Student poll puts Edge Hill campus amongst top five in UK

An annual poll by Studentcrowd has named Edge Hill University as one of the top five campuses in the UK.

The website invited students from every university in the UK to rate their own campus, with 7,849 students completing a university review form.

Students were quizzed on the key aspects that set their campus apart from the rest, such as facilities, green space, and social life.

Sara Crowley, Head of Student Experience at Edge Hill University said: “We are really pleased that students have recognised the fantastic facilities and beautiful campus we have here at Edge Hill University. We are committed to delivering an outstanding student experience and value providing an environment that inspires, motivates and encourages students to engage and achieve.”

Paul Humphreys, Founder & CEO of StudentCrowd: “The 2018 Best Campus Awards were designed to showcase the very best in class when it comes to university campuses. As opposed to other ‘Best Of’ lists like this, our awards are based completely off thousands of reviews from students themselves. Not only is this a great recognition of the universities included, it also acts as a resource for students looking to learn more about the environment of the uni they are looking to attend. After all, choosing your university is one of the biggest decisions you have to make at that point in your life!”

Find out more about Edge Hill’s award-winning campus here

Vice-Chancellor celebrates silver anniversary of leading Edge Hill

Today, June 22, 2018, Edge Hill’s Vice-Chancellor Dr John Cater celebrates 25 years in the role.

The University has grown and developed considerably during his quarter century of leadership,  winning the coveted UK Times Higher Education University of the Year title in 2015/15, achieving Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s evaluation of excellence in teaching quality, and this year announcing that it will open a new medical school.

Here, John gives a glimpse into his time so far at Edge Hill University and what it is like to be the longest serving Vice-Chancellor of a UK higher education institution.

Dr John CaterThere’s a rumour you’ve been around at Edge Hill for some time…?

Guilty as charged…  It’s exactly twenty-five years since I was handed the Vice-Chancellor’s role, though the title was different then and they didn’t pay me for the first five weeks…

So that makes you the longest-serving VC in the country, then, but doesn’t the story start earlier?

It does.  I fell off a ‘plane from the States, where I’d spent a chunk of the summer, slept on a mate’s floor and rolled up for my half-hour induction back in 1979, when I joined Edge Hill as a Lecturer in Geography and Public Policy.

And before that…?

Over four years at what is now John Moores, in a mix of research and lecturing posts, and less than a year in a policy unit in London, either side of the election of the Thatcher government.

And before…?

Stop digging!  Three years at university in Wales as one of the early beneficiaries of the opening up of higher education to working class council-estate kids.

So, 25 years this month and 40 years next September; why haven’t you moved?

Because I’m not appointable?   Over the years I guess the offers have come, but never for a job that would have attracted me.  And, whilst I’m fiercely ambitious for Edge Hill, I’ve never been burdened with a great deal of personal ambition.   

And you’ve never been bored…?

I’d never say never, but I’ve done a variety of jobs – lecturer, course leader, head of department, associate dean, acting dean of faculty, director of policy and planning, director of resources (or pro vice-chancellor in today’s parlance) – and no two years, or even two weeks, have ever been the same.

So, what was Edge Hill like in 1979?

They’d just stopped (free) afternoon tea in the Staff Common Room, we taught in wooden huts and wartime hospital wards, and most colleagues went home at four and disappeared for much of the summer.  Although Edge Hill was diversifying, it was still very much a training college for teachers and its rhythms were essentially those of the school year.

It sounds idyllic…

I’m not so sure.  The culture was one of dependence – on the local authority, on our validating partner – and that becomes stultifying after a time.  And, before I’d reached my thirtieth birthday, the County Council voted to close the College.

What happened?

The early 1980s were a time of public sector spending cuts (not much changes…), and the Conservative council saw merit in absorbing Edge Hill into Lancashire Polytechnic (and the possible sale of the Ormskirk site).  I did a fair amount of work on the economic impact of such a decision and, after initially losing a nem con vote, we persuaded the County to reconsider.

Did good come of this?

Personally, I became better known, and took on the leadership of the Urban Policy degree programme shortly after; for the institution, it is harder to say, with some tensions between the change agents and those who were comfortable with Edge Hill as a (vulnerable) teacher-training provider.

There were other uncertainties too…?

Definitely.  Following the 1988 Higher Education Act, Edge Hill was never going to find the transition from local authority control to independence easy, and we were not considered for university title in 1992 when the polytechnics were re-designated.  I think the expectation was that institutions like Edge Hill would wither on the vine or merge, and the Act and a poor Ofsted outcome certainly contributed to the departure of my predecessor.

So, it’s 1993 and you’ve got a new job…

Actually, I was asked to ‘act up’ temporarily, on the expectation that, as the youngest of the senior team, I’d not be a candidate for the permanent post.  But after nine months and two unsuccessful recruitment rounds, the job ‘fell’ into my lap.

What was it like…?

Initially, tough.  There had been some conflicts and a host of departures, leaving very little institutional memory and few resources.  Most early decisions were made on the basis of intuition but, within a couple of years, with Rhiannon Evans and, a little later, Steve Igoe, joining Mark Flinn and myself, we had a coherent and supportive senior team which stayed together for well over a decade.

What were the first priorities?

Inculcating a sense of ownership through better and honest communication, understanding, and a sense of shared engagement and endeavour.  I used to describe it as the solidarity of the oppressed, since very few policymakers thought we had a future.

Second, creating a sense of place.  We need to make Edge Hill a destination, and my predecessor and I had begun work on an Estates Strategy at the beginning of the 1990s, though we had no money and no borrowing capacity to realise the plans.  And the campus that had not seen a permanent new building since the early 1970s.

Third, we needed a curriculum that could attract, and this became more important with cuts to teacher training numbers and professional development funding in the mid-1990s.  To kick-start, Robin Hilton and I wrote most of Edge Hill’s original Management portfolio, the first completely new undergraduate degree in twelve years…

So now we’re heading in the right direction…?

Not so fast!  Whilst in 1992 it was almost impossible not to become a university (though we had managed it), by 1997 it was almost impossible to become one.  Lancaster were a supportive partner, but we needed the power to award our own taught degrees – an essential step for any aspiring institution.  But the politics, and initially our preparedness, worked against us.  Our application was rejected (rightly) in 1997, rejected (more spuriously?) in 2001 and was successful only in 2005.

In contrast, sometimes the tide flows with you.  The bolstering of the unit of resource in the mid-1990s helped us generate a modicum of cash for investment, and the increase in the number of qualified eighteen year olds helped underpin demand.  But, most important, was the 2003 White Paper and the ensuing Education Act.  As Chair of the Standing Conference of Principals when the White Paper formulated, I had the privilege of being close to the decision-taking process.  I still think it was the most constructive piece of higher education policy-proposing I experienced, attempting to deliver parity of esteem for institutions, whether they chose to focus on teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer or widening participation.  Unfortunately, it was never fully realised, and the perceptual hierarchies of activity still exist.

But for us, Alan Johnson’s answer in the House in the summer of 2004 was crucial, when he indicated his willingness to provide a route to university title through a year-long scrutiny process for well-established and mature higher education institutions like Edge Hill.

So Taught-Degree Awarding Powers led to…

University title the following year.  But we wanted full parity of esteem with established universities, hence our application for research powers, a two-year scrutiny leading to award in 2008.

And did others recognise this?

Howard Newby, then chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council, once told me that the Council were continually impressed by the progress Edge Hill was making, but they only became convinced of our long-term survival when we had powers and title.  Equally sweet was our shortlisting for Times Higher University of the Year in 2007, repeated in 2010 and 2011, which suggested a widening audience was noticing, and some steady progress from the lower reaches of the league tables.

And 2014…?

Vice-Chancellor Dr John Cater and Edge Hill staff accept the University of the Year 2014/2015 award

I’ve forgotten far more than I remember, but I can still feel the emotion, standing on the stage at the Grosvenor House, no script when we were awarded the Times Higher University of the Year.

So that’s the peak then…?

I’m not so sure; it’s a really important staging post but we have to believe that we’re on a journey and there is much more to achieve.  Powers and title mattered more, and it is pleasing to see us, through steady incremental improvement, featuring in the second quartile of most league tables.  The current Times/Sunday Times University of the Year for Student Retention award matters too, though I think we can and must deliver more on this, and, for reasons which go far beyond ‘TEF Gold’, I always want to see our students satisfied in the NSS, successful in the labour market and, equally, in life.

Are the curtains drawing to a close?

Not unless you know something I don’t!  As a sector we have a set of particularly challenging circumstances at the moment, and I have little respect for individuals who shy away from a challenge.  I’m fortunate enough to feel young and be tolerably healthy and fit, and I guess I’ll know the day when I feel I should be elsewhere – or someone will tell me!

And is there any advice?

Find your own way?  Be yourself?  Or, as the late Christopher Price, former Government Minister, former Vice-Chancellor, said to me shortly after my appointment, “Never lose your personality”.  I’m still searching for mine.






A Meat Eater’s Guide to Vegan Food

The vegans are coming – and they’re bringing lunch. We sent Creative Writing student Lucy Barrett to Food For Thought, Edge Hill’s vegan showcase, to investigate the foodie hinterland that’s having a moment.

“I’m sat with a tummy crammed full of vegan foods, trying to process the weekend I spent navigating my way around over 40 vendors at the Food for Thought Vegan Festival, part of this year’s Festival of Ideas.

My initial thought going into the two-day event was that I hoped I wasn’t going to encounter the militant, preachy side of veganism that you read online. I eat most kinds of food and I do (at least try to) have a relatively healthy diet, but like many others, I don’t want to be judged for the lifestyle I’ve chosen.

When I wasn’t in line at a food stall I spent much of my time going around the vendors and patrons asking about their own veganism, and what they think about what the word ‘vegan’ has come to be perceived. And I was surprised and encouraged by their views.

I made a confession when introducing myself to anyone: I’m Lucy and I’m not a vegan. On the whole it didn’t really change anything and they were happy to have omnivores (as us meat-eaters are labelled) taking an interest. Some, however, took the opportunity to attempt to convert me, while one even called me a ‘muggle’, as if my lifestyle meant I lacked some kind of magic power. This aside, many were concerned about the bad reputation that vegans have, and how militant vegans patronise the interested and pass judgement on everyone else.


The biggest thing I realised was how fluid the definition of ‘vegan’ really is, and that there are even tensions and disagreements within the vegan community. While everyone has a common goal, motivations differ, from the health benefits of a plant-based diet to support for animal rights. One person said that they won’t eat anything that attempts to mimic meat products, so vegan sausages are a definite no, but another often opts for vegan counterparts to bridge the gap from their old meat-based diet. Some said that leather and wool products are fine and acceptable to wear, whereas others won’t go near them if their life depended on it. So navigating the minefield of opinions proved difficult at times.


All the while, the loudest voice in my head was urging me to go and fill up on the food (obviously for research purposes only). I was most sceptical of, but eventually most impressed with, my purchases from the Vegan Choc Shop. Many people had warned me that vegan chocolate was nothing like the real thing and often ends up grainy and grim. It’s a lot richer than your average Cadbury’s bar, and not as moreish, but the flavour stays on your taste buds long after eating. Just by eating it you can tell it’s not just filled with E numbers and who knows what else. If you wanted a sweet treat I would recommend an Icy Curl. I loved how it was made in front of you, using a frozen plate working at -17 degrees centigrade. I opted for a raspberry curl which was refreshing, somewhere between an ice lolly and an ice cream.


If you wanted the perfect lunch, Love Kimchi and Vausages were the tastiest options, although both only launched their companies this year. The Love Kimchi team boasts 54 years of experience in Korean cuisine between them, so when I appeared with no clue about kimchi [a traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables – International Food Editor] and asking for recommendations, I was in expert hands. I picked the katsu curry and enjoyed it so much that I had it the next day too. Vausages was a solid lunch choice too. Their approach to hotdogs was really original, with each hotdog relying on individual flavourings instead of just toppings. Their aim is to make the food equally accessible to non-vegans, with similar textures to meat, and still having a traditional sausage skin, which I loved.

I imagine that I’ll be attending more vegan fairs over time, and hopefully this will become an annual event at Edge Hill.”

Find out more about the vegan lifestyle

Pics: Lucy Barrett

University announces honorary degree recipients for 2018 graduations

Five inspirational figures are to be awarded with honorary doctorates during Edge Hill’s Summer 2018 graduation week from 16-20 July.

They include DJ Janice Long, Director of the final four Harry Potter films David Yates and leading Hillsborough campaigner Professor Phil Scraton.

Former Dean of Postgraduate Medical Studies at Health Education England Professor Jacky Hayden and Chief Executive of Getty Images Dawn Airey will also receive honorary degrees.

Each of the recipients will be recognised by Edge Hill for their contributions to society that resonate with the University’s values, teaching and research.

  • Dawn Airey (Friday 20 July), who was brought up in Preston, has run, managed or chaired leading TV channels in the UK including ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, and now leads Getty Images, the world-leading creators and distributors of award-winning still imagery, video, music and multimedia products.
  • Professor Jacky Hayden (Wednesday 18 July) was Dean of Postgraduate Medical Studies at Health Education England, working across the North West. She was awarded a CBE in 2013, the same year she was named as one of Health Service Journal’s Top 50 Inspirational Women.
  • Janice Long (Thursday 19 July) became the first female DJ to be given a daily show on national radio. Over the years she has worked for GLR, XFM, Radio 5, Radio Merseyside, presented Live Aid and established Crash FM (relaunched as Juice FM) in Liverpool. She continues to work at the cutting edge of new music in Liverpool.
  • Professor Phil Scraton (Monday 16 July) set up the Centre for Studies in Crime and Social Justice at Edge Hill University, was a founder member of the charity INQUEST and his work on the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster and its aftermath was the driving force in a campaign for justice that has encompassed almost three decades.
  • David Yates (Friday 20 July) is director of the final four films in the Harry Potter series. Thanks to his film and television success, St Helens-born David is considered to be one of Britain’s most celebrated directors.

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “Once again the University is Dr John Caterprivileged to have an exemplary list of honorary graduates, leaders in their fields, joining those who will be awarded their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

“For everyone this a wonderful time of the year, and the celebrations will have a special resonance following the University’s shortlisting for the Global Teaching Excellence Award and our identification as the Times/Sunday Times’ University of the Year for Student Retention”.

Poster prize winning academic promotes new teaching methods

An academic from Edge Hill University has received the People’s Choice Poster Prize at the 2018 Microbiology Society Annual Conference, the biggest annual microbiology meeting in Europe.

Dr André Antunes, Senior Lecturer in Microbial Genetics, created the poster Innovative Assessments in Microbiology: The Bio-animation Project Experience, which was chosen as the winner by the delegates.

The poster highlights the results of a collaboration and alternative assessment method developed by members of Edge Hill’s Biology and Media Departments.

Students from both department were randomly grouped, topics were allocated and individual roles assigned. The groups had to present a storyboard with animation plans before producing short scientific video clips as part of their coursework.

“I feel very honoured to receive this award, particularly as it recognises the innovative spirit of Edge Hill and the ongoing efforts of our cross-departmental team in creating and promoting new approaches in teaching and assessing students,” said André.

André has been invited to present his work again at the Society’s Annual General Meeting and Showcase in September 2018.

Can the food you consume affect your mood? Student finds out thanks to nutrition studentship

A Nutrition and Health student at Edge Hill University who wants to investigate how food affects mood has won a coveted Summer Studentship from the Nutrition Society.

Lindsay Hodgson, from Ormskirk, will be working on an eight week research project with the aim of discovering if there is a link between certain types of food and anxiety levels, supervised by Edge Hill’s Dr Catherine Tsang, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition and Health.

The Nutrition Society’s Summer Studentships are aimed at undergraduates interested in a career in nutritional science, and they provide undergraduates, registered on nutrition or related degree programmes, the opportunity to undertake a period of research in a University, research institute or industrial setting.

“My 23 year old daughter suffers from anxiety, and one day she told me that on the days when she eats well, her levels of anxiety are lower,” said Lindsay. “This inspired me to want to look into it further.”

Lindsay is collaborating with Belgian chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, who have developed polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and placebos for the research volunteers to consume.

The 30 volunteers taking part have been split into two groups.  One group will consume 25g of the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate (the equivalent of a couple of squares of chocolate) daily over a four week period, and the other will consume the placebo chocolate.

Samples of their saliva will be taken so Lindsay can measure the levels of cortisol before, during and after the four week process and the volunteers will also be asked to fill in a PANAS questionnaire at various points which will measure their mood.

Lindsay is hopeful that the levels of cortisol will reduce and the mood scales will improve for those who have consumed the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, and there will be no change in the other group.

This research could help uncover whether consuming this polyphenol-rich dark chocolate can help boost peoples’ mood and help them feel better mentally.

“I was so shocked when I found out I had been awarded a Summer Studentship but I’m really excited,” said Lindsay. “I have Catherine working with me so I know I will have all the support I need. I’m pleased to have such a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to working on a research project from start to finish so I can understand the whole process.”

Lindsay decided to return to higher education after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.

“When I was diagnosed, I wondered why it had happened – was it because of something I was eating? Was there anything I could do to make it better? There was so much conflicting information online, and I wanted to learn more about the research process so I could try and help other people going through the same thing.”

Each student will present their findings at the Nutrition Futures conference in September 2018 in Newcastle. One student will be awarded as the overall winner of the Summer Studentships at the Society’s annual reception in December.

Find out more about Edge Hill’s Nutrition and Health course here.

Short Story Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for this year’s prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize, worth £10,000, has been announced today (Monday 18 June).

Five collections have made the shortlist from the longlist of 15 for the only UK-based award that recognises excellence in a single author short story collection.

Bad Dreams by Tess Hadley (Jonathan Cape) is a collection of gripping and unsettling stories where the real things that happen to people turn out to be as mysterious as their dreams.

Madame Zero by Sarah Hall (Faber) is a collection rich in the mythic symbolism of wilderness and wasteland.

All the Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod (Bloomsbury) is an acutely observed collection of stories which hover on the border of life and death.

Basket of Deplorables by Tom Rachman (Riverrun Books) is a series of witty, cutting, and addictive tales of Trump times.

Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press) by Leone Ross is a varied and witty collection whose frankness may sometimes tickle but always engages the intellect as well as the heart.

Prize organiser Billy Cowan, senior lecturer in Creative Writing, said: “The shortlisting wasn’t easy because all books on the longlist were fantastic and all were so different, but in the end it came down to the books we simply loved the most, and, on this, the reading panel were surprisingly unanimous.

“Choosing the winner may prove more difficult for the judges, and I don’t envy them.”

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an exclusive Short Story Prize event in the Foyles new flagship bookshop in London on November 3. The ceremony will also include a £1000 Reader’s Choice Award to an author from the shortlist, and a further category for stories by Edge Hill University’s MA Creative Writing students.

This year’s judges are Professor Alisa Cox (Professor of Short Fiction, Edge Hill University), Paul McVeigh (Co-Founder of London Short Story Festival and Associate Director of The Word Factory), Daisy Johnson (Winner of the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize) and Alice O’Keeffe (Critic for The Guardian, The Observer, The New Statesman, and Literary Programmer for the Brighton Festival).

The Edge Hill Short Story Prize was founded in 2006 by the world’s first Professor of Short Fiction, Ailsa Cox, to highlight the intricate artisanship of short story writing and acknowledge the wealth of published collections available.

The 2017 prize was awarded to Daisy Johnson for Fen (Cape). The Readers’ Choice winner was Lucy Caldwell for Multitudes (Faber).

Human Book Chain

Passing the book: ‘Human Book Chain’ celebrates Edge Hill’s new building

Human Book Chain

Staff, students and children from local schools formed a ‘human book chain’ at Edge Hill University to celebrate its brand new £27m Catalyst building.

This symbolic event saw 502 books passed from person to person between the old library and the new facility, in a chain which snaked along the Hub Boulevard.

The first books into the new building included Edge Hill University history books by Fiona Montomery and Mark Flinn, the anthologies Atlantic Drift and Head Land, both published by Edge Hill University Press, A Conflicted Mind, by Professor Geoff Beattie, A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, Dougie’s War: A Soldier’s Story by Rodge Glass and Inter-war Penal Policy and Crime in England by Professor Alyson Brown. Alumnus Stuart Maconie’s Pies and Prejudice was also passed along the chain together with books by honorary graduates Helen Pankhurst and Dame Janet Suzman.

Musicians and performers helped to keep the books moving to the innovative building at the heart of Edge Hill’s campus, which will house the library, careers and student services functions in its contemporary 8,000-square metre space.

Catalyst will be an inspiring 24/7 destination for the Edge Hill community with welcoming, knowledgeable staff on hand to support student life, research, learning and career development.

This ‘destination’ building will provide a 50 per cent increase in study spaces, with 30 bookable rooms plus two training rooms. Students will get improved access to services with 24-hour opening.

Around 230,000 books will sit on 5,000 shelves and the building’s top floor will be a dedicated space for study, silent working and research, with a traditional reading-room feel.

Catalyst will also have a landscaped roof terrace taking in views across the 160-acre campus and beyond. The ground floor will feature a coffee shop and an exhibition space which will host events and double as a relaxation area.



Podcast: What You Can Expect At Open Day

The clock is ticking, the countdown continues its inexorable progress, the midnight hour rapidly approaches. We could be talking about the start of the World Cup in Russia.

Or the moment we officially break from the European Union. Or even the day we have to admit smart fridges may be a good idea. But we’re not. It’s bigger than any of those things. Probably. It’s Edge Hill’s summer Open Day.

And why is that big deal?

Mostly because it’s important to find out more about the place in which you may spend the next three years of your life. Just ask Edge Hill Computing student Sean Murphy:

“I recommend seeing as many universities as possible, but make sure Edge Hill is on your list. I promise that no university will compare to the friendly staff, amazing campus and brilliant people you will meet at Edge Hill. If you don’t believe me then come and see for yourself.”

To whet your appetite further, we chatted to a few lecturers about what to expect at an Edge Hill Open Day, and why Edge Hill could be the perfect place for you to study:

Book your place at our Open Day on Saturday 18th August, and claim your free Open Day ice cream (legal note: must be collected in person).

Gallery: Professor Green at Edge Hill

UK rapper Professor Green, who recently made the acclaimed documentary Working Class White Men for Channel 4, was ‘in conversation’ on the same subject at a free public event at Edge Hill on 7 June.

The event saw Professor Green discuss the difficulties today’s youth face and what more can be done to bring about equality in society with Edge Hill’s Dr Eleanor Peters and Grace Robinson, chaired by Sean Creaney, Lecturer in Psychosocial Analysis of Offending Behaviour. He also met and chatted with students.

In Conversation: Professor Green on Working Class White Men was part of the University’s third annual Festival of Ideas, which this year explores a theme of Equalities. The Festival is a series of talks, exhibitions and performances to engage academics, students and members of the public in conversations upon a common theme and is programmed by Edge Hill’s three research institutes, The Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI), The Institute for Public Policy and Professional Practice (I4P), and The Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE).