Staff and Students celebrate University of the YearEdge Hill University has rounded off a year of triumphs by securing the coveted University of the Year title and achieving a pleasing set of ratings in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

As well as achieving the highest accolade in higher education, the institution was also named as the top diversified University according to the Graduate Social Mobility Index, gained the North West region’s highest rating for student satisfaction across all 23 questions in the 2014 National Student Survey and was rated as a top 20 University for making a great first impression by YouthSight.

Edge Hill University has performed strongly in the national Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, with all subject areas featuring ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’ research. The REF assesses the quality of research at universities across the UK and informs research funding allocations from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, HEFCE.

The year started with the Department of Sport and Physical Activity winning a prestigious Mental Health First Aid Champion award for becoming the first university in the country to provide sports students with the chance to gain a qualification to help spot the early signs of a mental health issue.

Excitement started to build around the Label Recordings, Edge Hill’s new not-for-profit label set up to promote unsigned local music and to give students experience of working in the music industry. One of the first bands to be nurtured by The Label, Chester’s Hooton Tennis Club have recently secured a record dealt with Heavenly Recordings.

The Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) and the Institute for Public Policy and Professional Practice (I4P), were officially launched to bring together clusters of research excellence from across faculties and subjects to ensure our work has real impact in the community. In addition the university and our Students’ Union joined forces with Dolly Parton, MP Rosie Cooper and local businesses to launch the Imagination Library in West Lancashire, which will provide books for children up to the age of five every month to encourage a love of reading and improve their literacy.

And the year also saw the official launch of a five-year partnership between Edge Hill and Everton in the Community, focussing on student-led initiatives in the areas of public health and physical activity, sport policy and community sport development to help overcome a variety of social challenges facing those across Merseyside.

The largest ever cohort of almost 4,000 students graduating in 16 ceremonies across five days took place in July. Honorary Doctorates were also awarded to eight inspirational figures including legendary singer and composer John Foxx, philanthropist Barrie Wells, women’s sport campaigner Sue Tibballs OBE and comedian and author Michael Pennington (Johnny Vegas).

GregClark053The University had high profile visits by two Universities Ministers and a Bishop. Former minister David Willetts spoke at a conference about the future of the MOOC, and his successor Greg Clark visited the campus following the University of the Year announcement. The new Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev Paul Bayes also met with staff and students to learn about Edge Hill as part of his induction to his new post.

In our public lecture series, Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London presented our annual Chancellor’s Lecture on the Teenage Brain. And one of the final public events of the year, writer Jimmy McGovern, film director David Blair and TV and film producer Colin McKeown gave advice to students and alumni seeking to follow in their multi-award winning footsteps.

The year saw a strong financial performance, with the worth of the University growing to over £164m and the total income in 2013-2014 being over £115m. The completion of the £12m Chancellor’s Court South Halls of residence also brings the total spend on campus in the last decade to £250m.

Edge Hill Vice-Chancellor Dr John Cater said: “2014 has proved to be one of our most successful years and not just because of being awarded University of the Year and recognised for a number of outstanding accolades.

“Our research base continues to grow, with an impressive set of results in the REF across all our faculties, with all featuring research scored as world leading and internationally excellent. Our high levels of graduate employment and social mobility show the focus we put on equipping our students with the skills they need to make those vital first steps on the career ladder and our beautiful campus has proved a welcoming and nurturing environment. Together this has encouraged our students and staff, partners and friends to strive for excellence in everything they do.”