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York shortlisted for University of the Year at THE awards

Posted on 9 September 2021

The University of York has been shortlisted for University of the Year in the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards 2021.

The winners of the awards, which are known as the ‘Oscars of higher education,’ will be announced in November.

The University of the Year category recognises institutions that have demonstrated “exceptional performance” during the 2019-20 academic year.


In particular, the judging panel were looking for evidence of “bold, imaginative and innovative initiatives” and examples of creative leadership and management during the year.

The University’s shortlisted submission included:

  • A package of support measures for staff and students impacted by the pandemic, from ‘lockdown loot’ to the 6,000 welfare emails and phone calls we made to self-isolating students.
  • Details of the emergency student support fund - the first University to set one up which resulted in £2m being allocated to students thanks to generous donations from alumni and friends
  • Its collaborative approach with partners across the city to help the whole community - including the opening of the City’s first walk-through testing centre on campus
  • Research and expertise to tackle new challenges, for example, the Covid Realities project, which helps parents and carers to share experiences of life on a low-income during Covid-19 
  • A commitment to under-represented groups in our community, highlighting the effectiveness of initiatives to prevent loneliness among care leavers and estranged students 
  • Details on how the York Festival of Ideas embraced our new digital world and worked in partnership with more than 100 organisations to broadcast events across the globe.

In addition, academics from the University’s Department of Archaeology were shortlisted for the category Research Project of the Year: STEM.

The project was a collaboration between the Department of Archaeology, involving Professor John Schofield, Professor Joann Fletcher and Dr Stephen Buckley, and Royal Holloway, University of London, Leeds Museums & Galleries and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. 

The team devised a novel approach to recreate an authentic vowel sound from the 3,000 year-old mummified remains of the Egyptian priest Nesyamun, whose documented ambition at death was to speak again in the afterlife.

And the N8 Research Partnership, which includes the University of York, has been shortlisted for ‘International Collaboration of the Year.’ 
The N8 nomination comes as a result of the collaborative work that has taken place with the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).

The international partnership has implemented a three-year programme utilising interdisciplinary research to develop a new understanding of the African food system and help tackle global challenges of disease, poverty, climate change, and food insecurity.

The partnership operates across six sub-Saharan African countries, namely Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

Commenting on the University of the Year shortlisting, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said: “I have always been proud of how our community came together to respond to the pandemic. 

“By looking out for each other and by working with our partners across the city and beyond, we showed how a community can channel this spirit of empathy and support into something extraordinary.

“Our shortlisting reflects a very proud moment, of a university and its city coming together to respond to a global crisis in the best way it can.”


The winners of the awards, which are known as the ‘Oscars of higher education,’ will be announced in November.

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council and Chair of the York Outbreak Management Advisory Board, welcomed the shortlisting.

He added: “It is great news for the city that the University has been recognised in this way. 

“Our collaborative approach has been essential in keeping people in the city safe and continues as we all look to help York recover from the pandemic.”


Times Higher Education editor, John Gill, said: “This is the 17th year that the THE Awards will recognise the best of the best in UK higher education, across 20 categories covering all aspects of university activity. 

“But this year’s awards will reflect a period of turmoil and innovation necessitated by the pandemic, making it quite unlike any previous year.

“For the first time this year, we have also extended our awards to include higher education institutions in Ireland, and we are delighted to say that we have had a record number of entries, reflecting the brilliance of universities across the whole of the UK and Ireland.

 “With almost 600 institutions, teams and individuals nominated, it really is a fantastic achievement to make it onto this year’s shortlist.

“We look forward to celebrating the incredible response of university staff in exceptionally tough circumstances when we gather for the Oscars of higher education in November.”


Patrick O'Donnell, President of University of York Students' Union, said: “I am delighted that York has been shortlisted, it truly reflects the vibrant, supportive and inclusive community we celebrate at York.

"Despite all the challenges faced over the last 18 months, students and staff have worked together to ensure that campus life has continued to thrive, and that all members of our University community are supported.

"We can be very proud of all that we have achieved by working together to seek creative and innovative solutions, with students at the heart of decision making."

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