Careers and Entrepreneurship

Sussex Graduate Associate Programme

The Sussex Graduate Associate Programme meets a growing demand from students who wish to stay and start their careers in the local area after graduating. The programme identifies short-term, temporary, paid opportunities on campus exclusively for graduates of the University.

Our aim is to improve the employability of Sussex graduates by providing them with access to vital work experience and the opportunity to develop key skills. At the same time, this offers University departments the opportunity to benefit from a keen and engaged member of staff.

The University has been employing Sussex graduates for a number of years, offering a variety of opportunities ranging from administration, finance, student-facing/support and marketing roles.

The role

What does a Sussex graduate role look like?

A graduate role should enable recent Sussex graduates (those who have graduated from the most recent winter or summer cohort) to demonstrate and develop a high level of skills, typically undertaking project work alongside general administrative duties.

View the good practice guidelines for examples of employability skills.

To fit the requirement of the Sussex Graduate Associate Programme the role has to:

  • be full-time and last between 12 and 18 months (provision for a minimum of 1-week induction alongside the outgoing graduate staff member)
  • have a start date between June and January
  • be offered to a graduate (undergraduate or taught postgraduate) from the most recent winter or summer cohort
  • be appropriate for a grade 3.1 on the University’s pay scale.  Each recruiting School, Professional Services Department/Division has to be able to fund the salary for each graduate recruited on the programme
  • be project-based with a defined set of objectives or outcomes
  • be short-term and require knowledge of the student and/or university experience and/or provide valuable experience for a recent graduate
  • provide the graduate with a named supervisor and a separate mentor for the duration of the programme
  • not require relevant professional experience but some relevant work experience, such as a recent graduate would have
  • enable the graduate to gain valuable experience towards their future career, e.g. delivering services or contributing to specific projects
  • offer a comprehensive training and development plan for the duration of the programme
What can a graduate bring to a role?

For University colleagues recruiting a graduate through the Sussex Graduate Associate Programme there are certain advantages:

  • the opportunity to draw on the knowledge of someone who has experience of the University, and can bring new perspectives, insights and ideas
  • full support with the recruitment process provided by HR Team
  • all Sussex graduates are provided with career development support during their internship through the Careers and Employability Centre

Colleagues from Schools and Professional Services Departments have found that Sussex graduates offer an ideal solution to recruitment and resourcing needs, being able to take on roles including:

  • Marketing and events
  • The student experience
  • Data analysis
  • Administration
  • International recruitment
  • Research
  • Student support
  • Communications

The Sussex Graduate Associate Programme provides graduates with quality work experience and enables them to make informed decisions about the next step in their careers.


Although our graduates may be familiar with the University and campus, it is essential that a full and comprehensive induction is planned. A well-designed induction process can make a graduate’s transition into the workplace a smooth and enjoyable experience as well as helping you integrate your new member of staff into your team as soon as possible.

As part of their induction, graduates should be given time to attend a meeting with a Careers Consultant in Careers and Entrepreneurship.

See our induction checklist graduate staff.

Planning their workload and devising tasks

During their time working at the University, graduates should be treated with the same degree of professionalism and duty of care as all other employees. It’s essential that the staff member is given as much responsibility and diversity in their work as possible and as a recruiting manager, you need to ensure that you are utilising their skills, ideas and providing them to opportunities for professional development.

Devise a suitable work plan for the graduate with clear objectives, deliverables and timescales. Spread their workload across a number of areas or assign a particular project. The work plan should not be a static blueprint but a living document, regularly reviewed and revised. This should act as a guide at the beginning of the opportunity and subsequently merge with any goals and objectives throughout the year.

Remember, graduates are with you to learn while working, so it is important to keep them engaged throughout the programme to ensure that your Department/School/Division and their career can move forward.

Support and guidance for graduates

This may be your graduate’s first professional job, and they may need support and guidance to succeed. In our experience, these opportunities are most productive when graduates have regular meetings with their supervisor and receive constructive feedback on their work. We recommend that you have monthly one-to-one supervision meetings; in the first 6-8 weeks, this may be weekly or every fortnight. They should also have an identified “buddy” in the School/Department/Division. This is someone that they can go, ask questions and get some informal support.

Mentoring is also a really effective mechanism to enable your intern to develop. You can contact the Organisational Development team for advice on securing a mentor if there is no one suitable within your team and/or they require mentoring training.

Careers and Entrepreneurship will also provide support and advice to the graduate, and opportunities to meet and network with other graduate staff members at the University. Find out about Support for your Sussex Graduate Associate [PDF 76.60KB] available through Careers and Entrepreneurship.

Make sure you allow time for the graduate to explore professional development activities and access support from Careers and Entrepreneurship. As the programme with the University draws to a close, the graduate may need time to access further job search advice and attend job interviews. In the last month, it is hoped that your new member of staff will be recruited and your existing graduate will spend their time supporting and guiding the replacement in their new role.

The recruitment process

Step 1: Define your requirements and the job description

All Sussex graduate staff members will be recruited in the same way as regular employees of the University.

Draft the job description and person specification, stating that it will be a Sussex Graduate Associate Programme appointment. All Sussex graduate roles will be offered as a 12 to 18 month fixed-term contract at grade 3.1 and have the job title 'Graduate... [job title]'.

You can download a Template Sussex Graduate Associate Programme Job Description and Person Specification [DOCX 26.68KB] for guidance, editing the sections highlighted in yellow for your own advert. For further advice, please contact your HR Business Partner/Adviser.

For advice on the kinds of roles Sussex graduates can undertake, please contact

Step 2: Create a personal development plan

You will need to create a personal development plan and submit to HR along with your job description and person specification. The personal development plan will require approval from Organisational Development prior to the post being advertised.

Please see our Graduate personal development plan [DOCX 30.15KB] template if you do not have one already.

Step 3: Start the recruitment process

Once you have received formal approval for recruitment, send the draft job advert, job description and person specification to HR, ensuring that the details confirm the anticipated start date.

Your advert will be advertised:

Step 4: Shortlisting and interviewing

Just like the application process, the interview should be conducted in broadly the same way as when recruiting any employee to work at Sussex. That said, consideration should be given when devising interview questions to the fact that many graduates may have limited work experience.

See Careers and Entrepreneurship’s list of Interview questions for suggestions.

Make sure everyone on the interviewing panel has received training in recruitment and selection and undertaken the University’s online unconscious bias e-learning course.

Step 5: Confirm the appointment and make pre-arrival preparations

Once your appointment has been confirmed and a start date agreed, download a copy of the induction checklist and contact Careers and Entrepreneurship. We will make an appointment with the graduate to explain the support available throughout the programme.

This will include access to CareerHub (the Careers and Entrepreneurship platform) where they will be asked to submit monthly learning logs on their experience.

Step 6: The graduate programme

Review the training plan and ensure that the graduate receives adequate support and guidance throughout the duration of the programme, as outlined above.

In the last month, it is hoped that your next graduate member of staff will be recruited and your existing staff member will spend their last month supporting and guiding their replacement in their new role.


Towards the end of the programme, the graduate should be encouraged to make a presentation on their experience to invited staff (including colleagues from their Department and Careers and Entrepreneurship). A Careers Consultant can offer support to the graduate member of staff to help them prepare.

The presentation will be:

  • a chance for the graduate to reflect on their experience (e.g. how did their degree course prepare them for the programme?)
  • an opportunity to highlight learning points for the University
  • 10 minutes long (plus Q&A)
At the end of the programme

As the programme draws to a close, it is good practice to arrange a final review meeting with the graduate. During the review, you can discuss:

  • what has the graduate learned and how have they developed during the programme?
  • how well do you think they have met your objectives (set either at the beginning of or during the programme)?
  • what have been their biggest/proudest achievements?
  • what projects have they completed or contributed to?
  • in what ways are they better prepared for the jobs market after completing the programme (this can include ‘soft’ skills as well as specific projects)?
  • how well do you think they have performed (in general and/or on specific projects)?
  • what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • what areas of development do you suggest that they concentrate on in future jobs?

Make sure that the review meeting is constructive and focuses as much as possible on the strengths of the graduate and positive elements from the programme. Similar to the appraisal process, it might be easier to give the graduate the review questions in advance to give them time to think about the topics that you will be discussing.

Reference letter

A reference letter is the best way that a graduate can demonstrate to a future employer what skills they have developed and what they have achieved. In terms of content, it is easiest to use the content of the review meeting as the basis for a reference letter. This will include what the graduate has learned, achieved, developed and undertaken during the programme.

It is also helpful if you can include positive comments, if appropriate, regarding their punctuality, attitude and any exceptional skills or aptitude that they showed.

Typically, employer reference letters for interns are no more than one side of A4. Combining the outcomes of the review meeting with standard reference information (for example, the dates that they worked for you and their main duties) is normally sufficient.

Advice and support

For you

Full recruitment support is provided for all colleagues recruiting through HR. Careers and Entrepreneurship or HR can advise how to utilise graduate-level talent effectively and the roles they can undertake.

For the graduate

Once you have appointed your graduate staff member they will be invited to attend an induction session at Careers and Entrepreneurship. Here they will be informed about how to:

  • make the most of the programme
  • how we can support them in their future job search as their role with the University draws to a close
  • make next-step career decisions

Further appointments will also take place in the middle, and at the end, of the opportunity. If you have any questions about what support is on offer, please contact

Contact us

For any queries, please contact Careers and Entrepreneurship:

Tel: +44(0)1273 678429


See our frequently asked questions
When are graduates available to start?

Graduates are available to start work as soon as they graduate in late June or early July.

How much should I pay?

All Sussex graduate staff members should be paid at grade 3.1 on the University pay scale.

What if I want to extend the opportunity?

It is important that the University provides as many opportunities as possible to new graduates; therefore, it is not possible to extend the programme contract beyond its initial period. It is possible to recruit another Sussex graduate into the same role the year after, however.

Does the University employ the graduate?

Yes. All graduates recruited through the Sussex Graduate Associate Programme become employees of the University on a fixed-term contract. They will be subject to the relevant terms and conditions of employment. Formal written approval must be obtained via the Request to Fill Form before proceeding to advertise.

Do I get to choose my graduate?

Yes. You will receive a number of applications from which to shortlist and interview. The HR team will support you and administer the recruitment process but it is your final decision who you would like to recruit and employ.

What if I need someone for a shorter period than 12 months?

Students, rather than graduates, are available for part-time work during term time and full-time work during vacation periods. There is a summer internship programme for vacation work and the jobs on-campus service for part-time work during term time.