In what has been possibly the hardest year for the higher education sector, it’s great to be able to celebrate some good news. Thursday 26th November saw the 16th Annual Times Higher Education (THE) Awards often referred to as the ‘Oscars for Higher Education’. The awards recognize “exceptional teaching, research, student support, entrepreneurship, collaborations, and outreach”.

Unsurprisingly 2020’s ceremony looked a little different, with the Awards being held virtually. Nominees, guests, and judges gathered online to mark the outstanding efforts of universities over the past year, including many World 100 members.

11 of our 42 members were shortlisted across a number of the categories, including The University of Manchester and Queen’s University Belfast who were shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community, and the University of Edinburgh who was shortlisted for International Collaboration of the Year (in collaboration with the Karolinska Institute and the universities of New South Wales, Western Australia, and Uppsala).

These shortlist nominations were capitalised on, with five of our members winning their categories. The University of Manchester won Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community; the University of Exeter picked up the award for Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year; Outstanding Library Team went to The University of Edinburgh, and Outstanding Estates Strategy went to the University of Birmingham.

However, it was World 100 Member University of Glasgow who stole the show, picking up the big award of University of the Year. According to the THE:

‘Glasgow’s winning entry focused on its decisive response to a report exploring the institution’s historical links with the slave trade, which included a pledge to spend £20 million in reparations, establishing a Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of the West Indies, scholarships for ethnic minority students, and a far-reaching programme of research collaboration focused on the Global South.

The university’s actions led the way for the UK sector – it is now advising many others – but also fundamentally repositioned the institution, putting issues such as decolonising the curriculum at the heart of its next strategic plan, and setting a high bar for future action demanded on challenges such as climate change.

The judges hailed Glasgow as a “hugely deserving” winner. “At a time when universities are too often on the back foot in public debates about value and relevance, Glasgow stood out as a shining example of what a university should be: institutions of courage and action, uniquely placed to tackle the biggest issues facing the world,” they said.’

University of Glasgow Slavery Reparations
Source: University of Glasgow

As well as the change of setting, 2020’s awards also showcased a couple of other new features, namely a new award, Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and a change in the way the Outstanding Achievement Award was given.  This year the Outstanding Achievement Award didn’t go to just one institution but to admissions teams across UK higher education collectively, recognizing their outstanding achievements during the exam results crisis, and showcasing that Coronavirus has impacted the industry in ways many wouldn’t have considered at the outset.

THE’s editor, John Gill, commented:

“the brilliance on display in every category, from institutions the length and breadth of the country, is a reminder of the role that universities must, and will, play in guiding the way through [the coronavirus] crisis”.

And from all of us here at The World 100, we’d like to wish all of the winners our warmest congratulations for their achievements, but also congratulations to the wider higher education sector on surviving 2020 so far.