Co-creating a more sustainable framework for professional development for our UG students

Photo of PALS training day

Back in January 2018, a group of staff and students in the Business School got their collective heads around the table to address the problem: ‘How can we get our UG students to engage more in their personal and professional development?’ In this post, Rosalyn Claase (Head of Student Experience), Rona Doig (Student Development Manager) and Kate Schafferius (Student Support Leader) explain how they came up with a solution…

Based on our alumni and Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education data, we knew that students from the Business School had some great graduate outcomes. We also knew that we weren’t faring quite as well as some of our comparator institutions in the UK. NSS was also sending us worrying signals about how students perceived their skills development over the course of their degree. We had our work cut out for us…

The Business School already had great success with utilising the Edinburgh Award framework for our MSc students: our Edinburgh Award in Professional Development is increasingly being cited as a differentiator by new students. How could we replicate the success of this Edinburgh Award with our far larger Undergraduate student population without diluting the quality?

Answer: Get our students involved in its design and delivery.

The BizPALS scheme has been recognised in the university for its successes with student study and pastoral support, so who better to work with than our well-established PALS network, notably our Student Senior Leader, Kate Schafferius, and Dr Lisa Nowak, the Students’ Association Peer Learning Coordinator. Working with colleagues from across the Business School and the Careers Service, we have been able to shape a version of the Edinburgh Award in Professional Development targeted at our second year students.

This group have had a rollercoaster transition into the world of HE in their first year and been the first cohort to experience our refreshed core first year courses, Global Challenges for Business and The Business of Edinburgh, so had been well prepped in the value of reflection and focus on skills. Moving into their second year, we felt they would be a prime audience to test out this new version of the Edinburgh Award in Professional Development.

From the very outset, our students have been involved in scoping and shaping the award, through to its delivery, which is reliant on peer and group coaching skills. These are delivered by a newly formed and hugely dedicated branch of PALS, our DevPALS, led by third year student, Sophie Mitchinson. The Business School has a well-established culture of coaching, most prominently with our MSc and MBA students, and we worked with an accredited coach to train a group of nine DevPALS in coaching skills and group facilitation.

In this way, we are equipping these students with valuable professional skills for their own future, whilst being able to support our second year students in their professional reflections and developments through structured, supportive and safe group coaching discussions. Alongside this, Edinburgh Award participants elect which activities and skills sessions to attend as part of a broader suite of professional development activities offered through a partnership between the Business School, the Careers Service, and some recent alumni. These activities are also open to other UG students in the school to ensure access to skills development opportunities, whereby students are encouraged to take a self-directed approach to their learning.

In its pilot year, we have 34 participants, and, to date, only a 6% drop-off rate, which has surpassed our expectations. We have had excellent feedback from the participating students and the DevPALS, and believe that, due to the inherent partnership delivery with our students, this is a model of supporting reflection and articulation of professional skills development which can be sustained and scaled-up to support larger number of students.

Come January 2019, we’ll be getting a similar group of heads around the table to scope out how we take this up a gear and continue to support our third and fourth year students as they progress through their programmes and towards graduation. Based on what we’ve built in collaboration with our students and staff so far, we’re feeling hopeful.

Read a blog post by Dr Lisa Nowak about a PAL scheme in the School of Informatics here.

Rosalyn Claase

Ros is Head of Student Experience, having joined the Business School in November 2011 as the Careers Manager. She is responsible for leading the UG and PGT Support and Student Development Teams to collaboratively develop and implement the school’s student experience strategy and initiatives. Ros has a degree in Modern Languages (French and German) from the University of Cambridge, and has spent two years living and working in Germany. She holds a CIPD qualification, is an accredited Coach through the Association for Coaching, and a trustee of a local Edinburgh charity.

Rona Doig

Rona joined the Business School in July 2014 and is currently Head of the Student Development Team supporting the personal and professional development of the School’s MSc and UG students. Rona has a background in financial services with over 20 years of experience in the sector, working in a variety of management and development roles including Training and Development and Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability. She has also run her own business working with a number of stakeholders across the private, public and charitable sectors providing consultancy and project management support. She is a certified Coach, PRINCE2 Registered Practitioner and NLP Practitioner. She is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in Sociology.

Kate Schafferius

Kate is a Student Support Leader at University of Edinburgh Business School, and is currently in her fourth year at the University studying Accounting and Business. She hopes to become a fully qualified Chartered Accountant in the coming years.


  1. “Co-creating a more sustainable framework for professional development is crucial in empowering UG students. Project management plays a pivotal role in achieving this goal by fostering collaboration, defining clear objectives, and ensuring efficient resource allocation. It equips students with essential skills to navigate challenges, adapt to evolving industries, and contribute to a more sustainable future. Kudos to this initiative!”

  2. I absolutely agree that co-creating a sustainable framework for professional development is crucial for our undergraduate students. By involving them in the process, we empower them to take ownership of their learning journey and foster a deep sense of responsibility towards sustainability. This collaborative approach will undoubtedly shape their future success while prioritizing environmental and social well-being.

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