With less than two weeks to go until the winners of this year’s The Herald Higher Education Awards are announced in front of a packed audience in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, the finalists have been announced.

They include amongst them examples of the innovative thinking and  strategic leadership that is helping to keep Scotland at the top of the leaderboard for educational excellence.

The last 12 months have been some of the most difficult for the sector as it has continued to face the challenges caused by the pandemic while also planning ahead to create a new model of learning, where the best of the old system is combined with the  developments that have grown out of recent constraints.

From what has been revealed through this year’s shortlist is that there is no shortage of creativity and drive within higher education and that the pandemic has accelerated the use of data and enhanced the provision of student and staff welfare.

There are 16 categories in this year’s awards, including ‘Outstanding Business Engagement’ and ‘Innovative Use of Technology’ and the University of the West of Scotland has gained nominations in 9 of them, including the ‘Enhancing Student Learning’ and the ‘Widening Access’ awards.

Dr Lucy Meredith, Interim Principal & Vice-Chancellor of UWS, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that UWS has been shortlisted for so many prestigious Herald Higher Education Awards. Our impressive shortlisting is testament to the incredible work underway across our University in so many important areas, from research, enterprise and student support, to widening access and communications and marketing.

“As Scotland’s leading University for widening participation, we were particularly pleased to see our nomination in the widening access category. Other fantastic initiatives being highlighted include the innovative work of our Student Success team, and our communications campaign highlighting our community response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a record-breaking number of award nominations for UWS.”

Almost matching that performance is the University of Strathclyde, which has received seven nominations, including ‘Research Project of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community.’

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: “To be shortlisted across so many Higher Education Awards categories is recognition of the extraordinary work happening across the University.

“As a socially progressive institution we are committed to making a positive difference to the world around us, and these nominations demonstrate the breadth and depth of that commitment.

“It’s especially rewarding to see the work of esteemed former colleague Dr Veena O’Halloran being recognised with a nomination for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Scotland’s Higher and Further Education sector is thriving and I am proud that we are part of The Herald’s recognition of that.”

Also finding itself in the running for multiple awards is New College Lanarkshire and its Principal and Chief Executive, Professor Christopher Moore, said: “I am thrilled and proud that four entries from New College Lanarkshire have been chosen as finalists in these prestigious awards. Each of these initiatives is a shining example of the excellence that NCL is striving to achieve. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those involved, especially the partners who work so closely with us on three of our shortlisted projects and who have helped make them such a success. We look forward to meeting our fellow finalists at the ceremony and to learning more about the best practice that’s going on across the Higher Education sector.”

And Liz Connolly, Principal and Chief Executive, West College Scotland, which is a finalist in both the ‘Outstanding Business Engagement in Colleges’ and ‘Equality, Diversity & Inclusion’ awards, said:  “West College Scotland is delighted to have again been recognised by the Herald Higher Education Awards panel for the exceptional work we do in providing the highest quality learning and skills provision to the communities we serve and businesses we work with. Our ongoing and valued partnership with James Frew Ltd is a fantastic example of how cross-sector collaboration can bring benefits to all, while our Your Employability Skills YES programme continues to deliver life-changing, positive outcomes for individuals who had previously been facing significant barriers to accessing education or employment.”

The Herald Higher Education Awards are sponsored by City of Glasgow College, QAA, Jisc, Scottish Funding Council and Studiosity.