Winners of the U21 & PwC Innovation Challenge (Group C) Announced

Universitas 21 (U21) and PwC are pleased to announce that Sarah Hashmi from the University of Birmingham is the overall winner of the third and final round (C) of the 2018-19 U21/PwC Innovation Challenge competition.  

Sarah Hashmi, University of Birmingham - Winner of Round C, with Professor Kathy Armour, (left) and Sally Jeffrey (right)
Sarah Hashmi, University of Birmingham - Winner of Round C, with Professor Kathy Armour, (left) and Sally Jeffrey (right)

Universitas 21 and PwC, two globally-focused organisations, came together in 2018 to offer the Innovation Challenge. This unique partnership was formed to offer Masters and PhD students at U21 institutions access to global work opportunities in a mutually beneficial relationship. First prize is an expenses-paid week-long trip to PwC Dubai and all top three entrants are offered career development coaching sessions with the PwC Academy.

The challenge asks students to respond to the idea of working in a world where Corporate is king. Students in this round had to consider what skills would be important for individuals to thrive in this work environment and how they plan to adapt. This competition round included students from the following universities:

  • University of Johannesburg 
  • University of Edinburgh 
  • University of Glasgow 
  • Lund University 
  • University of Birmingham 
  • University of Nottingham 
  • University of California, Davis
  • University College Dublin 
  • University of Zurich   

Sarah Hashmi’s winning entry argued that skills such as creativity, profitability, interpersonal skills and adaptability are ‘skills of the future’. 

Sarah Hashmi, an MSc Clinical Neuropsychiatry student said:  ‘I am thrilled to have won the Universitas 21 and PwC Innovation Challenge.  The competition considered the future of work which is a current trending topic with widespread impact and relevance in everyone’s life. The Innovation Challenge engaged the participants in the issue, encouraging them to look at the bigger picture, which I found to be an invaluable insight.’

‘I offer my congratulations to all the participants for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking the steps that undoubtedly lead to success. I would like to encourage all students interested to take this opportunity and participate regardless of their background. Finally, I thank Universitas 21, PwC and the University of Birmingham for creating this opportunity.’

U21 Provost, Professor Bairbre Redmond said: ‘In the third and final group round of the U21/PwC Challenge Competition, we received the largest number of entries for members in any round so far, all at a very impressive standard. It was inspiring to hear U21 students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds take on and discuss the challenges of surviving in the Blue World of work – one in which the corporate reigns supreme. Their understanding of the complex issues facing new graduates heading into the workplace at a time of rapid change was impressive. I know that the judges faced a hard decision in choosing a winner and my warmest congratulations to the group winner, Sarah Hashmi (University of Birmingham) and also to every student who entered the competition. My very sincere thanks also to those academics and professional staff in the students’ home universities who took time to organise and support them in their applications.’

An international judging panel comprising PwC Partners and their client CEOs were asked to judge 19 entries from nine of U21’s member institutions. Judges included Cate Noble, Managing Director at Better Lives, Roshan Ramdhany, PwC Partner and Education Industry Leader and Professor Ian Dunn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), Coventry University.

The runners up, Daniel Student from University of California, Davis and Eddie Morrissey from University College Dublin, are both MBA students at their respective universities. They will receive exclusive coaching sessions with the PwC Academy tailored to their career needs. Daniel expressed his excitement on being selected:

‘I am surprised and humbled to have been chosen as a winner for this challenge and am proud to be representing the UC Davis Graduate School of Management in this honour. Studying for and preparing my video presentation was an incredible learning opportunity, allowing me a chance to dive deep in exploring the future, uncovering fascinating insights into the way our world may work then and, in many ways, already works now… The PwC/U21 Innovation challenge gives me a unique opportunity to learn from professionals who are doing this every day. I can't wait to get started learning from them!’

Eddie reflected on his entry and commented: ‘In the rapidly advancing world of Medtech and Business, I believe there is a responsibility on everyone to ensure their skillsets keep pace with technological advancements. I am very much looking forward to continuing my learning with the tailored development package made available to me through this competition, by Universitas U21 and the PwC Academy.’

Sally Jeffery, Partner and Global Education Network Leader at PwC Middle East, was impressed by the range of ideas and the calibre of students who entered, saying:

Another great selection of videos, this round clearly learned from previous rounds and I was impressed at the clarity and the use of data to support the points being made. I was delighted at the range of countries and students that took part in this round and am thrilled that our winner is a scientist. The U21 student voice has really enriched PwC's understanding of the potential impact of the ‘Workforce of the Future’ report and challenged us now to move to the next level. Thank you everyone for taking part, we had great feedback from the judges again, congratulations to all!

The dates for the 2019-2020 round of the Innovation Challenge will be announced in June 2019 via

Eddie Morrissey, UC Dublin
Daniel Student, UC Davis


Rachel Edwards