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Winners of prestigious teaching excellence in higher education awards

Published on: 3 August 2023

Leading educators at Newcastle University have received prestigious accolades for making an outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession.

Professor Ruth Valentine and Dr Joanna Matthan have been named National Teaching Fellows (NTF), while a team from the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences has received the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

Advance HE announced the winners today (Thursday), recognising and rewarding their commitment to teaching and learning and the impact it has on student success.

(L-R) Professor Ruth Valentine and Dr Joanna Matthan

Widening participation for students

Professor Ruth Valentine, professor of Educational Engagement at Newcastle University, was awarded an NTF for her work on improving opportunities to widen student participation.

She has frequently designed and led the ‘PARTNERS’ summer school, “Pathways to Medicine,” and developed other raising aspiration events for students hoping to study at Newcastle University.

Her work has led to a significant increase in the number of young people from widening participation backgrounds enrolling at the university.

Professor Valentine said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have been awarded a NTF.

“As a first-generation University student myself, I’m passionate about widening participation in higher education and have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the imbalance in student demographics, to widen access to university and to transform student outcomes.

“For me, this award recognises the impact that I have had in this area and in my current role I pledge to continue this important work.”

Innovative teaching approaches

Dr Joanna Matthan, Dean of Academic Affairs, Newcastle University, received her NTF for excellence in teaching within her subject area, anatomy, and her innovative teaching approaches.

She has also had significant impact in the development of a range of anatomy courses during the pandemic; her work on EDI and widening participation; and for her outstanding pastoral support for all her students.

Dr Matthan’s dedication to equality, diversity and inclusion, in particular, has been recognised, both at Newcastle University and wider across the higher education sector.

She said: “I am thrilled and honoured beyond measure to be recognised as a NTF and to represent my beloved Newcastle University in a forum that shares excellent practice across institutional boundaries.

“My ethos has always been to offer positive learning experiences and compassionate encounters for students, staff, patients, and healthcare professionals – and anyone I encounter – on this journey through academia.

“It has, however, only been possible for me to even begin to put theory into practice through having been nurtured and guided by numerous wonderful educational enablers inhouse and externally – and through collaborations with the Anatomical Society and other external organisations who have so graciously given me opportunities to thrive.”

A total of 55 new NTFs has been awarded this year, along with 15 winning CATE teams.

Professor Valentine, who is also Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, at Newcastle University, said: “To have two successful NTFs nominations alongside recognition through a CATE award is exceptional and a ringing endorsement of Newcastle University’s long tradition of excellence in teaching and supporting colleagues to develop and demonstrate their expertise in education.”

Employability and Enterprise

The CATE recognises and rewards teamwork that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning and highlights the key role of teamwork in UK higher education.  

The Newcastle University team from the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Careers Service led by Dr Lee Higham won their award for their collaboration through the Employability and Enterprise Working group. 

The group developed a model which allowed a range of key stakeholders, including industry partners, to collaborate constructively resulting in outstanding employability outcomes for students.

The collaboration with wider industry is influencing vocational skills provision across the higher education sector, with impact seen across a substantial number of employability opportunities.

Dr Helen Adamson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, said: “For many years, we have shared and developed ideas together, supported and learned from each other, and worked innovatively - and tirelessly - to enhance our students' experience at Newcastle University and to improve their career prospects.

“What we have achieved together is so much more than the sum of the parts and it is wonderful to hear the work has been recognised.”

An independent panel of senior higher education leaders, representing the four UK nations, assures the quality of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence and recommends winners.  

Alison Johns, Chief Executive, Advance HE, said: “It is with great pride that we run these awards for the UK higher education sector designed to celebrate these passionate people who make such a difference to students’ education and to the practice of their colleagues.” 

The 2023 awards ceremony will take place on 28 September at The Library of Birmingham. 


School of Natural and Environmental Sciences team

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