I enjoyed a very pleasant evening recently at St James’ Palace,
(no less) where I was attending a Reception to announce the
Prize-winners in the tenth round of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher
and Further Education. London
These awards, presented biennially, recognise and celebrate outstanding innovative work within
higher and further education
institutions and its beneficial and practical effect. They are the highest form of national
recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution. UK
The winning entries (of which there were twenty in total on this occasion) represent work by individual departments and research groups, major infrastructure and enterprise projects, vocational and technical training programmes and the application of cutting-edge research.
Entries undergo a rigorous process of independent external assessment. This includes review by national and international experts and specialists covering the relevant disciplines, reference to government departments and
devolved governments with a
particular interest in the fields of work under consideration and, to
professional and other bodies and sources.
I was proud several years ago to be invited to be one of the members of the reviewing body – known as “Readers” – of which I understand there are about 350 or so in total and something of the order of half of us were present at the reception yesterday evening at the Palace.
The “Readers” are effectively the early-stage adjudicators/judges and are asked to study several different submissions, assess their merit and also to suggest any areas where further information in support of the submission might be requested. The best submissions from these initial rounds then go forward for more rigorous assessment by the main judging panel.
This year, I “read” two submissions – one from a Northern Ireland College of Further Education which had promoted a scheme to encourage its students to become involved at a detailed level in construction schemes for local charities and public bodies and the second submission (talk about being off at a tangent) was for a University’s programme to assist the training and development of elite athletes in the run up to the London Olympics and beyond. One of their star athletes involved in the programme was not other than double Olympic Champion, Mo Farah. Unfortunately, neither of these submissions sufficiently impressed the later round judges sufficiently to win one of the Prizes.
Winning institutions in this round focused on applied research in a range of areas including amongst others:-
· Multidisciplinary work on environmental, ecological and economic challenges:
; Cardiff University ; Cornwall College Newcastle University
· Innovation in surgery training, human anatomy and forensic ID and ground-breaking applications in archaeology: The University of Edinburgh;
; University of Dundee University of Leicester
· Manufacturing techniques and processes and industrial design:
; The University of Manchester;
University of the Arts, Loughborough University London
I was fortunate to speak briefly with one of the winners from the
, a neuro-physician, who had
pioneered practical and cost-effective improvements in the prevention of
Strokes, and also, with Peter Chenery, the Chief Executive of the Royal
Anniversary Trust, which sponsors and promotes the Awards. University of Oxford
I also bumped into a couple of Past-Presidents from the Association of Building Engineers, Arwel Griffith and Diane Marshall (it was Diane who had the dubious honour of draping the ABE Presidential Chain of Office around my own neck in the House of Lords in May 2008). I didn’t get the chance to speak for very long with Arwel, but had plenty of time to do so with Diane – who I haven’t seen for ages it seems – and shared a taxi back to Kings Cross after the Reception was finished.
As a footnote, Anne has been telling everyone that she was especially impressed when I was originally asked to be a “Reader” for a set of Awards primarily aimed at the “Education” sector…….apparently she believe that this constitutes some sort of official recognition that not only can I “read” but apparently therefore, I also must be “educated”!
Hmmmm…..talk about damning with faint praise!