Aberystwyth shortlisted for four Times Higher Education awards

Members of the IBERS team who won the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award at the 2013 Times Higher Education Awards.

Members of the IBERS team who won the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award at the 2013 Times Higher Education Awards.

18 June 2015

Aberystwyth University has been shortlisted in four categories in the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs).

The award winners will be announced this evening, Thursday 18 June, at the gala award ceremony at Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Now in their seventh year, the THELMAs are open to all UK higher education institutions and celebrate the best examples of innovation, teamwork and enterprise within Universities.

Aberystwyth is recognised in four categories: Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year, Outstanding Estates Team, Outstanding Human Resources Team and Outstanding Library Team.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Professor April McMahon, Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor said: “I am truly delighted that the efforts of colleagues in working with our local community, our students, and our staff have been recognised by the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards.

“The THELMAs are hotly contested awards that recognise excellence in our sector. I am particularly pleased that the University has been shortlisted in four categories that reflect the priorities we have been taking forward, namely recognition and reward for our colleagues, much-needed work on our estate, outreach and impact from our excellent research, and excellent bilingual services for students and staff.”

Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative

The University’s space mission project in collaboration with Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth is recognised in the Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative category.

Led by Dr Mark Neal, co-ordinator of the Intelligent Robotics Research Group at the University’s Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science, who is also a parent at the school; the project worked with school children at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth to launch a rocket into space on 12 June 2014.

The launch of the rocket was the culmination of a project where pupils had been studying space, weather, and other similar launches, and had been working with animator Tim Allen to make animated short films of intrepid space travellers climbing into the capsule and taking with them messages for Planet Earth.

In preparation for the mission, the pupils built a rocket to house the space capsule, and made little plasticine figures that braved the arduous journey into space.

Breath-taking images were taken by an on-board GoPro camera, housed within a polystyrene capsule, which was tethered to the weather balloon. Images include views of mid Wales, the Llyn Peninsula, the south west of England and a stunning image of the moment when the weather balloon burst and the parachute deployed.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Mr Clive Williams, Strategic Headteacher of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberstwyth said: “The school has benefited greatly from being part of this ground breaking initiative and the practical experiences have been the basis for a wealth of new learning experiences that broaden pupils’ horizons. Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth wishes to thank the University for the constructive partnership and for leadership in developing the work.”

Outstanding Estates Team

The Outstanding Estates Team shortlisting recognises the work of teams from across the University in delivering the Teaching and Learning Spaces Refurbishment.

Involving students, staff, and members of the University’s Council, the project recognised the need for major changes in teaching space provision, and worked to design a brief via a collaborative approach based on feedback and review of previous refurbishment schemes.

The three phase re-development of teaching rooms commenced in 2013, with initial total investment of £8.5M, and initially focused on refurbishing the University’s Llanbadarn Campus.

The second phase saw the redevelopment of the University’s largest lecture theatre, a computer teaching lab, 12 teaching rooms, creation of a social learning space, and the establishment of the Aberystwyth Academy.

The Academy was developed in conjunction with the HEFCW-funded regional CADARN Learning Portal project. Consisting of a media lab, film studio, and teaching space, the new centre facilitates the creation of multimedia learning resources using audio, video and animation to enrich the student learning experience.

The project’s third and final phase is due to end in August 2015 and will complete the refurbishment of all centrally bookable teaching spaces on the main Penglais campus.

Outstanding Human Resources Team

The work undertaken by the University to implement its University workforce planning is recognised in the Outstanding Human Resources Team category.

Recognising the need to change and adapt to meet the requirements of the changing nature of the business, the University has worked to drive innovative strategies to recognise and reward staff performance, address under-representation of women in senior academic and managerial roles, and introduced initiatives to support staff wellbeing.

The ‘matching and slotting’ process, which was developed to reduce the necessity of placing staff at risk of redundancy, was also recognised by being shortlisted for the CIPD Employee Relations initiative of the Year.

Reward and recognition initiatives included the introduction of a professorial pay band, progression through which is dependent on performance.  2014 brought the first evidence that the academic promotions process which changed significantly in 2012 to recognise leadership and teaching excellence in addition to research, had led to the cultural shift anticipated, with an increase in the number of women applying for and achieving promotion.

The University was awarded the pilot Gender Equality Mark (GEM) award in 2014 and was commended for the mentoring process used in the academic promotions process. The University also achieved the bronze Athena SWAN Award in 2014.

Health and Well-being initiatives led to the award of the Bronze Corporate Health Standard.  This followed the earlier implementation of the Employee Assistance Programme – having worked with the Welsh Government/ public sector bodies in Wales to introduce a scheme, an initiative that led to a CIPD award in the ‘Managing HR Across Boundaries ‘in 2012.

Outstanding Library Team

Aberystwyth University has also been shortlisted for its work on a new shared library management system, in a joint submission led by Cardiff University.

This recognises the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum project to procure and implement a cloud hosted next generation bilingual library management system, and involved all higher education institutions in Wales, along with the National Library of Wales and the NHS libraries in Wales.

The project will deliver financial benefits to all participating institutions through the cost savings of shared procurement and non-financial benefits through an improved user experience, collaboration and sharing of experience and resources.