Universitas 21 (U21)

Universitas 21 (U21) is a partnership network comprised of 27 prestigious institutions in Australia and around the world.

U21 offers a range of programs which provide students an opportunity to enhance their international networks, whilst participating in world-class educational opportunities. Universitas 21 and PwC, two globally-focused organisations, have come together to offer unique professional development opportunities for U21’s network of graduate students.

U21/PWC Innovation Challenge

The Universitas 21/PwC Innovation Challenge is an online competition where graduate students from U21 Universities have the opportunity to ‘pitch’ solutions to an innovation challenge determined by PwC.

This year’s Innovation Challenge will focus on collaboration and teamwork to enable students to develop their problem-solving skills and personal/ professional networks beyond the lifespan of the competition and incorporates 2 phases:

  • an Individual Challenge Question (Phase 1)
  • a Team Challenge (Phase 2).

There will be one winning team from the final pitches to the judging panel who will be awarded highly-rated bespoke career coaching with the PwC Academy. All elements of the competition will take place online.

Only graduate students are eligible to participate in the challenge, including PhD candidates.

Challenge question

To what extent should governments support the private sector in managing and prioritising their Environmental, Societal and Governance (ESG) agenda?

PwC’s Annual CEO Survey reported that, despite rising interest in the Environmental, Societal and Governance agenda, strategy is still primarily driven by business metrics. From your own point of view, address the extent to which you think governments should support the private sector in this way, and what form you think the support should take.

Apply now

Participating in the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge will provide graduate students with the opportunity to:

  • Establish an international peer network for collaboration and support.
  • Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem-solving.
  • Establish your professional networks by being connected with PwC and their clients.
  • Receive assistance with workshopping and refining your ideas and presentation style, as well as professional video recording support for finalists. See the winning video from the University of Melbourne’s 2019 challenge winner, James Tait, here.
  • Be recognised with Melbourne Plus and receive the Innovation digital credential.
  • Winners will also gain the opportunity to receive expert guidance from PwC on reaching their career goals.

Melbourne Plus

Challenge outline

  • How to participate


    • Submit your Expression of Interest and preliminary video no later than Sunday 21 August 2022.
    • Your preliminary video response (1.5 minutes in length) provides a draft of your ideas on how to respond to the challenge question (above) and an idea of your presentation style. Note that this is a rough draft and not the final video.
    • Expressions of Interest will be assessed, and submissions will be selected to progress to Stage 2.


    • If selected, you will attend our application workshop held during week 8 (12 - 16 September) to help you develop your video pitch to the challenge question.
    • Then in week 9 from 19 – 23 September, you'll create and present your 3-minute individual challenge response video, to be assessed by the University of Melbourne panel judges.
    • The top 2 video pitches will be selected and be submitted to U21 and placed forward to the Team Challenge Stage.

    Team Challenge stage:

    • The finalist entries submitted by the University of Melbourne to U21 will be put through the Team challenge (Phase 2).
    • U21 will group final submitted entries into teams, comprised of students from institutions across the world. These teams will respond to a second challenge question set by PwC, themed around COP27.
    • The question for the Team Challenge (Phase 2) will be circulated to successful finalists from the Individual Challenge (Phase 1) after they have been grouped into teams.
    • The teams will work collaboratively on a response which they will then pitch to a judging panel consisting of representatives from U21, PwC and PwC’s clients.
    • All phases will be completed virtually. The group with the winning pitch will receive bespoke career coaching sessions (virtual) with the PwC Academy as their prize.
  • How it works
    • When submitting your EOI, you will need to provide a 1.5-minute video draft and short paragraph to the University of Melbourne outlining your response to the Individual Challenge (Phase 1) question outlined above.
    • If you are selected to proceed to Stage 2, you will receive assistance to prepare a full-length 3-minute challenge video response to this question.
    • The top 2 finalists will then represent the University of Melbourne in the 2022 Innovation Challenge.
    • These finalists will then be placed in a Team by U21, comprised of graduate student finalists from institutions across the world, and will then respond to a team question in their assigned groups (Phase 2).
    • These groups will then work collaboratively on a response which they will then pitch to a judging panel consisting of representatives from U21, PwC and PwC’s clients. Prospective entrants can refer to the ‘Information for Students’ section of the U21 website for further details on how to enter and prepare for the competition.
  • Key dates
    • Expression of Interest and preliminary video submission: Sunday 21 August 2022
    • Application Workshop: Week 8 (September 12-16)
    • Video Recording and Assistance for Finalists: Week 9 (September 19 – 23)
    • Deadline for Individual Challenge (Phase 1) video submissions to U21: Friday 30 September 2022
    • Team Challenge Groups announced: Monday 10 October 2022
    • Team Challenge Pitches to take place: 5-9 December 2022
    • Winning group to be announced: Week commencing 12 December 2022
  • Judging criteria

    At every level of the competition, you will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below. Please note that each criterion is equally weighted.

    Comprehension and content

    • Did the candidate have a logical approach to answering the question? - i.e. familiarity with the background material, and a set of key considerations.
    • Did the candidate clearly explain their point of view?
    • Did the candidate articulate the conclusions and recommendations clearly?
    • Did the candidate provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
    • Did the candidate spend adequate time on each element of their presentation – or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

    Engagement and communication

    • Did the presentation make you want to know more about this candidate and potentially employ them?
    • Did the candidate convey enthusiasm for the challenge and genuine interest in the problem?
    • Did the candidate capture and maintain your attention? (sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, confident stance).
  • Intellectual Property

    By submitting your entry to The University of Melbourne and the Innovation Challenge, you are acknowledging that your ideas/research will be publicly accessible and shared with industry professionals. The University of Melbourne nominated students and their submitted videos will be uploaded to Vimeo and disseminated through the U21 website and social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), and PwC’s media channels. Your video will be shared with PwC’s clients (you will be notified which clients). Judges, reviewers, staff and the audience will not be asked to sign non-disclosure statements.

    U21 and PwC may take stills, video and/or audio clips of the presentation, or copies of material prepared for use in the presentation, for promotional purposes. If your presentation draws on work/research that is being/has been conducted under contract with an outside sponsor, you are advised to discuss the related contractual terms of confidentiality and intellectual property with your supervisor(s) before participating in this competition. U21 and PwC have the right to ask you to withdraw from the competition if these conditions are not met.

Further information and enquiries

For more information about the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge, and to view winning videos from 2020/2021, please visit the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge website or contact the University of Melbourne Student Engagement Team.

View news on the University of Melbourne’s last winning entrant to the competition here.