No university of a similar size delivers so well on teaching quality

I’ll start this column with an extended quotation.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 9:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 3:27 pm
Welcome Week at Sheffield Hallam University
Welcome Week at Sheffield Hallam University

“One of our big civic universities, Sheffield Hallam is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Students have repeatedly given it good ratings for the quality of its teaching, but this year their assessments have propelled the university to a new high.Achieving sustained success in this area is hard, all the more so for a large – rather than niche – institution with 30,000 students. No university of a similar size delivers so well on teaching quality in our latest rankings.

It has ambitions to be the leading university in the world for applied learning and has embarked on a 15-year campus plan to deliver on that.

“Rooted firmly in the region it serves, Sheffield Hallam recruits heavily from some of the groups served least well by British universities and ensures they thrive once they enrol.”

This was the full text of the Times and Sunday Times award to Sheffield Hallam of the title University of the Year for Teaching Quality. I couldn’t have put it better.It captures everything; the sense of momentum and improvement – yes, “renaissance” – across the university.The focus on sustained success which has given us our highest ever student satisfaction score. The recognition of hard work. The ability to do impressive things on a large scale. The ambitions we have. Our commitment to place. Our mission for widening participation in higher education. Our determination that our students thrive.

As the University’s Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to see that the efforts and commitment of the University’s staff have been recognised in one of the most highly esteemed university rankings.The most important feature of this is not simply the award and the title – which of course we will enjoy – but the recognition that so much collaborative and co-ordinated effort has been recognised.

The Sunday Times award is testimony to some extra-ordinary successes for the university.

Our research income – an index of our capacity to innovate and lead ideas -- doubled in 2018/9, enabling us to accelerate the impact of our research.We have recently completed the building of two new important research centres – the National Centre for Food Engineering and the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre.Government has awarded us University Enterprise Zone funding to develop further activity around the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre. Globally, our strategic relationship with La Trobe, our strategic partner university in Australia, is extending our international reach.

This award will make a difference. It’ll make a difference to the way the university is seen.

Most of all I hope it will make a difference to the way we see ourselves: a bit more confident that we are doing the right things.

There’s always a danger with awards that you see them as verdicts rather than observations, as rear-view mirrors rather than milestones.Across the university, real progress has been made on important measures – we are one of only a small handful of universities where student satisfaction has risen consistently over three successive years.

Sheffield Hallam has welcomed 26,700 new and returning students over the last few weeks; their energy and enthusiasm is infectious and the campus feels busy and engaged.

We’ve got their year off to a good start – many of those I’ve spoken to, and far more on whose lift and corridor conversations I have overheard feel a bit special about being at the University of the Year for Teaching Quality. And so they should.Our task now is to sustain their enthusiasm and engagement, to challenge and excite them, to make sure they thrive. We have an exciting agenda ahead, embedding our position as one of the nation’s leading universities for innovation, social inclusion and quality.To end as I began, “No university of a similar size delivers so well on teaching quality”.

Also at Sheffield Hallam, research conducted by the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre has found volunteering can have a bigger impact on health and wellbeing than just running or walking.Commissioned by UK-based charity parkrun in celebration of their 15th anniversary, it found 91 per cent of people surveyed reported a sense of personal achievement after participating in parkrun, where 84 per cent of volunteers reported an improvement to their happiness.