The response to the 2014 awards was overwhelming with more than 150 leaders in the provision of postgraduate education gathering in November at the Midland Hotel in Manchester to hear the winners – the same location that the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls met Sir Henry Royce for the very first time a mere 110 years ago.
The world of postgraduate education is huge: this year, well over half a million students are on postgraduate courses of one form or another, of whom 40% are from overseas, with fees income from these students nearly £2bn. Their additional spending has a dramatic impact on the UK economy, and the return on investment for the wider economy as they move into the workplace, roll out their research into the commercial world and feedback into HE itself is the envy of the world.
It is also a time when, with the advent of significant undergraduate debt beginning to affect the decision-making of potential UK postgraduates, higher education institutions have to market the benefits of postgraduate education more acutely, and then teach courses more diligently, imaginatively, and with a clearer message about future employability. Liaison with businesses is increasingly central to many courses, especially now the jobs market is on an upswing.
It is this work that the Prospects Postgraduate Awards seek to recognise and reward – all of the universities, careers services, businesses and agencies that have had an impact on postgraduate education.
Sponsored by University Business and run by Prospects – which has been at the heart of the postgraduate world since the Harris Review in 1996 and the official compiler of the national postgraduate course database on prospects.ac.uk – the Prospects Postgraduate Awards is the only annual event solely dedicated to celebrating best practice and the most exciting campaigns and developments in UK postgraduate education.
The award winners 2014 were unveiled at a glittering awards ceremony with a gala lunch and networking opportunities, and the much anticipated awards presentation kicked off with a few words on the importance of postgraduate education by Prospects’ chief executive, Mike Hill.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mike said: “There is an obvious and pressing demand for higher level skills in virtually every industry you can think of, in virtually every country in the world. The future success of UK plc and its indigenous and multi-national companies requires a more highly educated workforce. And our national competitors – who are also our collaborators – also require a highly educated workforce, and it is preferable that we educate them here rather than they go to the USA or Australia or wherever, so that we get a current benefit from fees and a future benefit from the friendships we make. Our future prosperity requires more people taking PG qualifications and moving on to PHDs, either straight after an undergraduate degree or after a period of work.”
Mike went on to emphasise the commitment of the people behind postgraduate education: “Happily, the highly educated staff at our universities have shown immense imagination, patience, diligence and hard work to market and tailor courses and recruit students, in partnership with industry and with overseas institutions. Against the odds, our postgraduate sub-sector within the higher education sector is buoyant and profitable. As you all know, Prospects does its bit to help students, postgraduates, HEIs and their staff. My view is that the key benefit – amongst many – our website offers is linking postgraduate options with careers information, advice and guidance. We understand the student journey.
“But you all are the real heroes here. So, no matter who wins awards today or is highly commended, you are all to be congratulated.”
The judging panel included representatives from the NUS, Association of Graduate Recruiters, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, AGCAS, Spencer du Bois, Newcastle University Careers Service, Higher Education Academy, UK Council for Graduate Education, Sigma and Propeller Training. They met in October to decide upon a winner in each of the award categories and a highly commended. With more than 40 finalists, this was no easy task as the standard of entries was incredibly high.
Mike announced the winners of the awards. First up were those for Best Teaching Team. The Arts and Humanities accolade went to the MA Fine Art Team at the Open College of the Arts. The Business and Social Sciences winner was the MA Voluntary and Third Sector Leadership and Management Teaching Team at the Business School at Edgehill University, and the Science, Technology and Engineering award went to the MSc Medical Genetics Team at the University of Glasgow.
Student Amelia Wilson nominated the MA Fine Art Team. She commented: “Despite it being distance learning and online, I feel fully included in our cohort, just as I would with any ‘in situ’ cohort. The distance no longer feels an issue and the tutors have worked incredibly hard to make it work this way.”
The REACH Centre won the Best Business Partner Award for its work with Lancaster University and was congratulated by the judges for, “providing an inspiring and accessible model which other businesses could replicate”.
Among the Best Campaign Award winners were Media Minds on behalf of the University of Roehampton for their international work. The company also won Best Agency. Best Faculty Campaign went to Postgraduate (PGT) Sport at the University of Bedfordshire, and SMRS and Birkbeck, University of London, took home the Best University Campaign accolade.
A new award was introduced this year for ‘Best Careers and Employability Team’ to reward the careers services who facilitate work-related learning opportunities for postgraduates. Careers Network and Careers in Business at the University of Birmingham won first prize. They were commended by the judges for providing “support at each stage of the postgraduate journey from Undergraduate to Postgraduate, on-course and into employment”.
Websites and Prospectus’ were also recognised with Norwich University of the Arts and The University of Nottingham crowned the winners, respectively.
Highly commended awards were also presented as part of the ceremony. They went to the Postgraduate Diploma Landscape Architecture Team at Birmingham City University, the Executive Master of Public Administration Teaching Team at London South Bank University, the MSc/MRes Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation Team at Nottingham Trent University, GSK working with the University of Strathclyde, SMRS, Buckinghamshire New University, Brunel Law School at Brunel University London, UEA Careers Service at CareerCentral, University of Brighton and London Metropolitan University.
Each year the number and calibre of entries for the awards grows, reflecting the passion and commitment to this area of higher education, not just from the students and institutions themselves but from the wider business community too. This is why the awards will continue to build momentum and why we look forward to next year.
For more information about the awards visit www.postgraduateawards.co.uk