History of the Personal Skills Award

The Personal Skills Award (PSA) is celebrating over 15 years of development at the University of Birmingham.

The PSA began by offering accredited modules to c.20 students in 2003/4. Since then, it has grown to offer more bespoke taught modules, online skills courses and currently recognises over 260 on and off campus extra-curricular activities for students to participate in.

Click on each of the years below to view the development of the PSA from implementation to the current academic year.


  • The Personal Skills Award was piloted within the University’s (former) Centre of Lifelong Learning, initially enrolling c.20 students.
  • The Personal Skills Award (PSA) offered students the opportunity to undertake five and 10 credit modules in key transferable skills.
  • The modules appeared on the students’ academic transcript, but did not provide a contribution to their main programme of study. 


  • In summer 2005, the Personal Skills Award is re-located to the new ‘Student Life Division’ within Academic Office (now Academic Services); 120 students are recruited.   


  • There were c.200 students registered to the PSA, with a waiting list of c.100 in the autumn term.
  • In May 2007, the Student Skills and Academic Support Board of Studies gave permission for a Working Group to be established, with a mission to re-design the Personal Skills Award. This was to increase provision in order to meet student demand.
  • The first Working Group met in early September 2007. 


  • The PSA Working Group met throughout the year to support the design of a new Personal Skills Award, which would be able to accommodate a higher number of students.
  • There were no longer five credit modules available on the PSA; all modules were increased to 10 credits from this academic year onwards.
  • The Personal Skills Award moved from the (former) ‘Student Life Division’ into the Careers and Employability Centre (now Careers Network).
  • There were c.260 students registered to PSA modules, with a waiting list of c.100.


  •  As a result of the PSA Working Group, a decision was made remove modules that were not explicitly related to the development of ‘employability-related’ skills.
  • This reduces provision from 14 modules to 10. Two further modules were withdrawn due to staffing changes, further reducing provision to eight active modules in this academic year.
  • The University’s Programme Approval and Review Committee approved the PSA (Activity) and PSA (Advanced) pathway to be launched in 2009/10.
  • An exercise took place with key Activity Providers on campus to recognise their provision as part of the PSA (Activity) pathway. There were 120 activities initially recognised through the Personal Skills Award. 


  • The PSA (Activity) and PSA (Advanced) pathways were launched to students, in addition to the existing PSA (Modular) pathway. There were c.700 students recruited to the programme.
  • The compulsory module for the PSA (Modular) changes from ‘Understanding One’s Self’ to ‘Employability and Professional Development Skills’. The new module reflected the focus on ‘employability’ within the programme.
  • The first step towards working with students as producers was taken: a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant was recruited and trained in spring to assess the PSA (Activity) applications. The assessments were second marked by the PSA.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers (now PwC) join the PSA as our first employer supporter. 


  • The number of students enrolled on the Personal Skills Award reaches c. 1100.
  • The PSA receives the first ever the ‘Best Graduate Development Preparation in Higher Education’ Award from The Association of Graduate Recruiters (an organisation that represents over 750 graduate recruiters).
  • Following the success of the Postgraduate Teaching Assistant marking the PSA (Activity), the Postgraduate Teaching Assistant was trained to undertake teaching in addition to the assessing on the PSA (Activity) pathway. 


  • An optional PSA Induction Session was launched for PSA (Activity) students.
  • The PSA Plus, a series of in-house and employer-led skill workshops, was launched.
  • Teach First and the Sanctuary Group join PwC as an employer supporter on the Personal Skills Award.


  • Following the success of engaging Postgraduate Research students into delivering the PSA, the first PSA Student Ambassador (a final year undergraduate) was recruited to deliver the (now) compulsory PSA Induction Sessions.
  • The PSA launches the pilot PSA (Postgraduate) pathway; the programme is delivered for two years.  
  • A Postgraduate Teaching Assistant was recruited in spring to assess the PSA (Activity) applications (continuing to be second marked by the PSA).


  • Two new undergraduate PSA Student Ambassadors were recruited to deliver the PSA Induction Sessions.
  • There were 200 on-campus activities officially recognised by the PSA.
  • A Postgraduate Teaching Assistant was recruited in spring to assess the PSA (Activity) applications (continuing to be second marked by the PSA). .
  • An undergraduate student was recruited to the position of Digital Project Assistant to assist with the development of materials for the PSA (Foundation) and general PSA online resources (e.g. Canvas).



  • Two new undergraduate Student Ambassadors were recruited to deliver the PSA Induction Sessions and undertake promotional activities.
  • The PSA launches the PSA (Foundation) pathway with four innovative online modules: ‘Employability Essentials’, ‘Dealing with Conflicts in Groups and Teams’, ‘Recognising the Value of your Sport’, and ‘Developing Commercial Awareness’.
  • There were over 220 activities formally recognised on campus.
  • Capgemini, Jaguar Land Rover, and Enterprise Rent-a-Car join PwC, Sanctuary Group, and Teach First as employer supporters on the PSA.
  • Future 2014/15 development: two Postgraduate Teaching Assistants will be recruited in spring to assess the PSA (Activity) applications (which will be second marked by the PSA).


  •  A team of four PSA Student Ambassadors were recruited to deliver PSA Induction Sessions and promote the PSA at events across campus
  • Four new online courses are added to the suite including 'Developing Resilience and Adaptability', 'Effective Networking', 'Supporting and Developing Others' and 'Time Management'.
  • The PSA began to recognise student's participation in Music and Theatre activities
  • Future 2016/17 development: the PSA is working towards a re-structure of the programme, giving students a more flexible approach to completing. 


  • The number of students enrolled on to the Personal Skills Award reaches c. 2000 
  • The PSA suite of online skills courses were shortlisted for the UK HE Careers Professional Body - Association for Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) Award for Technology in September 2016
  • A team of four Student Ambassadors were recruited to deliver PSA induction sessions and promote the PSA online and at events across campus
  • The PSA changed the structure of the taught modules for 16/17. All PSA students can now access PSA taught modules (they are no longer restricted to PSA (modular) students). Taught modules are allocated PSA points as opposed to having a credit value
  • Five post graduate teaching assistants were recruited to support with assessing the PSA completion assessments (second marked by the PSA)
  • Reed Global joined Capgemini, Jaguar Land Rover, Enterprise Rent a Car, PwC, Sanctuary Group and Teach First as employer supporters of the PSA
  • The PSA introduced the option of digital interviews for students completing the PSA (Advanced)
  • A new bespoke database was created for the PSA to enhance operational processes


  • There were over 240 activities formally recognised on campus
  • The Civil Service Fast Stream join Capgemini, Enterprise Rent a Car, PwC, Reed Global, Sanctuary Group, and Teach First as employer supporters of the PSA
  • The University of Birmingham Graduate Training Scheme department joined our employer supporters in supporting with and providing feedback for PSA (Advanced) interviews
  • The PSA recognised additional extra-curricular activities including The Birmingham Project, Vice Chancellors Challenge, Virgin LifeStart and participation in the Public Engagement of Nursing Group within the School of Nursing
  • 12 student staff positions were recruited for - eight Post Graduate Teaching Assistants, two Promotion Assistants and two Induction Leads


  • There were over 260 activities formally recognised on campus
  • The PSA recognised additional extra-curricular activities including opportunities within Student Services, Public Engagement, Student Recruitment, Chemical Engineering, the School of Education, the Department of Economics and the School of History and Cultures
  • The PSA recruited a PSA Evaluation Project Support Officer Intern to work on a student-led evaluation of the Personal Skills Award. The role supported a review of the programme and identified opportunities for development
  • Employer supporters were more directly involved with the core PSA (Advanced) educational content by delivering the interview preparation sessions to students


Professional Services