Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

Now, we're not talking about an institution that will offer you the chance to be covered in green feathers and make a public spectacle of yourself. That's basically all of them, to be honest. We're talking about standing out as a graduate: how can you pick a uni that will help you become highly employable and give you the skills you need to thrive in the working world?

The degree is an important starting point, but there's much more to it than that. New institutions such as the University of Chester's University Centre at Shrewsbury can prepare you for your dream job, even while you make the most of your student life (feathers and all). Here's how to spot a uni that can help you get ready for the reality of the workplace...

A different approach

When you're starting your uni search, look into the guiding principles of the institution. They're usually easy to find in the 'About Us' section (or similar) of a website, but don't be afraid to ask. If a uni is shouting about the number of on-campus coffee chains but keeping quiet about its approach to grad employment, you should hear some alarm bells.

Instead, they should have a clear career focus. At University Centre Shrewsbury for example, it's all about promoting innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship, as well as understanding the latest thinking in design and technology. All pretty useful areas to know about when it comes to landing a great job.

Work-focused modules

It's also worth digging a little deeper into the individual modules that make up the degree programme you're interested in. Will they help you develop practical skills that complement the academic side of things?

The kind of practical module you'll find will vary depending on the degree course. At University Centre Shrewsbury the BA (Hons) Business Studies degree has a module on enhancing employability through work-based learning; meanwhile, the Genetics and Evolution BSc (Hons) offers one on Applied Lab Skills, which puts you in a working laboratory. Remember not to create any zombies.

Time in the workplace

Look for programmes that offer opportunities to spend extended periods of time in the workplace as part of your degree. You'll work in a related industry applying the knowledge you've picked up on your course, while doing a real job that will help sharpen all your skills and make your CV suitably appealing to a potential boss.

Employers are increasingly tempted by grads with this kind of on-the-job experience. Apply with a course like University Centre Shrewsbury's Banking and Finance BSc (Hons) under your belt and you'll be at the top of the pile: the programme includes a Work Based Learning unit that students spend working within a live organisation. Many other courses offer placement years, too – see the website for more.

Getting connected

Finally, unless you're a professional cave dwelling hermit (and it's not a growth industry) most jobs involve working with others, building a network of colleagues and learning to think creatively. Why wait for those skills to develop once you graduate, when you can learn them as part of your student experience?

A work-focused uni like University Centre Shrewsbury can help with this. Courses are designed not just by academics, but by businesses and employers, which means students are plugged in to local industries. You might attend lectures given by experts in the field, for example: it's an opportunity to pick up some key insider knowledge and learn how your degree subject can be applied to a specific business. You might also have a chance to meet employers and pick their brains.

Or you can take the plunge early and set up your own business with fellow students, with the support of your uni. It's a great way to really get some insight into how the working world turns, but also a genuine chance to develop an idea that might turn into your career once you graduate. That scheme to develop non-dissolving green feather glue might not be such a crazed notion...

If you're looking for a meaningful student experience, but also one that prepares you for what comes after, there will be a uni for you out there. Do some digging, ask the right questions and you'll find your ideal partner.

To get more insight into University Centre Shrewsbury see their video below.