The University of Birmingham has lifted the Outstanding Estates Strategy trophy at the sixteenth annual THE Awards.
The THE Awards - widely referred to as the ‘Oscars of higher education’ - are the biggest celebration in the UK HE calendar, attracting hundreds of entries from individuals, teams and institutions from all corners of the country. 2020’s ceremony was of course virtual, but still over a thousand people logged in to hear this year’s winners announced.
It should be noted that this THE Awards entry window opened just as the Covid lockdown commenced, and that they focus on activity during the 2018-19 academic year.
A landmark campus renovation initiative undertaken by the estates team at the University of Birmingham impressed judges with the “broad range of projects? involved and the way they created major benefits for the local economy and the community.
The projects, which the university says constitute the biggest renewal of its estate since the institution’s establishment included a new conference centre , a sports club , almost 5 hectares of parkland and an extension to the business school.
The THE judges highlighted the team’s approach to collaboration, education and training, including skills workshops for more than 500 local children, 10 apprenticeships, 70 weeks of work experience, 10 new jobs to local people and 205 weeks of on-site training.
The team also developed its own procurement framework to create a more efficient and cost-effective route to working with business, and they have made the scheme available to others in the higher education sector.
Environmental credentials were also notable. The team achieved a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions four years ahead of target and a 10 per cent reduction in water consumption.
Trevor Payne, Director of Estates for the University of Birmingham, said: “On behalf of the University of Birmingham Estates Directorate I am so pleased and proud to have won the Times Higher 2020 Award for Outstanding Estates Strategy. We have a fantastic campus in Edgbaston and campus sites in Selly Oak and we are currently building our newest campus in Dubai. The estates strategy has delivered the largest building programme on campus since 1908 and has informed & enabled the delivery a broad range of innovative and cutting edge new build and refurbishment projects - which benefit our students, staff and the local community.
“This award is a great endorsement of the work that the team deliver 24/7 every day of the year and all that we have all delivered to date and the things that we are planning to deliver as part of developing our next estates strategy to support the ‘next normal’.’
On announcing the award, the THE judges said: “Balancing the delivery of a number of capital build projects with the creation of a significant public realm project has seen major improvements in the estate, thus supporting the university’s objective to deliver a world-class university experience. Positive engagement with industry [has] allowed the integration of best practice from outside the HE sector to become embedded within the estates department.’
THE editor, John Gill, said: “In an extraordinary year, the opportunity to sit down with the THE Awards judges - remotely, of course - and immerse oneself in the stories behind our shortlisted entries was more rewarding than ever.
"Because these awards recognise achievements in the 2018-19 academic year, we are dealing with the world as it was pre-pandemic, but the brilliance of our researchers, the exceptional teaching and the extraordinary ingenuity shown by administrative staff, all on display in this year’s shortlists, will be critical for both universities and the country in the period ahead.
"Congratulations to an inspirational group of winners, and indeed to everyone shortlisted.’