Accolades flow for innovation and excellence

Teesside rewarded with top prize in 2009 sector awards

Teesside University was named as the Times Higher Education University of the Year at the sector’s biggest awards in London last night.

The university was awarded the top prize for its “outstanding regional economic strategy and strong financial performance” at a glittering ceremony in the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane.

Award judge Dianne Willcocks, vice-chancellor of York St John University, praised Teesside for its “history of working with communities and businesses that makes it the public benefactor par excellence and truly a well-merited winner”.

Other winners at the black-tie event, which was overseen by host Clive Anderson, included the inventor of a model of a cow’s reproductive tract. Sarah Baillie, of the Royal Veterinary College, won the Most Innovative Teacher award for her invention of the “Haptic Cow”, a lifelike simulator that students can use to practise internal examinations.

The Serendipity Award, celebrating the unexpected outcomes of research, went to organic chemistry tutor Mark Moloney, of St Peter’s College, Oxford. While researching how penicillin is made, he discovered that a similar process could be used to encourage dye migration in plastics.

The night’s other winners included Queen’s University Belfast, which won the Entrepreneurial University award. Spin-off companies established by Queen’s academics had a combined turnover of £102 million in 2009.

The contribution of Lancaster University to one of the biggest challenges facing humankind – feeding seven billion people against a background of climate change – helped it to win the Research Project of the Year award. A team of plant biologists at the university identified a chemical signal that roots in drying soil send to the shoots, helping the plant cope with drought.

Glasgow Caledonian University scooped the prize for Widening Participation Initiative of the Year: the university’s outreach programmes extend to children as young as three.

Queen Mary, University of London won the Most Improved Student Experience award, Durham University clinched the Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers prize, and the University of York took the Outstanding Contribution to Leadership Development prize.

The inaugural Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement award went to Sir David Watson, professor of higher education management at the Institute of Education, University of London.

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