Excellence in testing times

This week marks the launch of The Herald Higher Education Awards, the most influential awards of their kind in Scotland. Now in their seventh year, their aim is to reward outstanding performance and innovative leadership within the country’s thriving higher education sector.

Scotland is home to some of the finest educational establishments in the UK and there is a constant drive amongst these to improve upon their performance and to push their way even higher up the league tables both within the UK and on the global stage.

Leading the way is the University of Glasgow, which at last year’s The Higher Education Awards was named Higher Educational Institute of the Year.

It won that title against the backdrop of disruption and uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Donald Martin, editor of The Herald and Herald on Sunday, who chaired last year’s judging panel, was impressed by the way in which the University of Glasgow and the other institutes and individuals honoured in the awards had overcome adversity and continued to deliver exceptional results. Reflecting on their efforts, he said: “The pandemic and lockdown restrictions had conspired to create an incredibly difficult year for everyone involved in education, but they also provided opportunities for innovation, creativity, and inspiration.’

With the pandemic still causing disruption to education, the challenge for this year’s contenders will be to demonstrate the same pioneering approach to delivering learning within the new constraints and to putting the welfare of staff and students at the heart of everything they do.

This year there are 16 awards in total, in categories ranging from Outstanding Business Engagement and Widening Access, to Supporting Student Wellbeing.

Some of the awards are aimed at the student cohort, others at staff, while others still reflect the management and direction of Scotland’s higher educational establishments and amongst the sponsors there is determination to acknowledge the contribution that the sector’s highest achievers are having on education and attainment.

Roy Gardner, Vice Principal for Corporate Development & Innovation at City of Glasgow College, which is sponsoring the Lifetime Achievement Award, said: “As Scotland’s flagship college, we are delighted to continue our support of the Herald Higher Education Awards and the Lifetime Achievement category. This award recognises those innovative individuals who, year on year, make a significant commitment to, and impact on, our sector. Given the challenges we have all experienced these last two years, this event rightly celebrates the work and dedication of Scotland’s colleges and universities.”

Caroline Turnbull, Acting Director for Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland, QAA, which is sponsoring the Enhancing Student Learning Award, said: “While these remain challenging times for Higher Education providers, as the work we do is shaped and disrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic, throughout this year we continue to see very strong examples of innovation across the sector to support and enhance student learning and teaching. These awards are an excellent opportunity to recognise and celebrate the hard work going on across Scotland to ensure our students have an excellent experience.”

Jisc is a leading consultancy providing digital solutions to education and research and it is the sponsor of this year’s Innovative Use of Technology Award. Jason Miles-Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland, says: “As COVID-19 circumstances move on, Scottish higher education is working to consolidate the lessons of lockdown and embed digital practice to enhance the teaching, learning and research experience. In our seventh year of sponsorship, we look forward to recognising the best of the best in the Innovative Use of Technology category.”

Meanwhile the Research Project of the Year category is sponsored by the Scottish Funding Council  whose chief executive, Karen Watt, said: “The Herald Higher Education Awards shine a spotlight on the amazing achievements of colleges and universities in Scotland. Despite the further challenges of the pandemic, the whole tertiary education sector has continued to deliver excellent learning and teaching, and I look forward to seeing these reflected in the entries to this year’s awards.”

The Herald Higher Education Awards will take place on Tuesday, May 31. The closing date for entries is Thursday, March 31. For full details visit https://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/heawards/ or email linsey.hunter@newsquest.co.uk