The University has been shortlisted for University of the Year in recognition of its contribution to Freedom City 2017, the year-long programme commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr being awarded an honorary degree by Newcastle University.
The shortlisting also reflects a number of other achievements in 2017 including being awarded the highest rating of Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework and being ranked in the top 10 of the best institutions in Europe for teaching excellence as well as the University’s ongoing investment in teaching and research, such as the opening of the £58 million Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle Helix.
Inspiring a new generation
Throughout 2017, a variety of teaching and research projects, performances, talks and exhibitions took place aiming to inspire a new generation to contribute towards tackling the problems of war, poverty and racism that Dr King talked about in his honorary degree acceptance speech.
Many Freedom City 2017 projects were delivered by academics and students at Newcastle University including a student-led conference on civil rights, and a multi-media exhibition inspired by Dr King produced by students in the School of Arts and Cultures.
The academic programme also included an exhibition about the US civil rights movement in the 1960s created in partnership with Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Mellon University, a powerful film on the themes of freedom and protest, an educational resources pack for schoolteachers and a collaboration between academics and professional artists and writers to produce a unique comic on the civil rights history of the North East.
Alongside this, an extensive cultural programme took place at 37 venues across Tyneside including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Northern Stage, Seven Stories: the National Centre for Children’s Books and Tyneside Cinema.
Recognition for research and community impact
Other projects that have been shortlisted for this year’s awards are Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs), shortlisted for the International Impact award. The brainchild of Professor Sugata Mitra, this project - where groups of children learn by answering big questions using the internet - has spread across the globe and inspired countless millions.
Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) has also been shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community for the N.E.S.T (North East Solidarity and Teaching) initiative. Every weekend, volunteers from NUSU run a language class on campus helping Syrian refugees of all ages develop their written and spoken English.
Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University, said: “Being shortlisted for the Times Higher awards is a tremendous achievement and one that everyone at the University should be proud of. All three shortlisted projects are great examples of how our staff and students have been inspired to make a difference and are helping to connect people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds.”
Inspired by the themes of Dr King’s acceptance speech, each project in the Freedom City 2017 programme was developed with legacy in mind, and the University and other partners involved in Freedom City 2017 are now working to improve their practices in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion.
One example of this is the appointment of Professor Peter Hopkins as Dean of Social Justice. Professor Hopkins will provide leadership across the University to ensure a holistic and joined up approach to embedding social justice within the institution’s policies and practices.
In addition, the annual Martin Luther King Jr public lecture on social justice will be introduced and the University is actively working towards accreditation under the Race Equality Charter, among other initiatives.
The winners of the Times Higher Education awards 2018 will be announced on 29 November 2018.
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