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The University of Exeter is shortlisted in four categories in the THE Awards 2020

University of Exeter nominated for four “Oscars of higher education”

The University of Exeter has been nominated for four “Oscars of higher education” which honour the best teaching and research in the country.

The University is shortlisted in four categories in the THE Awards, which celebrate outstanding talent and performance across the higher education sector - Business School of the Year, Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year and Research Project of the Year: STEM.

Professor Lisa Roberts, University of Exeter Vice Chancellor, said: “Our researchers and educators not only produce the highest quality research and student experience, but work to improve the lives of people around the world; we are thrilled that their contribution has been recognised. Congratulations to all those shortlisted.”

The University of Exeter Business School has been shortlisted for its commitment to finding sustainable ways of addressing the major challenges facing business and society through its research and teaching.

Professor David Allen, Dean of the Business School, said: “It is an honour to be nominated. THE recognition is a great support for us to continue working forward to find practical solutions to the climate and environmental emergency.”

Places of Poetry, run by Professor Andrew McRae, is nominated for Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The project inspired 3,200 writers to write poems about Britain’s diverse landscape, identity and heritage. People of all ages ‘pinned’ their verses onto a distinctive digital map. Railway stations, villages, coffee shops and supermarkets libraries all feature in the 7,500 pinned poems, available online for anyone to read. Public workshops were held at some of the country’s most spectacular places in summer 2019, from Hadrian’s Wall to The Oval, with renowned poets such as Jo Bell, Kayo Chingonyi and Zaffar Kunial giving guidance on writing and producing new work inspired by their Places of Poetry experience.

Professor McRae said: “I’m delighted that our project, by and for poets of England and Wales, has been recognized for its academic quality as well as its wide public appeal. Our map of poems provides thousands of fresh perspectives on the places people know and love, and the ways in which they understand their relationship to this country.”

The project Interactive Virtual Environments for Teaching and Assessment (InVEnTA) was nominated for Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year. Academics in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences have developed an extraordinary technological innovation which enables educators to easily create interactive virtual environments for a wide-range of teaching applications. One particularly useful application of the software given the current Covid-19 travel restrictions is in creating virtual 3D field trips to almost anywhere in the world. The latest 3D visualisation and gaming techniques are used to take students and researchers to remote environments from Africa to the Arctic Circle, without leaving the classroom. The project’s distributing partner is Learning On Screen

The project is led by Dr Steven Palmer, Senior Lecturer in Geography, who said: “Being shortlisted for this prestigious award couldn’t have happened at a better time as we will soon be making InVEnTA available for use by other universities and educational organisations. It’s great that THE have recognised the potential of the software for creating engaging learning experiences in a wide-variety of settings."

Academics nominated for Research Project of the Year: STEM have created tree-based agricultural systems that nourish the soil, improve cattle grazing and feed economically poor Brazilian smallholders in the Amazon "Arc of Deforestation". More than 60 hectares of land have been planted with legume trees from the diverse Inga genus, improving incomes and future prospects smallholder families. The project is also planting community seed orchards to solve the issue of availability of Inga seed (which cannot be stored) and supporting a microcredit finance scheme to assist smallholders.

Previous years have seen nominees gather for a gala reception in London, but this year the winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony on 26 November.

John Gill, THE editor, said that while this year’s awards “will differ from previous years, the purpose remains the same: to highlight and champion the very best of the talent and creativity that shines out from our universities”.

He added: “In 2020 more than ever, it is vital to recognise and shout about those achievements – and we have been gratified by the huge number of entries at a time when university staff had so many demands on their time.

“The shortlists are packed with the qualities that will carry UK higher education through this tumultuous period and on to even greater success.”

Date: 17 September 2020