The importance of learning about yourself is an integral part of studying at the School with an increased focus on personal, professional, and career development. Rona Doig, Head of Student Development, and Professor Mary Brennan, Director of UG Programmes, tell us more.

Rona Doig

A university education is a time to learn about a specific subject, but also a time to learn about yourself. Graduates are increasingly having to enter the workplace with a set of skills that extends well beyond technical knowledge, focusing on communication, self-awareness, leadership, and a whole host of other 'soft' skills.

Over the last few years, the School has been increasing its focus on personal, professional, and career development across its portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate, and executive programmes.

If you graduated a number of years ago and were to come back to the School today, you would recognise the same focus on academic excellence. However, you would also notice an increased focus on students as individuals, encouraged to explore who they are, to step out of their comfort zones, and to stretch their learning in new and different ways.

Students also need a willingness and an ability to continually learn, un-learn, and re-learn. Rapid change and innovation demands more focus on skills such as creativity, adaptability, and flexibility. That doesn't just apply to our students, it also applies to us and how we go about supporting them.

With a dedicated Student Development Team who support our MSc and undergraduate students and an Executive Development Team who support our MBA, Executive MBA and Executive Education learners, staff in these teams work collaboratively with other professional services staff, academics, and the University's Careers Service to deliver innovative programmes.

The growth of the Business School's Edinburgh Award programmes for both undergraduates and MSc students is just one example of this.

The Awards provide students with a framework which encourages and enables them to own, develop, and reflect on their individual development journey while accessing a range of skills, sessions, and support from others in the School community. MSc students can access one-to-one coaching sessions with our internal and external accredited coaches and can opt in to a cross-programme buddy system.

Pre-honours undergraduate students participate in group coaching sessions which are facilitated by a team of coaching leaders, who are specially trained third and fourth year student volunteers recruited from the School's BizPALS (Peer Assisted Learning Support) network. Although learning from each other has always been part of the Business School experience, peer support has become more evident in recent years and is helping connect our undergraduates to the School and build even more supportive and stronger relationships within our community.

New for this academic year, we have a pilot programme which sees our honours undergraduate students each allocated an external mentor from our alumni community. The majority of our alumni mentors are currently Edinburgh-based, however next academic year, as we roll-out the programme to more students, we plan to go global with mentors from a wide range of countries.

For our full-time MBA students, the professional development course is informed by regular, direct engagement with employers, designed to help our students enhance their leadership and professional competence, as well as developing self-awareness and strong employability potential. It focuses on building skills and confidence in areas including presentation and advanced communications, influencing and negotiating, effective team working, emotional intelligence, and resilience.

Professional development is also a core course for our Executive MBAs. At the heart of this course is our executive coaching support which has proven hugely popular as learners juggle the demands of career, study, and family. Our coaching is designed to offer a tailored and personalised experience and facilitates self-awareness, accountability for goal-setting, action, and reflection to improve performance.

Finally, our executive programmes increasingly balance both academic and non-academic content, reinforcing the value of the space and time to think, as much as the acquisition of new knowledge.

Our approach across all programmes centres on relationships. Students connect with each other on programme, but are also actively encouraged to connect cross-programme, with alumni, employers, faculty, and staff. We are indebted to our alumni who are supporting our students in so many ways. Through a number of different initiatives, they engage regularly with our students on programme, host projects, and provide advice in a series of career-related activities and employer panels.

Professor Mary Brennan reflects on how the significant change in how we support the development of our students leads to personal transformations.

Professor Mary Brennan

As Director of Undergraduate Programmes, I am passionate about promoting, developing, and innovating how we support our students (at all levels) to explore, reflect, and challenge their own personal and professional boundaries.

Through the Business School's Edinburgh Award programmes, we have opened up the opportunity and safe spaces for undergraduate students to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, identify areas for development and to build their personal and professional soft skills. Through inspiring conversations with each other, their peer coaches and alumni business mentors, we support them to step out of their comfort zones.

We are all learning from our involvement in the programme and I have been inspired by how brave and courageous the participating students have been as they push and redefine who they are, who they are becoming and what they consider possible for themselves to achieve post-graduation.

I am so excited to see how these programmes develop and to witness the personal transformations in our undergraduate students.

Support the Student Experience

If you are interested in supporting the student experience as a mentor, project host, or panel-member, please get in touch by emailing us on