2018 winners

The winners of the 2018 THE Awards, were announced on Thursday 29 November 2018 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London.

Below are the winners in each category. Click the name of the category to view more information.

The winners e-book is available here 

Business School of the Year

ESCP Europe Business School (London)


ESCP Europe (London) has not been afraid to tackle the questions and challenges thrown up by a rapidly changing political and commercial environment – and in doing so via a wide range of pioneering initiatives it has claimed the title of Business School of the Year.

Responding to Brexit, the school put politicians from the UK and continental Europe together with leading industry figures for a series of “Re-thinking Europe” events. It launched a collaborative book project in which students worked with Nicole Fontaine, former president of the European Parliament. Such activities cemented the school as a symbol of not only Anglo-French cooperation but also as a distinctly European UK institution.

The school launched a new MBA in international management and a new executive master’s in automation and digital transformation, run in collaboration with the advanced robotics company Comau, as a direct response to a call in the UK government’s industrial strategy to develop executives for the fourth industrial revolution. ESCP also expanded its innovative bachelor’s programme, which moves students across three European countries in three years and taps into its network of six European sites.

The judges were particularly impressed by ESCP’s European electric vehicle road trip, in which students took two weeks to visit 10 countries across Europe to encourage the use of carbon-neutral transport and the reduction of emissions.

They praised ESCP for undertaking activities that were not only responsive but also innovative. “Higher education is not always credited with being quick to respond to changing business and political environments, but this business school managed to deal with changing government priorities in an engaging way, producing programmes around Brexit and the industrial strategy,” the panel said.

Excellence and Innovation in the Arts

University of Central Lancashire


Uclan Publishing is the world’s only student-run, not-for-profit trade publishing house. Established eight years ago, alongside an MA in publishing, it has now produced about 150 titles, many of them retailing through Waterstones, WHSmith and Amazon.

Students are at the heart of this unique enterprise: they learn on the job by working in multidisciplinary teams alongside authors and external sponsors, democratically selecting what to publish and discussing all editorial, marketing, sales and rights decisions. By acquiring a full range of hands-on publishing skills and impressive physical products as evidence of them, they have proved highly attractive to potential employers.

This year, Uclan Publishing went up a gear in its efforts to compete with the biggest and best-funded players. A. J. Hartley’s thriller Cold Bath Street has powerfully demonstrated what this means in practice. It became a national best-seller and was adopted as a promotional title by Waterstones. An audiobook is being created in-house with the actor Christopher Eccleston, and Netflix is considering optioning it for a film. As well as organising a national book tour, students created a ghost tour on the River Ouse in York as an innovative form of publicity. The 200 tickets on offer sold out within 12 hours.

“Uclan Publishing is a resourceful and successful enterprise,” said the judges, “which successfully combines student engagement and training with an imaginative venture to disseminate writing by new and established authors.”

International Collaboration of the Year

University of Central Lancashire


The University of Central Lancashire’s efforts to help a university community after it was struck by a natural disaster won it the acclaim of our judges. Uclan transferred almost 700 students and staff from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine to its Preston campus when they were displaced by Hurricane Irma in early September 2017.

Uclan coordinated a rapid-response project team comprising more than 100 staff from its School of Medicine and administrative departments, which facilitated the relocation of 643 students and almost 30 staff from Dutch St Maarten and other disparate locations across the US and Canada to Preston.

Its goal was to enable AUC to resume teaching on the programme within a nine-day time frame, without having a detrimental impact on the Uclan student experience and its own medical students’ tuition.

Uclan said that the unexpected cohort of international students gave a welcome boost to the local economy, while a revenue share with AUC’s parent company ensured that the project not only covered its costs but returned a small surplus.

Since the project, the institutions have strengthened their partnership: Uclan will now teach cohorts of AUC medical students for their first two years of non-clinical training; the existing Uclan bachelor of medical sciences will become a feeder stream for AUC’s graduate entry programme; and the universities are establishing a joint medical degree programme for prospective students from across the world.

The judges said that they were “impressed by the speed and thoughtfulness of the response and the positive impact that it had had on public perceptions of Uclan and universities more generally”. They also recognised that the collaboration led to a lasting partnership between the two institutions.

International Impact Award

Canterbury Christ Church University, in collaboration with the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education


Working with the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education and seven Palestinian universities, Canterbury Christ Church University blended recognised international practice with local contextual knowledge to overhaul teacher education degree programmes and align them with Palestinian needs. The project also helped to upgrade the knowledge and skills of underqualified teachers.

As part of the initiative, a Palestinian Teacher Professional Development Index of competences – the first of its kind in the Middle East – was developed to guide reform of the entire teaching profession from the level of student trainee to the most expert teacher.

More than 4,500 teachers of basic education, who lacked any form of educational qualification, benefited from the programme in 2015‑16 and 2016‑17.

The ministry now plans to provide the training modules to qualified teachers to further upgrade their skills. In addition, the Academic Qualifications and Accreditation Commission has said that all universities offering initial teacher education degrees in Palestine must adopt the new index if they wish to gain accreditation.

The ministry and the World Bank have proposed a project to replicate the teacher education project at early childhood level, and Canterbury Christ Church has been invited to provide consultancy services for a similar reform project in Gambia.

The judges praised the fact that the programme has been “recognised by the World Bank for excellence and for its potential to be replicated in other regions where teacher training is an essential component of strengthening higher education systems”.

Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration

Recycling Lives, in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire


An organisation that uses a recycling business to support charitable work won this category after collaborating with a university on a project described as a “game changer” for car recycling.

Recycling Lives and the University of Central Lancashire worked together to find a way to reuse the estimated 1.2 million tonnes of residue left over every year after the company shreds about 100,000 cars and other vehicles that have reached the end of their lives.

They found that a heat treatment could turn the residue – much of which normally goes to landfill sites – into a saleable product and electrical energy. The team also came up with a way to identify metals in the residue, allowing them to be extracted to further boost recycling rates.

The project means that Recycling Lives – which uses its recycling activity to support social projects that it runs on prisoner rehabilitation and homelessness – can make potential annual savings of £1.5 million and generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

Uclan and Recycling Lives are now entering into a joint venture that will see their partnership building and owning a £540,000 research facility to commercialise the project.

As well as delivering environmental and social benefits, the project will allow Uclan students from a range of disciplines and courses to gain hands-on experience working with the firm. The partnership with the university also provides opportunities for the company’s employees to get higher education training in the workplace.

Most Innovative Teacher of the Year

Theo Gilbert, University of Hertfordshire


Worried that students were missing out on a vital part of the student experience by not participating in a diverse campus culture, Theo Gilbert created a framework that gets students from different backgrounds to mix – and also helps to reduce the attainment gap. For that, he has been named Most Innovative Teacher of the Year.

Drawing on his research into student psychologies, the teacher and researcher in academic communications at the University of Hertfordshire developed a way to embed compassion in the higher education curriculum.

He began his work on what he calls compassion-focused pedagogy after becoming concerned by the tendency of students to study and socialise in separate ethnic groups, meaning that they did not benefit from the cultural diversity on campus. Using his framework, students at Hertfordshire were taught positive group-work skills and then incentivised to use them as part of a trial.

Where implemented, not only at Hertfordshire but across the UK and internationally, Dr Gilbert’s framework was shown to shrink the black and minority ethnic student attainment gap and to provide measurable improvements in students’ engagement and critical thinking.

Dr Gilbert has created a website and produced articles, video content and practical materials to support staff who want to use the framework. He has also set up an international Compassion in Higher Education Network with colleagues from 16 universities and colleges in the US, Canada, Sweden, Greece and Spain.

The judges said that Dr Gilbert’s sustained commitment to advancing and positively influencing the student experience was “inspirational”.

“The additional commitment to actively disseminating his work globally, including the practical and research aspects, is wonderful and shows him to be a truly exceptional educator,” they said.

Outstanding Contribution to Leadership Development

University of Stirling


In 2016, the University of Stirling set itself the challenge of developing a “culture of confident and skilled leaders” who could enable and support their teams and also deliver the university’s ambitious strategic plan.

Having gained accreditation from the Institute of Leadership and Management, Stirling established three innovative ILM programmes to help university managers at all levels. Bespoke training was provided to team leaders, line managers and mid-level managers, particularly those who oversee a number of teams and other managers.

Training involved a “360-degree” feedback exercise to seek constructive comments from junior and senior staff alike as well as online blended learning programmes.

“This programme has encouraged me to distance myself from my work to look at it objectively and from a more strategic viewpoint,” explained one line manager, while a senior university manager said that their course “should be compulsory for anyone in a leadership role”.

“It helped to ground me as a leader and develop a shared leadership style that would empower those I work with,” another senior manager said.

Some 30 individuals took part in the first training cohort in 2016‑17, followed by 49 in 2017-18, and 100 per cent of participants polled rated the course as very good or excellent and said that they would recommend it to others.

Our judges said that Stirling had achieved “strong levels of participation in a short time period” and that its external evaluation process showed a “strategic commitment to ensuring sustainable development was maintained and continued into the future”.

Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community

Middlesex University and the University of Greenwich, in collaboration with The Refinery


Launching a national festival to widen participation and increase diversity in science and arts disciplines, targeting primarily ethnic minorities, disadvantaged communities and girls, earned Middlesex University and the University of Greenwich this award.

After a successful pilot working with young people in Deptford, south-east London, SMASHfestUK was rolled out as a national festival and outreach programme in 2016-17 by the universities, together with TV production company The Refinery.

The project sought in particular to work with young people from ethnic minority communities and those with multiple poverty indicators, as well as young women – groups often underserved by local provision in arts and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. By designing inclusivity into the festival, project leaders built an audience that was more than 70 per cent black or mixed heritage among the under-16s taking part, as well as 62 per cent female.

SMASHfestUK works through immersive experiences, entertainment, comedy, music, interactive workshops, performances, games and experiments, all joined by the common thread of a disaster narrative. Since its inception, more than 60,000 people across the UK have taken part in the festival.

The judges described SMASHfestUK as “an inspiring example of collaboration between educational organisations and communities that began as a pilot in one deprived community but has become a national programme in just two years. Immersive experiences have been used to encourage young people to engage with practical solutions to disaster scenarios, a truly innovative way of stimulating interest in STEM and arts subjects, as well as ecological issues, while also reaching out to the wider community.”

Outstanding Entrepreneurial University

King's College London


The 2016-17 academic year was one of major expansion and significant impact for the Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s College London. Its team grew from three to eight people, and it built a thriving entrepreneurial community of 10,000 students, staff, alumni and supporters.

Central to its success was the King’s20 accelerator initiative, which over 12 months helped 20 teams to get 380 hours of mentoring from experts in residence. These teams generated £430,000 of investment in that period and earned £227,000 in revenue. They have created 20 jobs, and six King’s20 entrepreneurs have won national awards. All the participants said that the initiative had boosted their prospects.

The institute also delivered an engagement programme that brought high-profile entrepreneurs, including former Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll and chef Heston Blumenthal, to campus, produced a magazine, supported student societies, and ran welcome fairs and ambassadorial programmes.

Its learning programme delivered skills workshops to 180 people, ran an idea generation competition that climaxed in an awards ceremony at the House of Lords, and created an online entrepreneurship learning space.

One eye-catching innovation was the UK’s first “venture crawl” – a 12-hour “entrepreneurial” journey across London in a Routemaster bus – whose format has now been replicated by eight other universities.

Our judges praised the institute’s “broad” and “inspirational” activities. “King’s College London demonstrates the powerful impact that can be created by fostering an entrepreneurial mindset alongside a research focus,” the panel said.

Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year

Helen Gleeson, University of Leeds


This award recognises Helen Gleeson for her outstanding supervision and support of PhD students past and present.

Currently head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, Professor Gleeson previously worked at the University of Manchester, where she was the physics department’s first female lecturer.

Testimonials for Professor Gleeson’s nomination highlighted her involvement in improving the level of support at Leeds for students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

She spearheaded the creation of her department’s postgraduate tutors groups for international students and for women, which give students access to a support network of academics who have faced similar situations and experiences.

Since 1990, Professor Gleeson has supervised 31 PhD students, several of whom have gone on to work for world-leading technology companies or have become highly regarded academics leading their own research groups.

Claire Honess, dean of Leeds Doctoral College, commended Professor Gleeson’s “selfless” approach to ensuring that students’ work is funded and supported, noting that her “sensitivity to the needs of postgraduate researchers…has inspired her to develop new PhD formats”, including a four-year course aimed at making sciences more accessible to international researchers.

The judges said that Professor Gleeson’s students “appreciated her mentoring approach, challenging and encouraging them to do things they could never have imagined while being constantly supportive before, during and after their PhD”.

Outstanding Support for Students

University of Kent


The University of Kent’s Opera (Opportunity, Productivity, Engagement, Reducing barriers, Achievement) scheme took a novel approach and rethought how best to help students with a disability.

Instead of the traditional method of asking students to declare a disability and then providing bespoke assistance, Kent adopted a proactive approach that anticipated student requirements.

“The Opera project has achieved one of the most difficult things of all – making the support we have invisible, which means that students do not have to ask for help because we have anticipated the most common requirements and put them in place for everyone,” explained one staff member.

In association with Jisc, Kent’s student services team launched the project in 2016. It identified 2,600 different adjustments and made them to benefit all students – not just those with a disability. The changes included reviewing the accessibility of all campus entrance areas, assessing how technology and digital resources are provided to students and updating the library’s accessibility service catalogue.

“I’ve spent years dealing with dull, badly contrasted photocopies which I cannot remedy in any way to read them effectively,” explained one visually impaired politics student. The Opera project, however, resulted in “huge improvement in the delivery of accessible resources”. “It is simply a lifesaver,” they added.

Our judges described Kent’s initiative as an “exemplary project that demonstrated a student-focused approach to opening up the university to all students”. The Opera scheme showed a “strong focus on creating an accessible environment for all students based on understanding the needs of those declaring a disability”, they added.

Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

University of Leicester


All over the world, sexual violence against girls and women is one of the most devastating consequences of gender inequality. Yet in many countries, a combination of cultural factors and inadequate training for police officers and medical staff means that investigations and prosecutions are very rare.

Equally important are issues of evidence. While DNA can be collected through medical examination in developed countries, this is often far more difficult in remote or impoverished regions. To address this, the University of Leicester pioneered a kit that enables victims of sexual violence to self-examine for DNA evidence. It involves using a swab rather like a tampon, which has been optimised for the purpose of collection. A prototype successfully recovered male DNA 12 to 36 hours after unprotected sex, demonstrating that such swabs could make an effective alternative to medical examinations in low-resource environments.

A follow-up Humanitarian Innovation Fund Award enabled the team at Leicester to explore the many barriers to forensic science in poor countries, and the relationship between evidence, prosecutions and justice from the perspective of victims of sexual violence. It is hoped that their research can provide tools for introducing DNA evidence into sexual violence investigations and prosecutions in regions where this has not previously been possible.

The judges were “excited by the potential of this project to tackle a major issue and secure justice for victims of crime”. They admired both the technical innovation and the way that the researchers had considered the socio-economic and legal frameworks in which the kits would be used.

Research Project of the Year: STEM

University of Hertfordshire


This award recognises efforts to protect civilians from the effects of chemical weapons incidents, a topic given even greater significance by the nerve agent attack in Salisbury this year.

Amid raised terror threat levels in the UK and the US, the University of Hertfordshire’s toxicology research group was asked by the US Department of Health and Human Services to investigate decontamination processes and to develop policy guidance for emergency response teams in the event of chemical attack.

The resulting project was undertaken by a team of 16 full-time research staff led by the head of toxicology, Robert Chilcott. Hertfordshire invested in large-scale testing facilities to allow researchers to simulate human exposure to hazardous substances and to evaluate mass casualty decontamination outcomes.

The team developed a response to chemical exposure that, unlike some traditional approaches, does not allow potential absorption of toxic materials through the skin. The process was found to be 99.9 per cent effective in removing chemical contamination.

The findings contributed to guidance on how UK emergency services should respond to such incidents, which, the judges noted, would have been followed for the Salisbury attack in March.

The project, which also highlighted a need for guidelines for treating disabled people affected by chemical incidents, has been praised by NHS leaders and US Department of Health and UK Home Office officials.

A Home Office official said that the work by Professor Chilcott and his team was “fundamental, not only in the area of mass decontamination but also in the ability of local emergency teams to effectively respond to individual chemical assaults using corrosive materials”.

Technological Innovation of the Year

Harper Adams University


With its Hands Free Hectare project, Harper Adams University has shown that it is possible to grow a barley crop without a single person being physically present in the field. It impressed the judges as a successful example of sustainability-enhancing “robotic agriculture” and a model of thriving university-business collaboration.

Supported by Innovate UK, researchers worked with Yorkshire business Precision Decisions to create an agricultural system that employed autonomous vehicles and drones along with a wind-based micro-energy installation to run on-site computing equipment.

The aim of Hands Free Hectare was to put robotic agriculture, long discussed, into practice.

The world-first project attracted interest from around the globe, including coverage in Nature and on BBC One’s The One Show . UK government officials took notice, and project leaders reported on the system at conferences as far afield as India. The project proposal was presented as part of researchers’ evidence to a House of Lords committee that autonomous vehicles could help to make crop production systems more efficient and sustainable.

The barley crop was harvested in late summer 2017 – and the grain has been made into an exclusive gin, with a beer to follow.

The judges said that Hands Free Hectare represented a “step change in agricultural practice that demonstrated how technology could be used to benefit humankind. It united established technical concepts for a successful pilot of robotic agriculture. The panel was impressed by the application and by its potential global impact.”

THE DataPoints Merit Award

University of Dundee


Worldwide reputation has become vitally important for universities, especially if they want to climb to the upper reaches of global rankings and to be the first choice for researchers seeking new networks of collaboration.

However, it can also be a difficult area to improve on, especially as reputation naturally favours the old guard of established universities whose names constantly trip off the tongue of anyone asked which institutions are the best in the world.

Therefore, every so often Times Higher Education dips into the data collected as part of the World University Rankings on both reputation and research quality to pinpoint those universities that are perhaps “unsung heroes” in the research landscape.

In the UK, an analysis of universities that had the highest scores for the citation impact of their scholarship compared with their reputation produced a diverse shortlist of mainly smaller research-intensive universities.

Topping the list was the University of Dundee, an institution that consistently produces world-leading research in a variety of fields but particularly in the life sciences, where it is among the top 100 in the world, according to THE ’s subject ranking.

The overall field-weighted citation impact of Dundee’s research is twice the world average, making it higher than many of the larger research-intensive universities, while it was the top university in the UK in the 2014 research excellence framework for biological sciences.

Dundee was among institutions featured in a THE article last year on “small superstars with a bright future”, and this latest award confirms that the institution is a success story that does not always get the recognition it deserves.

The Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award

Baroness Mary Warnock


“Anyone who despairs of the manner in which contemporary political and moral debate is contaminated by prejudice, emotion and ‘fake news’ can find immediate rational consolation in the life and work of Mary Warnock. No one of our generation has better claim to the title ‘public intellectual’.”

This citation is from Laurie Taylor, the sociologist and broadcaster who knows a thing or two about connecting academic ideas with the public.

But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Baroness Warnock is that “public intellectual” is just one of the many titles to which she can lay claim.

A hugely respected moral philosopher, she is also a committed teacher, a trusted adviser and policymaker in some of the most contentious areas possible, and an academic leader. As one newspaper profile put it: “She has run a Cambridge college and an elite Oxford secondary school; brought up five children; sat on many of the most important committees in the country; and given her name to the most influential report on the ethics of embryos and fertilisation in the world.”

This breadth of endeavour, and the energy and industry that has allowed her to range so widely and successfully, combines with her powerful intellect and almost unparalleled impact on public policy to make her one of a kind.

It is our great honour to award her the 2018 Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award.

University of the Year

University of Essex


“This is a university that is putting people first. The gender pay gap exists everywhere, but this university said what no one else dared to say: ‘There is an easy way to get rid of the pay gap – spend the money necessary to get rid of it. And do it now.’”

This observation from one of the Times Higher Education Awards judges touches on one of numerous bold initiatives taken by the University of Essex in 2016‑17 as it reconnected with its founding vision and values.

How has it done this? In Essex’s own words, “by putting students and staff success at the centre of what we do, with tremendous effect”. It has been unabashed in its strategy to recruit students on the basis of potential rather than just prior achievement, and it has helped them to fulfil that potential.

It has delivered on its pledge to value staff in concrete ways, including a systematic decasualisation of its workforce, through pay equality and with staff contracts for graduate teaching assistants.

Essex’s strategy has drawn inspiration from its history of being on the side of the “radical”, of not falling victim to groupthink; its focus on teaching and learning is transforming the lives of a growing student body of whom more than a third are from families with an annual income of less than £25,000.

What are universities if not communities of talented, committed people? By putting those people – both staff and students – first, the University of Essex has every right to its claim to be a “home for staff and students who want to make the world a better place”. It is also our University of the Year.

Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year

University of East London


The University of East London’s New Beginnings initiative aims to tackle one of the key challenges facing English higher education: the collapse in enrolment among mature students.

It is a short course that recruits mature learners without formal qualifications from a range of cultural, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds, aiming to build confidence in their ability to study and help them to develop independent and proactive study skills, with a view to enrolling on a UEL degree programme.

The course was relaunched in 2016 with a dedicated teaching and administration team, resulting in a significant increase in recruitment, retention and attainment of students.

In total, 302 applicants were accepted for the 2016-17 academic year, and two-thirds passed, becoming eligible to access UEL undergraduate courses in 2017-18.

Internal evaluation suggests that students who complete New Beginnings go on to enjoy further academic success: 72 per cent achieved a first-class or 2:1 degree.

Students who do not immediately enter a degree course are advised on their options for further learning, and many subsequently meet UEL’s entry requirements.

The judges said that New Beginnings stood out “because of its demonstrable track record of success”.

“It addresses many of the barriers to access experienced by mature students and has been sustained over many years. Although programmes of this nature exist in many institutions, what sets New Beginnings apart is the evidence of impact on enrolment in university courses and subsequent success,” the panel said.