The VC's Challenge - FAQS for College of Life and Environmental Sciences


What will I get out of it? 

  • The chance to work with students from a number of disciplines other than your own
  • Develop skills in applying your academic learning to a major global challenge, widening your skills with an interdisciplinary perspective
  • Students who progress to the later stages will engage with the Vice-Chancellor
  • CV enhancement, including specific training on presentation skills, debating, video production etc.
  • Inclusion on enhanced transcript / credit towards PSA
  • Films published on the website and promoted more widely

Who is eligible to take part?

The challenge is open to students in their penultimate year – so second year students on a three year programme, and third years on a four year programme.  If you are currently overseas or on placement, but would like to be involved, do get in contact and we’ll allocate you to a team that you can work with remotely.  If you’re unsure if you’re eligible, just ask!

How will the teams be put together?

You will be put into teams of 5, from a mixture of disciplines across the College.  After the initial information session, you'll be invited to indicate one person that you would definitely like to be in a team with - we guarantee that you'll be put in the same team.  If you are able to pull together a team that represents at least three disciplines and contains a mixture of home and international students, then you will be able to register as a pre-formed team.  This will all be sorted during and immediately after the first workshop. 


What are the Sustainable Development Goals and why are we working on them?

  • The topic the Vice-Chancellor has chosen this year is Sustainable Cities and Communities, which is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  
  • You can find lots of information about the Sustainable Development Goals on the VC Challenge intranet page


What will you need to do?

 The College stage: February – June 2017 

The College stage will be selecting two groups of students to go through to the University stage.  To be selected, you will produce a short video on the topic of "how our disciplines could help create Sustainable Cities and Communities".  

You will attend two workshops - in the first, you will learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals, how disciplines in LES could be crucial, and meet people from your team.  In the second, you'll see some examples of student videos, discuss what makes them more or less effective, and receive training in how to create great videos. 

You'll then create your video in small mixed discipline groups, and submit it on Canvas for judging by staff and students!  If your video is shortlisted from this stage, you will present it at an event in June and answer questions from a student and staff judging panel.  On the basis of this event, we will choose our final two teams to go through to the university phase.

Students will be assessed using the following:

  • Primary criteria: originality, rigour and creativity of thinking
  • Secondary criteria: the quality of the presentation of ideas, and the quality of teamwork


Intensive development event: 18th–20th September 2017

This will be a 2½ day intensive event during Welcome Week, which will involve academics and a range of professional services staff to help students refine their ideas and develop a creative and high quality video to present their ideas. We would normally expect the students to continue working on the ideas that they developed in the College stage, but if they feel those have run their course, they could also choose to start something new here, provided it continues to meet the overall challenge. During this stage, we will encourage interaction between the different groups, to provide more disciplinary perspectives. The VC will welcome students and interact with them at various points in the process, and we will also provide structured input on topics such as media production, presenting and debating skills. We are also intending to arrange input from a senior academic to talk about public engagement with research.

Following this stage, the VC will choose five teams, based on their videos, to go through to the final stage.


VCC Final: 16th November 2017, Bramall

At the final stage, the VC will chair a debate with each of the teams to explore and test their ideas in more detail. We will invite all students who have been involved to date to attend, along with academics and colleagues from the University. The VC will choose the winning team, followed by a buffet dinner with the VC, the student finalists and University colleagues who have been involved in running the challenge.

Films will be placed on the website and we will explore ways to promote the work of our students more widely.


Key dates

  • Friday 17th February: Deadline for registration
  • Wednesday 22nd February 2-4pm (Mech Eng B05) or Thursday 23rd February 5-7pm (Mech Eng B23): Introductory  workshop 
  • Wednesday 1st March 10-12pm (Learning Centre LG15) or Thursday 2nd March 5-7pm (Sportex G84): Video workshop 
  • Thursday 27th April: Deadline for video submission on Canvas
  • Wednesday 3rd May: Online voting commences!
  • Wednesday 17th May: Online voting finishes
  • Friday 19th May: Shortlisted College finalists announced
  • Wednesday 7th June 5.30-7.30pm (SportexR lecture theatre 1):  Live LES final 
  • Monday 18th– Wednesday 20th September 2017: University wide intensive development event (College winners only)
  • Thursday 16th November, 2017: VCC Final Bramall building (College winners only)