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Royal award for University's social policy researchers

Posted on 18 November 2009

A research unit at the University of York, which has helped to develop a range of policies to support vulnerable people in society over more than 35 years, has been awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

The Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) has led change in the delivery of services to people experiencing poverty, ageing, disability, chronic illness, family crisis, abuse or neglect.

We are honoured and extremely pleased by the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize

Professor Gillian Parker, Director of the Social Policy Research Unit

Examples of how SPRU's work has influenced change include its research into the financial impact of the death of a child with a life-threatening or life-limiting condition revealed that families could face a drop in income of up to 72 per cent when the child died. As a result, Child Benefit was extended for up to eight weeks after death of a child.

The Unit's work on vulnerable groups of children and young people at risk has provided new knowledge about young runaways and missing young people. This work resulted in the establishment of the first refuge for children in Glasgow, a National Service Framework for runaways and new national guidance from the Department of Health.

The Royal accolade for the Social Policy Research Unit, announced at St James's Palace on Wednesday 18 November, is the fourth to be conferred on the University in 13 years. Queen's Anniversary Prizes were awarded to the University in 1996 for the excellence of its work in Computer Science, in 2005 for the pioneering work of CNAP (Centre for Novel Agricultural Products) in Biology, and in 2008 for the contribution made by the Centre for Health Economics for the way it has helped to shape public health care.

Introduced following the 40th Anniversary of the Queen's reign in 1992, the prizes rank alongside the Queen's Awards for Industry. They are given biennially for "work of exceptional quality and of broad benefit either nationally or internationally."

Since SPRU was established in 1973, its research teams have had a major influence on policy and practice development for disabled or chronically ill children and adults, informal caregivers, income and employment support systems, looked after children and young runaways.

The Unit has led the way in developing methods that enable disabled and older people and children to participate actively in research. It has achieved a national and international reputation for applied research. SPRU has provided a model for similar research groups in other countries and trained policymakers, practitioners and researchers from the UK and abroad.

SPRU's Director, Professor Gillian Parker, said:  "We are honoured and extremely pleased by the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize. It recognises the hard work of many people over many years. SPRU started as a small team working on a single research project in 1973. The foresight and dedication of its Founding Director Professor Jonathan Bradshaw and his successor, Professor Sally Baldwin, laid the foundation for its success today."

The University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor, said: "For more than three decades, SPRU has been a force for good in influencing improvements in the way society supports some of its most vulnerable members. It has achieved this through scholarship and expertise of the highest quality, and it is rightly recognised as being among the finest research units of its type in the world. SPRU has helped to cement the University of York's worldwide reputation as a centre of excellence in the study of the social sciences."

Notes to editors:

  • The University of York is one of 21 winners in the eighth round of The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. The winners were announced by the Founder and Chairman of the Royal Anniversary Trust, Robin Gill CVO, at St James's Palace on 18 November 2009.
  • The Social Policy and Research Unit is part of the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York. Its research is focused on four broad themes: Disabled and Ill Children and Families; Children and Young People’s Social Work; Adults, Older People and Carers; and Welfare and Employment. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise by the government's Higher Education Funding Council, York's Department of Social Policy and Social Work, of which SPRU is a part, was ranked in the top ten in the country. Over two-thirds of its research activity was ranked as of international excellence and, within this, a quarter was classed as 'world-leading’. 
  • The University of York was founded in 1963 with 200 students. It now has 12,000 students and over 30 academic departments and research centres. It is regularly ranked in the top ten of UK universities and is also in the world’s top 100 universities. York ranked eighth out of more than 120 UK universities in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise co-ordinated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The University has a collegiate system in which most staff and all students are members of one of eight colleges. Work has started on a 285-acre campus expansion at Heslington East encompassing growth in research, spin out activity, and student numbers (particularly postgraduate and international). The expansion will increase student numbers to more than 16,000 over ten years, with 5,000 staff.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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