So, you want my job? Head of external comms at the University of Sheffield

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Mark Dorey's job as head of external comms at the University of Sheffield?

You may have to pick up the phone and talk to a real, live, journalist for this job, warns Mark Dorey
You may have to pick up the phone and talk to a real, live, journalist for this job, warns Mark Dorey


Mark Dorey.


Head of external communications, the University of Sheffield.

Starting salary/salary band for the job?

Salaries for communications professionals in the higher education sector vary, but outside London they tend to begin for a press officer role at around £25,000. It’s safe to say that I didn’t embark on a career in education for the salary, though.

What qualifications do you need?

Degree, in virtually any subject, or relevant experience. However, we are in the process of appointing our second PRCA PR apprentice, so new routes into the profession are appearing.

What level of experience do you need?

Our team is involved in a wide-ranging set of activities, from promoting world-leading research to influencing policy makers, as well as attracting students from all around the world to study in Sheffield. Being competent in core public relations skills is a must, as well as having the ability to stay calm under pressure, effectively lead a diverse team, and influence and advise both internally and externally.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?

Working in a higher education institution is a unique privilege, but can be a little daunting to those coming from outside the sector. Being able to deal with changes in policy in the external environment is essential, as well as the ability to quickly form strong working relationships internally.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?

As the higher education sector continues to undergo significant changes, it can be easy to forget the real impact we have on the lives of those that choose to study with us. Cutting across a negative perception of the value of universities can also be a challenge, which is why it’s so important to showcase the amazing and world-leading research that takes place across our universities in the UK.

What is the best part of the job?

Working with such a committed and talented team on a daily basis, and the opportunity to speak with academics who are hugely passionate about their areas of research.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?

Since I’ve been working at the University of Sheffield, I’ve discovered we have one of only two paternoster lifts left in the country. The rare lift, which has no doors and moves continuously without stopping at floor level, is based in the Arts tower, the tallest academic building the UK.

If you get an interview, do say…

'I also have considerable experience of shooting, editing and producing films and I’m a keen amateur photographer.'

If you get an interview, don’t say…

'Would the role require me to actually use the phone to speak to a journalist?'

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to…

Diplomat, ambassador to the UN.

Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role.

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