I recently attended the Times Higher Education Awards 2013. It was a good night and I’m delighted to say that the Making the Most of Masters project won the award for Outstanding Employer Engagement!
Not only was there success for the team, but this was a first THE award for the University of Edinburgh. The event itself was the nearest I’ve ever come to celebrity status. Sandi Toksvig, who hosted the evening, stood next to me, and it was probably the closest I will come to King Richard III with the University of Leicester winning the research project of the year. The pomp and ceremony of the event was also evident with academics dressed for the red carpet, endorsements from on high, and round tables of waiting faces, nerves and excitement. But underlying this event was more than the surface presentation; it was clear that each nominated team had devoted their time, work and belief to creating novel projects which bought together students, employers and universities in exciting and creative ways.
So what did we do in our project that made it so special? MMM is a collaborative venture between Stirling, Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. It’s funded by the Scottish Funding Council and aims to enhance employer engagement with academia by giving masters students the opportunity to undertake work-based learning. While the remit for the project was the same for each university, the ways in which it was interpreted and implemented for each partner were very different. On the night of the awards these features were noted as a strength of the project, and contributed to us winning our category. In particular, the judges commented on the way in which the partner teams had adapted to their specific environments whilst collaborating to share best practices. We had worked hard as a team to develop to achieve this and it was lovely to have this valued by the award.
Of course, the glittering prize we won was only one of a wider range of THE awards. One of the most inspiring things about going to London for the ceremony was the chance to meet the diverse nominees within the other categories. The other winners made for an inspiring set but two stood out for me. One was the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, who won their category of widening participation/outreach initiative of the year for a project with vulnerable female prisoners. And the other was Stirling, one of MMM’s partner institutions, who won the category of most improved student experience. And while they didn’t win, it was great to be there alongside our other IAD colleagues whose project Ingenious Women was a nominee in the Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers category. For me attending and being exposed to this wealth of academic endeavour reinforced the diversity and uniqueness of the educational experience throughout HEIs. And at its core it was clear that we all moved with one purpose which was to put the students’ needs at the heart of everything we do.