickets online.

Providing students with the resources to find work whilst at the University and after they leave is the work of Jobzone and the Careers Centre.

The University Enterprise Innovation Centre joined with SPEED, an initiative to provide students with a grant and training to set up a business. This new opportunity will enable many more students to fulfil their ambitions.

Leadership and Teamwork

The University of Birmingham has delivered a reputation for excellence in sport, with a growing number of sport scholars and sponsored students. Team Sport encourages students to develop a range of skills such as participation, discipline and commitment. The University competes in local and national leagues. Some teams are involved in providing a service to the community through training programmes as well as competitions.

The University Sports Centre runs an accredited coaching programme for students and swimming lessons for local children. The Lifesaving Club also runs a training programme resulting in a life saving qualification; skills learnt through these programmes are skills for life.


As well as team sports we are fortunate to have a growing number of individuals who compete on the national and international circuits.

Frank Tickner: I’ve been involved at University level since I first arrived competing in BUSA competitions, which is the British University Sports Association I’ve also been able to, or been lucky enough to be able to compete internationally.

Josie Morris: I play for Birmingham Uni Seconds Hockey team. I’ve really enjoyed being involved in sport at Birmingham, I’ve learnt a lot from the coaches and from the other players and I’ve made some, well what I consider will be life long friends from it.

Time Management

Hannah England: I won a sports scholarships here at Birmingham. I’ve competed for Great Britain in the World Junior Championships last summer. I think the main thing I’ve learnt from my sport, is time management and being really disciplined and I think this helps with my degree cause it means I’ve got to keep on top of my time management and getting stuff done.

Tom Power: I’m a squash player; I’m men’s first team captain at Birmingham Uni. I try and train as much as possible and that helps with healthy living and it’s a great part of Uni life and I wouldn’t substitute it for anything else.


Tessa Hill: I’m in my second year and I’m studying Sport and Exercise Science. I’m involved in the orienteering club both at Birmingham University but also with the Team GB. I’ve loved being involved in sport, I couldn’t imagine ever not being involved in sport, I just find it so much fun, making new friends and being able to train as a team and achieve goals together it’s a great experience.

Lizzie Ralph: Its really important to get a good degree and I’ve worked hard for my degree but I’ve come to realise that by doing things in the Guild of Students, by getting involved in other societies and groups and activities going on in the University that you can broaden your skills and actually start to realise what you want to do when you leave.

Professor Ken Dowden: That’s our priority, to skill up our students. To ensure they have the edge in the market out there. Not to pretend that we do things, not to play lip service to transferable skills but actually to deliver them, to deliver them certificated, and to provide the practical tools that will give them a lifetime success.