Top prize lifts the whole of Teesside, not just university

Awards reveal excellence in all areas of sector and payoffs far beyond campus, writes Hannah Fearn

October 22, 2009

"I walked back into the university this morning and when the lift doors opened on the fourth floor there were about 40 people there letting off party poppers. It's such a sense of celebration."

Graham Henderson, the vice-chancellor of the University of Teesside, described winning the Times Higher Education University of the Year award as the "proudest moment of my life".

"I've never stopped smiling (since winning). Lots of people have been very kind," Professor Henderson said. "It's fantastic for the whole sector and fantastic for Teesside. I think it makes a big statement that universities of the type like Teesside have an important role to play. They can be seen by their peers as being excellent. The sector doesn't value just research intensives, it values the whole body of universities."

The winners of this year's Times Higher Education awards were announced last week at a black-tie awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London. In this, the fifth year of the awards, three new accolades were added to the list, rewarding academics' hard work in teaching and research: most innovative teacher; outstanding engineering research team; and the serendipity award, which recognised the value of unexpected discoveries.

Sarah Baillie, lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College and designer of the "Haptic Cow" - a computer simulator that trains veterinary students to conduct an internal examination - took away the award for most innovative teacher.

The University of Greenwich picked up the outstanding research team award for its work in using computational mechanics to help restore the Cutty Sark.

Mark Moloney, tutor in organic chemistry at St Peter's, Oxford, took home the serendipity award for research into penicillin that led to a patented discovery in plastics, and ultimately to a successful spin-off plastics company, Oxford Advanced Surfaces.

Sir David Watson, professor of higher education management at the Institute of Education, was named the winner of the Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement award. This recognised of 40 years of work dedicated to giving more people the chance to make university education a part of their lives.

At Teesside, Professor Henderson expects that winning the ultimate accolade will not only raise the profile of his university, but also provide a boost to the Teesside economy. "I have had the local authorities and the MPs on the phone saying this is so important for Teesside and it gives the economy such a lift," he said.

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