The Degree Plus initiative at Queens means that you have the opportunity to earn an extra award alongside your degree. One of the biggest appeals of university for many people is the opportunities it gives you to meet new people and engage in activities which interest you and might help you make further decisions with your future career. And with Degree Plus you actually get credit for doing this!
There are numerous ways you can earn your Degree Plus, here are just a few;
Volunteering opportunities – something that always looks great on your CV, helping people for free! Within the university you will hear about many different volunteering opportunities, one of my personal favourites is Homework Club. Volunteering at Homework Club is the perfect activity if you are considering going into a career in education as it allows you to practise the skills needed to help other, younger students learn. And even if a career in education doesn’t interest you, Homework Club gives you skills in communication and is all round just a fun thing to do on a free afternoon!
Work experience – Any kind of career placement you do (as long as it’s not already part of your degree) can also earn you a Degree Plus. Personally, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t do this. Placements are already great things to do as they give you an insight into your aspired career, give you skills that will make you stand out, and help you make contacts which will be highly valuable when you graduate. Once again, this is an activity that most people would want to do anyway and with Degree Plus you rewarded with more than just the experience!
Society Committees – Another example of activities that contribute towards a Degree Plus is joining a society committee! This is something which I highly recommend you do anyway, it’s a great way of meeting new people with similar interests and making friends, and much like everything else it helps you develop new skills to add onto that ever-growing CV. Joining a society committee is about as university as you can get, it’s something that you’ll never have the opportunity to do again, so go for it!
These really are just a few of the opportunities to earn your Degree Plus here at Queen’s. Hopefully it has given you some sort of idea as to what you can do here alongside your degree to make you stand out from the crowd. So, the bottom line is, go and discover a new adventure with Degree Plus! You never know what it might lead to.
You can check out the full activity lists and details of how you apply on the Degree Plus site.
At Queen’s, we refer to the two types of Degree Plus award using the terms ‘Provider Verified’ (formerly Route A) and ‘Combined Experience’ (formerly Route B) – but what do these terms mean and what is the difference? Eimear Gallagher, who leads the Degree Plus team at Queen’s, is here with this quick explainer.
A Provider Verified activity means a third party automatically recommends you for the award
The most straightforward route to gaining your Degree Plus award is through the Provider Verified route. This is where you complete a significant extracurricular activity from the approved list, for example, a Careers service development programme, SU Handy Helpers, an inspiring leaders programme or certain Language Centre programmes.
You don’t need to apply for Degree Plus via the Provider Verified route
The activities listed on the Provider Verified menu offer the opportunity to gain significant experience over several days, or months. In this case, the approved provider advertises organises and assesses the activity. The provider then submits a pass list to the Degree Plus team so we can update your QSIS record and arrange your Degree Plus certificate ahead of graduation. You do not need to do anything else once you have successfully completed the programme.
Why do you not need to apply for Provider Verified Degree Plus?
The activities on the Provider Verified menu have already been vetted by our Degree Plus team as being significantly challenging, so they are ‘pre-approved’ as being eligible for the award
A key part of Degree Plus is reflecting on the skills you have developed during a programme or activity. When you complete a Provider Verified activity, that reflection is embedded in the activity.
“Degree Plus is about developing your skills, experiential development and networking. If completed in full, a Provided Verified activity will include some form of articulating back to the provider what you have gained,” explains Eimear Gallagher who heads up the Degree Plus programme at Queen’s.
This means as part of the programme or activity, you will be asked to evaluate what you have gained through an assessment exercise. This might be a presentation, interview or application form set by the provider asking you to reflect on which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.
Once you complete and pass the provider’s assessment exercise, your name will be added to a pass list and sent to the Degree Plus team to update your student record. You can complete as many Degree Plus Provider verified activities as you like. You will receive one certificate at graduation with the activities listed.
Combined Experience means you have to self-nominate yourself for the award
The Combined Activity route offers the opportunity to complete two or more small activities and complete an application form. The two activities should be from the approved menu and must demonstrate different Degree Plus skills. For example, you might complete the form using your part-time job and your volunteering experience as your two activities, but in your application form, you must demonstrate that you gained different skills during each experience.
Combined Experience menu activities include membership of a club or society, employer challenges and insight programmes and volunteering opportunities. “It could be a part-time job in Tesco or your local supermarket and a six-week language course,” says Eimear. “Work experience doesn’t have to be a placement with a graduate employer. It could be volunteering in the community in your home town, participating in a sport or Red Cross volunteering.”
You only need to apply for Degree Plus Combined Experience once. You will receive one certificate at graduation with ‘Combined Experience’ detailed on the parchment.
“The application formgives you the opportunity to practice articulating your experience on a form,” says Eimear. This practice will come in handy when you come to apply for jobs.
You will also need to evidence the activities.
“Evidence could be a payslip, an email from a voluntary group saying you have engaged in a certain amount of volunteering over a set number of weeks, or an email from an SU clubs or society confirming your involvement,” says Eimear.
Degree Plus is about actively engaging in activities, not passively turning up. In your application form, you need to demonstrate to the Degree Plus panel what you contributed and what you got out of it – keeping theDegree Plus skills at the forefront of your mind.
When do I need to apply for Combined Activity?
There are two chances to apply each year: the winter deadline is midnight on November 1 and the summer deadline is midnight on April 1.
While these deadlines are set to enable those graduating in winter and summer to achieve the award in time for their graduation ceremony, students in pre-final year can apply by these deadlines in order to bank the award early. In that case, it will remain on your student record and you will receive your Degree Plus certificate at graduation.
“If you are first or second year, you could use either of those windows to upload your application now and we will assess it,” says Eimear. “If you don’t meet it the first time, we will give you feedback, and you will have a second opportunity to re submit.”
If you missed our recent Degree Plus intro session, you can rewatch it here:
Emma Kelly, a student on our MEDIA Programme, on why Degree plus is the secret CV weapon every student needs.
1.Employers recognise its value
Degree Plus is an employability award that you gain alongside graduation that demonstrates your dedication to extracurricular activity at Queens University. It adds an extra boost to your CV and is well renowned among employers as it signals to them that you worked hard to develop the skills that are needed for their workplace.
2.It can give you an edge in the job market
University students are constantly being told that the job market is fierce and competitive, regardless of what field you are in. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Final year students may be feeling hopeless at the prospect of graduating into our economy; therefore, we are continuously looking for something to give us an edge over our competitors. Degree Plus could be that extra something to boost your CV.
3.Alumni vouch for it
Queens University Belfast alumni Ciara O’Neill graduated with a BSc in Psychology. In her final year, Ciara looked towards Degree Plus as a way of strengthening her CV and received Degree Plus with her degree. Since graduation she has completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, worked as a project worker for a children’s charity and is now a senior psychologist. Ciara’s resume speaks for itself; she has done incredible things since her graduation and she credits Degree Plus for strengthening her applications to her Master’s programmes and subsequent jobs.
Ciara felt receiving Degree Plus demonstrated to her employers that she was well-rounded and was more than her First Class Degree. Her volunteering and societies participation were outside the realms of her degree, this strengthened the view that she went above and beyond just completing a degree at Queen’s.
4.It provides great examples for interviews
When applying for her positions post-graduation, Ciara drew upon the skills that she developed through her experiences with Degree Plus. These extracurricular activities allowed her to develop her communication skills – which is the hallmark of any psychologist – and her Degree Plus experiences provided a great talking point in her interviews. It also demonstrated her flexibility and her ability of time management – skills that are valued by employers in all fields!
5.You can choose how you earn it
Degree Plus has two routes, verified activities (previously known as route A) and combined experience (route B). Ciara opted for the Combined experience as she met the requirements through her volunteering and participation in societies which she fit around her completion of her Psychology degree.
6.You might already qualify and not know it
Ciara recalls someone mentioning Degree Pus to her in her final year, she checked the requirements and realised she met them. She didn’t have to do anything extra. “It looks great on my CV,” she said, adding that the formal recognition of extracurricular activities was a testament to the life she lived on Queen’s Campus. Ciara thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and in societies – the Degree Plus qualification was just an added bonus!
If you are a final year student reading this post, it’s important you check the Queen’s website to view the requirements for Degree Plus. Perhaps you might be surprised to see you meet the requirements – there are hundreds of activities which could qualify you for this award.
To learn more about Degree Plus, join our information session on 6 October at 1pm.