The University of Huddersfield was the big winner at the tenth anniversary of a major awards ceremony. It scooped two prizes in a scheme designed to celebrate the work of teams that provide expert support to the teaching and research activities of higher education institutions.
When the 2018 Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards were announced at an event in London, Huddersfield was the only double winner, in the categories of Outstanding Leadership and Management Team and Outstanding Strategic Planning Team.
Members of both teams took to the stage at the Grosvenor House Hotel to receive their awards – known as THELMAS – at a ceremony hosted by the actor and TV presenter Richard Ayoade.
The editor of Times Higher Education, John Gill, said that the 10th edition of his magazine’s awards scheme had produced a “stellar crop” of winners.
“The members of our judging panel were left inspired by the examples of individual and collective brilliance that shone through from the hundreds of entries,” he added, and congratulated Huddersfield for its success in taking two prizes back to Yorkshire.
Among the senior University of Huddersfield figures who attended the event and took to the podium were the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan, and his Deputy, Professor Tim Thornton.
“We are proud to have won many awards and distinctions in recent years,” said Professor Cryan.
“Our success at the 2018 THELMAS is an outstanding result that reflects the strength, commitment, dedication and hard work of all of the leadership team across the University. I am just so proud to serve alongside them.”
Professor Cryan added that the latest awards meant that Huddersfield had become the first UK institution to achieve a “full set” of all the top prizes in its sector.
They include Times Higher Education’s coveted University of the Year (2013) and Entrepreneurial University of the Year (2012). In 2017, leading educationalists from around the world selected the University of Huddersfield as the first winner of the Global Teaching Excellence Award.
Other top honours received by the University include the Inspiring University Leader Award bestowed on Professor Cryan at the 2013 Guardian Higher Education Awards.
What the judges had to say...
Here is what the judges had to say about the two University of Huddersfield successes at the 2018 THELMAS:
The judges praised the University of Huddersfield’s leadership team for “pulling together to create a truly impressive transformation right across the University”.
Several years ago, Huddersfield’s nine-strong executive team – seven of whom have been working together for 10 years – decided to focus on creating a “strategy map” for the institution running from 2013 to 2018.
In following this, the emphasis was on achieving institutional excellence across teaching quality, staff qualifications, financial health and quality of estate, and by 2016-17 the results were clearly evident.
That year, the University’s success on its strategy was recognised repeatedly: it was revealed to have the highest proportion of academic staff with teaching qualifications or accreditation in England (90 per cent); it was ranked as the top mainstream higher education institution in England by the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s financial security index for the fifth successive year; and it performed strongly in HESA data on the condition of university estates.
Also that year, Huddersfield won not only a gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework, but also first place in the Higher Education Academy’s Global Teaching Excellence Awards.
One strategic aim was to create an exemplary resource base, and Huddersfield is now delivering a £250 million capital plan – without borrowing.
The judges said that the leadership team’s “strong sense of direction developed via the use of a strategy map and their close consultation with staff to focus on teaching quality, academic staff qualifications and a well-considered capital plan is notable. The University has also achieved excellent external individual and institutional validations and demonstrated strong financial sustainability.”
A data-based strategy that identifies students at risk of dropping out – combined with interventions to help them stay the course – earned the University of Huddersfield the accolade in this category.
Huddersfield’s strategic planning team, which has been responsible for implementing a five-year plan to enhance the student experience across the University, identified metrics to evaluate the student experience – dropout rates, student satisfaction, degree outcomes and employment – and hired a research fellow to run statistical analyses of the data. This revealed that ethnicity was a proxy for many other factors, including living at home, having caring responsibilities for siblings and level of parental education – all of which needed to be understood when supporting students.
The team communicated the results to the Students’ Union, student support services, personal tutors and the University senior management team. They also designed a range of interventions, including the Student Priority Support System, which ranked students by their risk of dropping out and used nudge theory to help keep them at university.
Since the project was launched, there has been improvement across all four metrics.
Delegations from the Department for Education and from Danish universities have visited Huddersfield to learn more about the project.
The judges praised the way that the Huddersfield planning team “maintained the strategic focus on students’ experience throughout the development of the strategic plan. Their identification and correlation of proxy indicators to predict interventions was considered to be innovative and to offer good opportunities for transference elsewhere.”