Double win for Strathclyde in UK higher education awards

The University of Strathclyde has scored a double success in the UK-wide Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs).

Strathclyde scooped the Workplace of the Year and Outstanding Strategic Planning Team trophies in the awards, made in recognition of outstanding work across the University.

The wins, announced at a ceremony in London, follow a series of previous UK-wide awards, including Business School of the Year in 2016, Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year in 2014, Entrepreneurial University of the Year in 2013, UK University of the Year in 2012 and Research Project of the Year in 2011.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “These awards are a fantastic success for our University and are a testament to the hard work of colleagues in every area of the institution.

“Strathclyde’s values are central to everything we do; we are a socially-progressive university which is people-oriented, bold, innovative, collaborative and ambitious. Our values are reflected in the initiatives which have been recognised by our peers and have earned us these awards.

“We are also committed to widening access to higher education, and we believe economic or social circumstances should never be a barrier to success at university. Our Strategic Planning Team’s diligent and meticulous approach has helped us to make significant progress in achieving this goal.

“We are continuing to make Strathclyde an even better workplace, for staff and students alike. For example, our investment of £650 million in our campus over the current decade will ensure the entire University community benefits from leading-edge facilities.”

Times Higher Education editor John Gill said: “Once again we've seen examples of exceptional performance in the most important areas of university leadership, management and administration. At a time of ever greater competition in higher education, our hope is that by shining a light on these winners, institutions will learn from one another to improve the quality of what they do across the board.

“Anyone working in a UK university will know how dedicated and resourceful their colleagues are, but it’s our great honour to be able to showcase these examples from across the country.”

Workplace of the Year

In the Workplace of the Year category, Strathclyde was praised by the awards judges for demonstrating a strong commitment to supporting staff at all levels.

From its introduction of the “living wage” in 2015, to removing zero-hours contracts, to bespoke development programmes for academic, technical, administrative and leadership staff, Strathclyde’s “progressive strategy” showed how highly its 3,500 staff were valued and supported, according to the panel.

Examples of excellent practice included the Chancellor’s Fellowship scheme, which recruited 25 fellows in 2015-16 and 20 in early 2017, matching each of them with an academic mentor, and the professional services graduate training scheme, offering graduate trainees a series of four-month placements in different faculty and professional service areas.

Sustained action on improving gender equality, such as the introduction of family-friendly research leave and family-friendly mentoring, were also commended, as was the creation of a long-service award for those clocking up 25 and 40 years’ work at the institution.

Reduced staff turnover and lower sickness absence were just a couple of the benefits accrued to the University from its efforts, with results of staff surveys improving dramatically between 2013 and 2016.

Strathclyde was lauded by the judges for its “impressive employee engagement across the board”, noting that 97% of operational staff respondents considered the university to be a people-oriented employer, up from 89% in 2013.

“This is a university with a clear vision, whose values are in evidence across all levels of the institution,” said the judges.

Outstanding Strategic Planning Team

In the Outstanding Strategic Planning Team category, Strathclyde’s winning entry was centred on a new bespoke system to track student applications that was designed to help increase the number of enrolled students from areas of low participation in higher education.

One year after rolling out the system, figures from the Scottish Funding Council showed that Strathclyde was Scotland’s leading research-intensive university for attracting widening access entrants to higher education.

The number of Scottish students from areas of multiple deprivation grew by 12 per cent at Strathclyde in 2015-16, and such students now account for a quarter of enrolments at the institution.

Judges were impressed by the University’s approach to improving conversion rates in applications from “difficult-to-reach demographic groups”.

The institution’s “systematic approach to gathering and analysing data, as well as its introduction of a bespoke system, has led to significant and sustained growth in student numbers from its chosen target areas in Scotland”, they said.