I rarely see academic prizes mentioned on academic CVs. I suppose many students who are completeting a PhD also have a few of such prizes. I am thinking, amongst others, about

  • best MSc dissertation,
  • top of year,
  • top mark in a certain module,

but also about

  • scholarships,
  • reduction of tuition fees, etc.

Often, these prizes (or medals/certificates) have some fancy names and are awarded in combination with some money. Yet CVs of academics rarely mention such prizes.

Is simply no one interested, do just too many people in academia have such prizes? Are they regarded as meaningless (compared to papers/reference letters/attended summer schools/teaching experience)?

  • 1
    I don't know about UK specifically, but note that in some (many?) countries or fields there's no tradition of awarding prizes at any level, and scholarships or reduction of fees are not considered particularly noticeable and are not considered as figure of merits in selections. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 4:57

4 Answers 4


A department will only issue one best MSc dissertation and top of year award per year. Perhaps even to the same student. So, the number of such awards are scarce and shouldn't be expected of every student. Of course, lesser awards, such as top mark in a certain module, are more common, but they're less prestigious and may be omitted. Scholarships or fee reductions are only relevant if awarded on the basis of academic merit (and perhaps some cases I've neglected). So, to answer:

do just too many people in academia have such prizes?

I think the converse is true: (Significant) Prizes are rare, so don't appear on the majority of CVs.

From comments:

Would you say...prizes are even rare amongst PhD students? ...surely, graduating as top of the year is not that special?

PhD students that finished top of their year are still special: Such students are a minority in each PhD intake, since Number of departments worldwide (making top of year awards) < total PhD intake (per year).

  • Thank you for your answer! Would you say there prizes are even rare amongst PhD students? After all, only the best students from the universities and top international students come to complete their PhD. So surely, graduating as top of the year is not that special? I see that it may be different for an application for a masters or if you go into industry but not in academia?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 15:22
  • @Alex Students that finish top of their year and pursue a PhD are still special, since they are still a minority in each PhD intake: Number of departments worldwide (making top of year awards) < total PhD intake (per year).
    – user2768
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 16:05

As for all CVs, they get less important in time. If you're applying for graduate study straight after undergraduate, they're good to list. Your acheivements at this point are likely to be from academic performance, rather than from independent work. When you've completed the graduate programme, no one will care that you came top in Module X in your second year of undergraduate. If the scholarships and fee reductions were based on academic merit, then list them, bearing the same in mind.


Your observation is contradicted by virtually every researcher's CV I get when assessing grant proposals (natural sciences). People list their prizes as appropriate for their level (a professor will not list anything that happened during undergraduate studies, for example). The CV of Ulrich Schubert is quite representative here. As he is one of the most cited chemists in the world, it is out of question that he is an outstanding researcher. Still, he lists the prizes most important to him.

Also at conferences, when speakers are introduced, the chair quite regularly mentions some important prizes the speaker was awarded. So prizes are considered important.


This isn't true.

Awards such as top of the class ("Bronze Tablets") are often listed by the GPA under the "education" heading.

Undergraduates, especially in engineering, will often include "relevant" or "selected" course work that will highlight interesting projects.

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