The winners of the 2017 THE Awards, held in association with Santander Universities, were announced on Thursday 24 December 2016 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.
Below are the winners in each category. Click the name of the winner to view more information.
The winners e-book is available here
For most of the UK’suniversities, 2014-15 was ayear to hold tight and try not to come off the rails as the policy helter-skelter continued.
But for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, it was one of the most extraordinary years in its history: amoment when asmall institution seized the opportunity to take an unfolding catastrophe by the scruff of the neck and put all of its expertise into action. This, of course, was the Ebola crisis during which 10,000 people died across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea before the crisis ended earlier this year.
When the outbreak began, the school had areservoir of expertise it could deploy alongside charities and NGOs, from teams who model the spread of disease, to student volunteers who were able to clean up datasets from the ﬁeld, ensuring that the sites of outbreaks were recorded accurately.
The school set up atask force to coordinate its response, and ensured that staff who were keen and had the skills to help were able to do so without losing funding or income.
It was an extraordinary example of research expertise beingdeployed in realtimeinthe realworld. Butthe school’sresponse wasn’tonlyabout puttingpeople in the ﬁeld. There was also aneedfor education to combat Ebola’sspread.Itestablished an onlineplatform thatpooledresources from anthropologists to help those on the ground understand and work effectively within thecultural context of the region.Another initiative took the form of amassive open onlinecourse–afree three-week programme aimed at health professionals, emergency response workersand students.
This was amoment for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to come into its own, to pause the normal business of the school to allow its world-leading experts to make adifference in away for which they are uniquely qualiﬁed.
It did all of these things, and was the judges’ unanimous choice as THE’s University of the Year 2016.
Avision to be an entrepreneurial institution that translated into action at local, national and international levels earned London South Bank University the award for Entrepreneurial University of the Year.
London South Bank University’sapproach to delivering entrepreneurial support to staff, students and the local community is led by the research, enterprise and innovation team. The formation of this team, which works across the university’sseven schools, has created aculture of enterprise, engaging more than 10,000 students and staff.
In 2014-15, London South Bank University’sprogramme supported 600 local small and medium-sized enterprises, boosting growth and creating jobs. Its academic experts provided consultancy services to 193 SMEs, enabling them to create 42 new jobs, safeguard 67 and raise £1 million of investment.
The university now has more than 1,000 employer partners, with one in ﬁve students being sponsored by employers.
The Clarence Centre for Enterprise and Innovation is one of several hubs for enterprise, and its SME tenants based on campus create real-world opportunities for staff, as well as generating £37 million for the local area in 2014-15, rising to £54 million in 2015-16.
The judges said London South Bank University had demonstrated how its “vision was translated into actions” within curricula, the work of staff and then “more widely across their local, national and international networks”.
They were particularly impressed “by the number of students engaged, the breadth of enterprising activity the university is involved in and the depth of employer engagement”. They concluded: “London South Bank University shows atruly entrepreneurial approach to its pivotal role in the community and its academic endeavours.
Bringing alive the past for students has secured the Most Innovative Teacher of the Year Award for Sara Wolfson.
Dr Wolfson, senior lecturer in early modern history at Canterbury Christ Church University, uses workshops rather than traditional lectures on her courses in order to keep undergraduates engaged.
On one module, first-year learners recreated the trial of Charles I, taking on prosecution and defence roles in an exercise that combined historical investigation, teamwork and role play.
Dr Wolfson has also made changes to assessment to take account of students’ academic citizenship.
In a second-year course on the Tudors, students were marked on their engagement within online forums as well as during seminars, while a source analysis exercise took the form of an online debate.
Another second-year course, “Sex, defiance and death”, was revalidated to allow students to host an in-house exhibition, which was linked to their final assessment.
Dr Wolfson says she is “passionate about holistic modes of learning that allow students to build connections between the pieces of information they assimilate, to make sense of topics for themselves”.
The judges were impressed by Dr Wolfson’s thoughtful approach to teaching. “Sara demonstrated how engagement with students had assisted her own evaluation of practice, which led to further development and professional progress.“
This approach has had an impact beyond the course and discipline,and fed into graduate attributes and an employability module.”
What lessons can universities learn from video games such as Minecraft to help geology students prepare for their first field trip? How can institutions make field trips accessible to those who would not otherwise be able to take part?
These were the challenges tackled by the Virtual Landscapes Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds College of Art.
The initiative enables students to navigate a virtual landscape within a first-person computer game to simulate aspects of geological fieldwork.
The worlds they explore are open-ended and allow students to interact with virtual outcrops to collect, plot and interpret geological data in order to develop skills for conducting field geological surveys. It provides the same intellectual challenges as real-world mapping, but with the flexibility of online delivery.
It runs via a browser plug-in or stand-alone app, so can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, and has also been adapted for students who cannot undertake fieldwork because of illness or injury.
About 70 per cent of second-year structural geology students who took part in the exercise consistently reported increased confidence about how to map boundaries after using the tool.
Other departments at the University of Leeds are considering introducing similar virtual-world learning approaches, while geoscience departments at other universities in the UK, the US and Guyana are looking at implementing the model.
The judges said the project “set a very high bar in showing how serious gaming can make a positive difference to learning”.
In 2012, Royal Holloway, University of London had a roughly even split between male and female lecturers. But at the professorial level, in line with many other universities, men outnumbered women by four to one.
This prompted the university, which was one of the first in the UK to offer women higher education, to take action. In 2014 it launched an initiative called “Enabling Women Academics Through the Promotion Process”, which aimed to increase the proportion of female professors from 24.1 per cent to 35 per cent over five years.
Based on a scheme at the University of Tromsø in Norway, female academics were offered coaching, CV support and workshops on the promotion process. Women were welcome to attend with babies, or over Skype, to fit around other commitments.
Of the 26 women who have participated in the first two cohorts of the scheme, 16 have since been promoted, with three becoming heads of departments and seven becoming chairs in their subject areas. After the latest promotion round, the proportion of female professors has risen to 26 per cent. A third cohort is now under way.
The judges said they were “won over” by the university’s commitment to the academic progression of women. “It is astonishing that in 2016 this is still an issue across academia, but the actions that have followed Royal Holloway’s ambition have reaped rewards with an increase in the percentage of female professors,” they said, adding that they were particularly impressed that the university was using multiple interventions to make a difference.
An innovative programme that boosted the external business engagement of Strathclyde Business School was a substantial reason for its being named as winner of this award.
Under the Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) – launched in June 2015 in conjunction with Santander bank and the first of its kind in Scotland – leaders of businesses turning over at least £500,000 attend four workshops tackling areas critical to business growth, such as resource, market, operations and leadership advantage. GAP helps business owners to improve growth as well as providing them with relationship-building opportunities.
Along with this and Strathclyde Business School’s growing number of company-specific MBAs – including the Weir MBA, Babcock MBA and Iberdrola MBA – the judges were “particularly impressed” with the school’s level of external engagement, a central feature of Strathclyde’s agenda.
Strathclyde also garnered praise for its academic success. It was rated first in Scotland and in the top 10 business schools in the UK for its research in the 2014 research excellence framework. The results showed that, in particular, its research was strong in terms of impact. Additionally, the REF rated the research environment, for both academic and doctoral student communities, as joint first in the UK. A report that reinforced the business case for employers to adopt the living wage had particular impact.
“Strathclyde Business School has been innovative since its inception 50 years ago, responding to business and technological developments,” the judges said.
“We were particularly impressed with its level of external engagement…and the research project of the case for the living wage also impressed.”
The recently created Times Higher Education DataPoints Merit Award allows us to acknowledge exceptional performance by UK universities using the data we collect and collate about institutions both in the UK and across the world.
In June this year, THE looked at the possible implications of the UK government’s proposed teaching excellence framework, as its definition and implementation were being formed and debated. We noted that there were some excellent institutions that might be highlighted by the TEF assessment in terms of the outcomes their graduates achieve relative to the characteristics and background of the students they recruit. These were not the “usual suspects” that regularly feature in discussions about the nation’s leading universities.
When combining this analysis with the results from the research excellence framework 2014, an interesting group of institutions stood out as being strong on both teaching and research, and these formed the shortlist for this award.
The University of Surrey, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was the overall winner of the award in a year when it has received a great deal of recognition for its achievements.
In a group of impressive institutions it stands out for its teaching strength, both in absolute and relative terms, and for the proportion of students it attracts from widening participation backgrounds. This has been achieved at a time when it has also attained impressive scores in the REF. The ability to provide excellence in both teaching and research is a compelling advantage in an increasingly competitive sector.
The Royal Northern College of Music was chosen for the Outstanding International Student Strategy Award for a project that supports international students in adjusting socially and academically, while also encouraging interaction between home and international students.
Students at the Royal Northern College of Music come from more than 60 countries, and many face specific challenges when they arrive. In addition to language difficulties, some students who have studied Western musical repertoire in their home countries struggle to put the work into cultural and historical context.
According to the head of international relations, this presents further challenges in the students’ academic and social lives. The college therefore designed “Read with the World” to help international students develop their language skills and cultural competencies.
The college pairs an international student with a home student, and the pair together choose a book to read from the college’s suggestions, which cover a range of topics and include literature from different countries.
The book-pals meet regularly to discuss what they have learned.
The judges said: “The Read with the World project is a wonderful example of a simple and imaginative idea that is scalable and replicable in other institutions.”
They added that the scheme “goes beyond a simple buddying scheme by providing structure and content for building friendships that help create a greater understanding of each other’s background and lead to a richer environment in classroom and campus”.
The Royal College of Pathologists’ winning entry was a laboratory training programme, designed to build capacity and improve the standards and quality of pathology diagnostic and laboratory medicine services in sub-Saharan Africa through skills training, knowledge transfer, leadership development and mentoring.
The project, LabSkills Africa, was a multilevel partnership with: theBritish Division of the International Academy of Pathology; the College of Pathologists of East, Central and Southern Africa; the East, Central and Southern African Health Community; as well as country partners in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and Stellenbosch University in South Africa also worked with the college to develop and implement a curriculum and training programme.
The initiative was piloted in 20 public-sector laboratories in five countries between 2013 and 2015, creating 100 trained laboratory healthcare professionals and leading to improvements in the quality and accuracy of diagnostic tests and the professional relationship between pathologists, scientists and technologists.
Furthermore, 70 per cent of the laboratories reduced their turnaround times by an average of 20 per cent, while a foundation for the development of a regional laboratory improvement network has been established.
There are already plans to implement the model in Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar.
The judges said the collaboration was “inspiring” and the project has “already made a difference to a population of more than 110 million people, improving the quality of laboratories to improve mortality rates and provide better treatment”.
The University of Wolverhampton’s “Three Minutes to Save a Life” programme was described by judges as a “clear winner” in the
Outstanding Support for Students category. Designed to provide support for students with suicidal thoughts, almost 200 staff – including security, caretaking and cleaning staff who have regular out-of-hours contact with students – and students’ union officers have so far been trained in workshops dedicated to tackling the issues of suicide, self-harming and emotional resilience. These have taught staff to recognise early warning signs in at-risk students and explained how they can escalate concerns proportionately and compassionately.
In an effort to reduce the stigma related to suicidal thoughts, all staff at Wolverhampton will eventually undertake training to give them an awareness and ability to respond with compassion to those students who require help.
The level of commitment to training its staff shown by Wolverhampton was praised highly by our judges. “It’s an easy thing to say that all staff should be equipped to support their students in this way, but it’s not an easy thing to implement,” the judges said.
The “train the trainer” model of delivery and Wolverhampton’s cooperation with Public Health England and mental health organisation Open Minds Alliance was also seen by the judges as an effective way to roll out training across the university.
“They’ve ensured that hundreds of staff have a shared level of awareness regarding suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviours, and, crucially, know how to act on concerns they might have, and support their students effectively,” the judges said. “It’s hard to think of a more valuable support service a university can offer than providing real, effective support for students affected by suicidal thoughts,” they added.
A breakthrough that has had a significant impact on global security and the fight against terrorism has been chosen for this year’s award.
The new method of 3D X-ray imaging – developed by an academic at Nottingham Trent University – is used to detect weapons and explosives hidden in luggage and has been incorporated into about 4,500 systems around the world.
During the inspection of an object, a single stationary X-ray source creates divergent X-ray beams that capture different views of the object, eliminating the need for multiple X-ray sources and complex movement mechanisms. The X-rays provide details of an object’s shape and depth, and recently the method has incorporated molecular signature techniques to identify specific materials.
The impact of the work, led by Paul Evans, professor of applied imaging science, was recognised as part of Nottingham Trent’s 2015 Queen’s Anniversary Prize.
The institution has also formed a spin-off company – Halo X-ray Technologies – with Cranfield University to commercialise the technology.
The judges were impressed by the way the original research has been successfully commercialised, saying that the “pioneering research” had “led to the development of 3D imaging that is now used worldwide in managing security and public safety”.
The judges commended the university for its continued refinement of the original research, which recently resulted in a multimillion-pound grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.
Working with young carers to persuade them to think about entering higher education has become a priority for the University of Winchester.
During 2014-15, it engaged 172 of them through outreach sessions across Hampshire and through on-campus events.
An average of 94.5 per cent of participants said that the on-campus projects had helped to inform their decision about higher education.
Winchester worked in partnership with external organisations to raise awareness of the needs of young carers in higher education by being a major contributor to a toolkit produced by the Carers Trust and the National Network of Universities Supporting Young Adult Carers, and hosting a symposium on the issue.
The university also worked with the Carers Trust to persuade the Office for Fair Access to recognise young carers as a disadvantaged group for the first time, and has introduced a £500 annual bursary for young carers to help cover additional costs, such as frequent travel home.
The judges said that Winchester’s work “directly addresses” the needs of individuals who “too often find higher education difficult to access and hard to complete”.
“The university has led a multi-agency approach to ensure that every opportunity is taken to encourage young carers to succeed,” the panel said.
“The project has acted as a catalyst not only in making a difference for the individuals concerned but in securing wider recognition of the unique needs of these committed young people.”
This new award is given to the business that can demonstrate the most imaginative and effective partnership with a university or universities.
With its decision to relocate research and development and technical staff to Harper Adams University, as part of a major restructuring programme, Dairy Crest achieved impressive results and is a worthy inaugural winner of this award.
The closure of one of the company’s processing plants near to the university – in order to consolidate production in Liverpool – left the factory’s R&D and technical team in limbo until they explored the possibility, with the help of Harper Adams, of moving them on to the campus. After an investment of £4 million to create a new innovation centre on Harper Adams’ campus, 40 R&D staff took up residence at the university.
The relationship has since flourished. In opening up new domestic and international markets for dairy products, Dairy Crest realised that further livestock research expertise was vital to meet its objectives.
Among numerous mutual benefits, Dairy Crest has jointly funded a lectureship in animal science and bioinformatics, and this researcher is now engaged in numerous company-led research projects. Success of this work led to a £2 million budget increase for Dairy Crest research into a specific prebiotic food ingredient, to identify new commercial applications for the product.
“Embedding research scientists in one of the country’s top agricultural colleges was a pioneering collaboration in an industry with traditionally low R&D,” the judges noted.
Unlike other categories, this award is determined from the results of a student survey, rather than selection by judges.
From the data collected for the next Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey (due to be published in spring 2017), Ulster University was deemed to have improved the most, compared with the previous year, and is therefore selected for the Most Improved Student Experience Award.
The survey, carried out by market research company YouthSight, asked more than 15,000 full-time undergraduates to evaluate their experience at university across 21 different measures. These 21 features of university life were all named by students as an important part of the university experience. They include course structure, lecture quality, social life, campus environment, industry connections and sports facilities.
In the survey results, satisfaction scores for each attribute are weighted to reflect how important these factors are in the student experience overall.
Liam Kirkwood, research manager at YouthSight, said Ulster University had seen a 3.7 point increase in the overall student experience score and a rise of 37 places in the rankings.
He added that the university had been successful in improving its student satisfaction score in a number of different areas, including measures such as whether a student’s personal requirements were being met and also a measure titled “good student welfare”.
Alys Young’s nomination stood out in this new category, not only for her outstanding supervision work in deaf studies and social work, but for her fierce commitment to helping deaf students access PhD-level study.
Able to provide high-quality supervision in sign language if needed, Professor Young has helped her students overcome both academic and personal difficulties, providing excellent pastoral and academic supervision well beyond graduation.
Thanks to her unstinting support, many deaf students who might otherwise have struggled to access research degree programmes have now obtained PhDs, found jobs in their desired fields and made their own unique contribution to the future of research.
She has also helped parents with deaf children to undertake PhD-level study, enabling them to become parent-researchers within doctoralstudies.
Students under her care have been directed towards training and development opportunities, while Professor Young has also participated in efforts to nurture the next generation of research leaders in her fields.
Praising the “highly distinctive” work of Professor Young and her exceptional support for students, the judges described how she had “helped [her students] overcome obstacles to starting or continuing their doctorate as well as providing opportunities to publish and disseminate their work to both academic and non-academic audiences”.
Appointed a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2015, Professor Young has been described as a “one-off” whose supervisions, support and research have had a global impact, making her a worthy winner of Times Higher Education’s very first award for Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year.
The award for Research Project of the Year goes to an international collaboration that has hugely increased understanding of how nuclear radiation affects animal life. It used a groundbreaking technique to provide new evidence about what happens to the diversity and abundance of large and medium-sized mammals after radiation exposure.
It is now 30 years since the Chernobyl disaster and the exclusion zone around the accident site is still heavily contaminated. Despite this, a researcher from the University of Salford, working with academics from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Ukraine’s Chornobyl Center, has used the area as a laboratory to study the continuing effect of the disaster on wildlife.
Salford’s Mike Wood set up more than 250 motion-activated camera positions and bioacoustic recorders to track animals over a year. The cameras provided more than 45,000 images that allowed the researchers to answer fundamental questions about the relationship between radiation exposure and biodiversity.
The scientists found a thriving community of large and medium-sized species. This challenges existing academic work, which had suggested that mammals have declined in the area. Their findings have also contributed to high-level debate about the potential creation of a Chernobyl nature reserve and garnered a huge amount of press coverage.
The judges said that the collaboration with Ukrainian colleagues was impressive in the way that it used “groundbreaking radiological methods to explore the impact of nuclear radiation on wildlife in the Chernobyl area”.
The Global Sound Movement is a unique digital arts project in which researchers from the University of Central Lancashire’s College of Culture and the Creative Industries work in remote villages to record their music.
Many of these musicians play handcrafted instruments made from locally sourced materials that create a unique sound that is central to their communities’ cultural identity.
The Uclan team went on to produce high-quality recordings, which have been uploaded to a digital sample library. This has given economically deprived communities the chance to showcase their music to a global audience and may well help to provide them with a sustainable income stream to help lift them out of poverty. The recordings have also given those working within different musical traditions an opportunity to expand their “sonic palette”.
The project, which brought together a multidisciplinary team of staff and students in a highly collaborative process of teaching, learning and research, was praised by the judges for realising Uclan’s “innovative vision of learning taking place ‘in the wild’ ”.
The initial recording expedition went to Kampala and villages in northern Uganda. The next went to Cyprus, where the team worked alongside both Turkish and Greek musicians and instrument makers to create a sample library that forged a single musical identity by giving equal prominence to instruments from both sides of the island.
The current expedition is taking place in Bali, Indonesia, where Uclan researchers are working alongside charity workers and helping to identify the gamelan instruments found only in the region.
Edge Hill University earned the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community Award for a partnership with Everton Football Club’s charity, supporting schools and young carer groups that work with mentally ill children and young people.
Tackling the Blues, an early intervention programme for 6- to 16-yearolds launched by Edge Hill and Everton in the Community, supports nine schools and two young carer groups in Sefton and Southport in the North West.
Tackling the Blues was launched in light of concern about mental health problems among children and young people.
The programme has delivered more than 300 sessions using interactive activities, provided weekly to 286 children and young people. They include mental health-themed sport and physical activity sessions, educational workshops on topics such as emotions via “emoji bingo” tasks, and peer-mentoring activities addressing communication and conflict resolution.
The sessions, designed and delivered by staff and students in Edge Hill’s department of sport and physical activity and its Faculty of Education, have contributed to participants reporting improvements in mental wellbeing, their quantity and quality of social relationships, and engagement in academic study.
The judges said the programme has “in the view of educational and health professionals, made a positive contribution in this challenging area”.
More than 95 per cent of participants have stuck with the programme over 15 months. The judges said that this was “remarkable” and noted that the programme “has been selected as a national case exemplar”.
The Sound City conference, held in Liverpool in 2015, brought together 2,000 music industry professionals from 29 countries to discuss best practice and to develop new business models. It was followed by a festival attended by 72,000 people.
Much of the support for these events came from students at Liverpool John Moores University as part of an initiative spearheaded by the employer engagement team. After “selling” the idea to their academic colleagues, they went on to develop job descriptions, support the recruitment of students and administer all the financial elements of the project.
The judges were most impressed by how the students involved in Sound City “gained invaluable practical experience to enrich their academic study and gain rare insights into an important industry”.
Students from 11 degree programmes from six schools at Liverpool John Moores worked on the conference and festival either via a funded intern scheme or as part of the work-based learning required by their course. In all, 55 students gained a total of 240 days’ work experience.
Business students, for example, worked in conference support. Spatial design students worked on the design of both the festival and the stage. Those studying events management worked alongside experienced industry professionals. Others learned to hone marketable skills by filming live bands or producing a promotional film.
All gained an exceptional level of access to potential employers and networking opportunities otherwise highly difficult to obtain for those wanting to make a career in the music or related industries.
“I can’t think of anyone who deserves this award more clearly. He was a brilliant minister, and the difference that he has made to scientific research – not just financially but imaginatively – has been incalculable.”
So said Baroness Warnock, moral philosopher and former mistress of Girton College, Cambridge, of this year’s winner: Lord Sainsbury of Turville.
Lord Sainsbury’s contribution to higher education has been rich and varied. His links to Cambridge are strong, beginning in his student days and culminating in his current role as chancellor. In between are decades in which he emerged as one of the country’s leading philanthropists.
But it is for his time as science minister, from 1998 to 2006, and his 2007 review into government policy on science and innovation that he is perhaps best known in higher education.
Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, describes the impact he had on the national research base as “transformational”.
“Lord Sainsbury was without doubt the most effective and supportive science minister for a generation. Not only was he completely committed to supporting the UK science base both in actions and in words, but he was directly responsible for two major developments.
“First was the 10-year science investment framework, announced in 2004, which increased by £1 billion a year the amount spent on the science base.
“Second, he produced the definitive statement of the role and contribution of the research base to the future of the UK. His report, The Race to the Top, is a stunningly impressive account of how research supports society and the economy. It remains as relevant today as it was when he authored it. He is a most deserving winner of this award: our research base has never had a better friend, and colleagues in all subjects from anthropology to zoology owe him their thanks.”