University nominated in four categories for UK national awards

Outstanding achievements in bringing science to North-east communities, developing its staff, working with industry, and continuing to improve the experience of students, has seen the University of Aberdeen nominated for four awards in the leading UK award scheme for universities.

The Times Higher Education Awards are announced annually and recognise excellence in higher education activity throughout the UK, across a range of categories. This year’s award ceremony will take place in London on November 28.

The nominations reflect the commitment and prioritising by the University of engaging with core stakeholders – notably students, staff, employers and local communities - to invest strategically, nurture creativity and innovation, develop talent, provide opportunity, and confirm its position as a centre of excellence offering a unique learning and development experience for students, staff and external communities.

Expressing his delight at the nominations, University Principal Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said: “We know that the Times Higher awards stand out in sending strong messages to the country on the universities which are setting the benchmarks in the role of higher education in our world today. I am delighted that Aberdeen is judged among the best in these important categories and wish our teams the best in bringing these accolades back to the North-east.”

The University is one of six short-listed in each of these categories:

  •  Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers

The University’s Catalyst Project led by its Public Engagement and Researcher Development Units is recognised for placing the professional development of researchers at the core of innovative engagement activity involving the public, policy makers, teachers and industry. Catalyst is an initiative of Research Councils UK, and the University secured one of just eight awards nationally and the only in Scotland. Through the project, the Catalyst team is building on the University’s expanding public engagement programme including the evolving community Café programme and new projects such PechaKucha Nights and the University May Festival, all of which are helping researchers hone their skills through engagement with audiences of all ages and interests.

Dr Lucy Leiper said: “The importance of meaningful professional development is vital in increasingly competitive academic and wider employment sectors. Through Catalyst, our skills-through-practice approach is leading the sector in enhancing the career development of our research staff and students through innovative public engagement.”

  • Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community

The University’s approach to delivering the British Science Festival 2012 has earned it recognition in this category reflecting proactive engagement with local publics. The Festival has been widely acknowledged as the most successful in many years, due in large part to the determined effort to involve companies, local authorities, communities, academic institutions, media and education representatives. The result was sold-out venues, unprecedented media coverage and extensive outreach activity all made possible by considerable sponsorship and support raised from local companies and organisations.  Dr Ken Skeldon said “The British Science Festival demonstrated the institution’s pedigree and expertise across a whole range of areas in delivering a major world-class public festival. The result was an unprecedented event for academics to showcase their work to a national audience. 

  •  Most Improved Student Experience

This award is based on data gathered by student market research specialists YouthSight on behalf of THE, and around 14,000 students across the UK were polled. Over recent years the University has invested heavily in its campus, including the new Sir Duncan Rice Library, Suttie Centre at Foresterhill, and Aberdeen Sports Village and soon to be completed Aquatics Centre. IT services have been enhanced and student halls refurbished at Hillhead. Academically, the reformed curriculum is proving popular with applications continuing to grow, and student support has been heavily invested in with new peer mentoring schemes and personal tutors.

Student President, Megan Dunn said: "The University of Aberdeen has placed the Student Experience at the heart of what they do. While there is always more to be done, Aberdeen University Students’ Association looks forward to developing our partnership with the University to ensure a student experience second to none and a community we can all be a part of."

  • Outstanding Employer Engagement

Aberdeen is shortlisted in a consortium with the universities of Edinburgh and Stirling for the Scottish Funding Council’s ‘Learning to Work 2’ project Making the Most of Masters, which improves collaboration between employers and universities by providing opportunities for Masters students to undertake ‘work based projects’, thereby aiding employability.

Over the past two years students from 24 postgraduate programmes across the University have taken part in over  200 industry-suggested projects on a local, national and international basis. Long term partnerships with Research Pools such as Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS), Energy Technology Partnership (ETP), and Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA). 

The Scottish Government has recently agreed to continue to fund the project for another academic year.  

Project leader at the University Dr Zachary Hickman said: “Making the Most of Masters has increased the employability of our Taught Postgraduate students, and developed sustainable links between our academic programmes and employers.  Working with such a broad range of organisations and subject areas has enriched our postgraduate programmes, helps us remain competitive, and keeps our graduates at the forefront of employability initiatives.”