The AUA Invisible Grail Prize 2020

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The AUA Invisible Grail Prize 20202 


By Louise Clifton

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Why do we do what we do? Finding our purpose’ is the theme of this year’s AUA Invisible Grail competition.


Do you often think about the purpose of what you do in your daily work?

Why do we do what we do? Finding our purpose’ is the question on our minds for this year’s AUA Invisible Grail competition. We want to know why you come to work each day: what are the things that motivate, inspire, bring meaning and connect the myriad things you do?

Run in collaboration with the AUA’s Perspectives Journal, the competition is open to anyone working in higher education.

To take part, we’re inviting people to write a short think piece that offers thought-provoking ideas, problem-solving suggestions or has practical applications. The total prize fund for all winning entries is £1250.

By bringing together think pieces on this topic, we hope to share new, innovative and energising perspectives on how purpose influences people’s work and their professional ambitions. We’re curious to know if purpose makes a difference, and if so, how?

Now in its second year, the previous AUA Invisible Grail competition theme was ‘Creating Connections’. In November 2019, Lydia McGill, a Department Coordinator at the University of Winchester, was awarded first prize with her piece ‘Start-up company: how and why universities should nurture student friendships from day one’.

If you’d like to tell us about how purpose has shaped, or shapes, what you do, here’s what you need to know to enter:

Details of the competition

Who can enter?

We welcome entries from anyone working in higher education, including people who are not members of the AUA. However, it’s worth noting that the main audience for this competition will be people working in professional services, and likely working in the UK higher education sector.

We also welcome and encourage think pieces from multiple authors.

What is the timeline?

Entries are now open. The closing date is Monday 31 August 2020.

What are the judges looking for and what’s the format?

The brief ‘Why do we do what we do? Finding purpose’ is intentionally broad. We have no preconceptions about how this might be interpreted, rather we want to encourage colleagues to reflect on their professional experiences, and share their perspectives on this topic. However, we would like to see thought pieces that discuss ideas and solutions that are relevant to higher education, and we encourage perspectives that can be evidenced, and that have practical, problem-solving relevance.

We are looking for writing that is thought-provoking. Within the thought piece, we would expect to see context and scene-setting, personal opinion and analysis.

In our experience the most dynamic think pieces are around 1400 words. The maximum length is 2,500 words including any footnotes.

We also encourage you to leave out jargon and convoluted sentences, and to focus on clarity and originality.

Do you have an example?

You can read last year’s winning entry ‘Start-up company: how and why universities should nurture student friendships from day one’ here.

How to enter

If you’re interested in entering this competition, please contact the AUA office by email for more details: