A University Transformed

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CONTENTS 03 A strategy for change Northumbria’s repositioning recognised
This is an outstanding achievement for Northumbria and a recognition of its transformation and growth. It is also a clear signal of the strength in depth we now have in Newcastle for world-leading research
3 | NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY | THE AWARDS 2022 04 Transformation highlights Key milestones on Northumbria’s journey so far 06 Breaking the mould Northumbria disrupts the status quo 08 A shared sense of pride Sparking a collective reaction 10 Looking to the future Reflecting on how Northumbria will build on its success
Cllr Nick Kemp, Leader of Newcastle City Council


Northumbria University’s transformative long-term strategy combining a focus on research excellence and social mobility has created space for a new kind of university – and has won them the accolade ‘University of the Year 2022’ in the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Awards.

In the last 15 years Northumbria has transformed its research capacity to become a research-intensive university that takes on tomorrow’s challenges to make a positive difference, while at the same time maintaining its clear focus on social mobility.

Northumbria’s research transformation was recognised in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, which is a measure of the quality and strength of research across UK universities. In the REF 2021 results, Northumbria recorded the biggest rise in research power of any UK university for the second time, moving up 27 places to 23rd having previously risen to 50th in 2014, from 80th in 2008. The University aims to attract students with the highest potential to benefit from a Northumbria education enriched by this cuttingedge research, providing them with the opportunity to work with academics, to participate in research, and to co-create knowledge.

However, while embedding quality research at the centre of its strategy, Northumbria has retained a strong social mobility mission, as well as an alignment to business and the demands of the regional economy. Around 40 per cent of Northumbria undergraduates are from traditionally low-participation backgrounds and this underlines the University’s commitment to unlocking opportunities for students with potential and ability, irrespective of background. With more than half of Northumbria’s students coming from the local area and 63 per cent of its graduates staying in the region for employment, the University is also helping to create the conditions that retain a skilled and talented workforce that is vital for the region’s pipeline of activity.

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods, Chair of the Board of Governors at Northumbria, believes being named University of the Year will empower the University’s staff, students, and partners to talk regionally, nationally and globally about the new type of academic institution that Northumbria has become. “I believe this award reflects the fact Northumbria is unique in the sector,” she said. “A research-intensive modern university that has retained its clear social mobility mission. Combined with other recent successes, such as the REF 2021 results, the University’s global reputation has been significantly enhanced and people will now be looking at us through new eyes.”

Newcastle University was shortlisted alongside Northumbria for THE University of the Year Award 2022, offering further evidence of the combined strength of the city’s universities. Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Kemp said: “This is an outstanding achievement for Northumbria and a recognition of its transformation and growth. It is also a clear signal of the strength in depth we now have in Newcastle for world-leading research and education. We are extremely proud that both universities made the shortlist for this important award. They are integral to this city’s success and together play a significant role, economically, socially, and culturally, helping to make Newcastle a fair and inclusive place to live – and raising our profile on the global stage.”

Former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening, who is leading a coalition campaigning for greater social mobility in the UK, worked with Northumbria to help launch its Social Mobility Impact Report in May 2022. Ms Greening congratulated the University on being named University of the Year and praised its commitment to providing equal opportunities for all its students.

“This award is incredibly well deserved, and I’m delighted to see a modern university that puts such a big focus on levelling up being recognised for its achievements across the board,” she said. “Northumbria transforms futures for young people and others in the region. It is a university that can put a talent pipeline in place that really does open access for those wanting to study and then thrive once they graduate.

“The work that Northumbria does with its various partners, gives you a model of a research-intensive, modern university that works as an anchor institution for its region and does that in a way that absolutely delivers on key priorities that we have as a country – economic growth, but delivered in a way that also drives levelling up. I think it’s fantastic that a university like Northumbria is showing the key role that higher education must play in delivering for this country.”

Read on through this special supplement to discover more about Northumbria’s journey to becoming University of the Year.





• Research Excellence


• Professor Andrew Wathey CBE appointed as ViceChancellor and Chief Executive

• Northumbria alumnus Sir Jonathan Ive opens Newcastle City Campus East


• £30m Sport Central opens: 3,000 seat arena, swimming pool, sprint track, squash courts and a state-of-theart fitness centre, including research labs

• Vision 2025: ‘A researchrich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence’ — launched in advance of the 2013-2018 University Strategy

• WINNER: Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts for BxNU BALTIC 39 partnership

Framework (REF) 2014 results: largest climber in research power from 80th to 50th; Northumbria’s share of research rated world-leading and internationally excellent tripled

• Northumbria expands to the UK’s capital with new London Campus

• Trinity Square student accommodation opens as part of Northumbria’s key role in regeneration of Gateshead town centre


• Announcement of a Strategic Investment Fund: £18m threeyear programme of investment in 100 new research active staff

• Launch of University Corporate Strategy



• New Regional, Engagement and Partnerships plan — including partnerships with Gateshead Council, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and New Writing North


• WINNER: Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for the pro bono work of Northumbria’s Student Law Office

• Growing postgraduate research: 80 new doctoral PhD students recruited

• Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 submission: number of academic staff submitted doubled compared to Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008


• WINNER: Times Higher Education Business School of the Year

• Baroness Tanni GreyThompson DBE, DL appointed Chancellor, succeeding Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington

• Recognised by Sunday Times for strength of entry qualifications, demonstrating increase of high-quality students choosing Northumbria

4 | THE AWARDS 2022
Northumbria is an example of a university that set a long-term strategy and pursued it with great clarity, transforming the institution’s research profile but without leaving behind its hugely valuable and distinctive attributes as a modern university.
2008 2012


• £52m campus investment announced, including: state-of-the-art Architecture and Computer and Information Sciences buildings; and Student Central, a space designed to host award-winning student support services, in one place at the heart of City Campus


• New research awards rise to £14m — a 167% increase during University Strategy period 2013-2018

• Launch of University Strategy 2018-2023: #TakeOnTomorrow

• Computer and Information Sciences building opens


• Covid-19: Northumbria supports the global response through research, training, PPE production and the opening of testing and vaccination centres on campus

• Ranked in UK top 30 for graduate employability every year since launch of new Graduate Outcomes survey in 2017/2018

• 69% of academic staff doctorally qualified — up from 20% in 2008


• REF 2021 results: sector’s largest riser in research power ranking for the second time, climbing to 23rd in UK according to Times Higher Education

• Top 50 in all UK university league tables for first time

• Professor Andy Long appointed as ViceChancellor and Chief Executive

• Peaks of research excellence defined: eight areas of pioneering research responding to world challenges

• WINNER: Times Higher Education University of the Year 2022


• Student Central opens

• Teaching Excellence Framework Silver Award: recognises high-quality teaching, learning and student outcomes

• Shortlisted: Times Higher Education University of the Year


• Ambition to submit 1,000 academic staff to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 announced — three times the number submitted to REF 2014

• New Architecture building opens

• Northumbria features in top 100 in Times Higher Education Young University Rankings


• 50th in world for sustainability in Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

• Professor Andrew Wathey CBE announces retirement

• Submission completed for Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, including 1,095 members of academic staff


• Announcement of plans for a Centre for Health and Social Equity (CHASE)

• Postgraduate student numbers treble since 2014

• University Strategy 20242030 under development: Take on Tomorrow 2030

The scale of its ambition, the rigour and effectiveness with which it has been pursued, and its role in transforming lives and supporting its region all make it a deserving winner of this year’s title.
2016 2022
Times Higher Education (THE) Judges


Being named as University of the Year by Times Higher Education (THE) is recognition not of a single project, but of the successful implementation of a strategic, ambitious vision: a vision that has enabled the University to bridge the gap that has traditionally separated it from more established universities while ensuring it is unlocking opportunity for students irrespective of background, particularly in the North East.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria, Professor Tom Lawson, goes on to explain that this melding of ambitions has been made possible only through a clear focus on quality: “The University’s strategy has had an overriding emphasis on quality. Especially around research. It underpins everything we do in research and in turn Northumbria’s enduring vision leverages research to relentlessly drive excellence across the full range of university activity, benefitting students, the economy, and society.”

The strategic evolution around research at the University over the last 15 years is unsurpassed both in volume and in quality. And the way in which that is used to enhance the student experience for all students is arguably unlike anything being done at any other university: the research environment at Northumbria is growing and evolving in a very exciting way.

Northumbria’s sector-leading performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 — the analysis of research across UK universities – saw the University’s standing for research power grow exponentially. Research at Northumbria is exploring the world’s most urgent and complex challenges, transforming societies and economies and supporting partners and stakeholders to achieve their ambitions. Core areas of research expertise include: Computerised Society and Digital Citizens, Cultural and Creative Industries, Energy Materials and Systems, Microbial Biotechnology, Microbiome Exploration, Solar and Space Physics, The Future of Ice on Earth and Volunteering, Humanitarian Crisis and Development.

But the academics carrying out this world-class work are more than just excellent researchers – they are inspirational teachers, helping shape graduates who are our leaders and innovators of the future. Professor Louise Bracken, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Knowledge Exchange, highlights that Northumbria’s deliberate and sustained investment in its research capability isn’t just about chasing research excellence for its inherent reputational benefits: “It is about supporting our students and the economic regeneration of our region. At Northumbria, growing our research capability and, in turn, increasing our research

income will further enhance the quality of our output and facilities, while simultaneously building capacity for more students to study in a research-intensive learning environment, across a broader portfolio of courses, and to higher levels. Such an approach will increase the knowledge and skills base of the UK’s regions — we’re seeing that outcome already at Northumbria.”

Northumbria’s research-driven strategy is undoubtedly a significant factor as to why the University won the highly sought-after title. However, Professor Lawson makes it clear that it is this research evolution, combined with what Northumbria has done to maintain and grow its mission as an institution that widens access to Higher Education for the broadest possible cross-section of school and college leavers, that clinched the deal. “We educate more young people from low-participation backgrounds than any other institution in the UK top 25 in REF terms for research power, and by proportion, we have roughly twice as many students from those backgrounds as any other institution. We provide those students with an education that is wholly grounded in research and by doing that, we’re ensuring that those young people can have outcomes that are comparable to other research-intensive institutions.”

Universities have a unique position as anchor institutions and can play a key role in spreading opportunity within their communities. Rates of participation in higher education in the North East are lower than other parts of the country. Recognising that opportunities to both access and succeed in higher education can have a direct impact on the prosperity of the region and its residents, the University is working hard to attract and support students from all backgrounds and social groups. Northumbria is unlocking opportunity, exposing potential and challenging and changing the socio-economic landscape.

Last year, Northumbria launched a Social Mobility Impact Report in partnership with former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening. Greening is Chair of the Purpose Coalition — a group of the UK’s most innovative purposeled leaders and organisations. The report demonstrates best practice initiatives and programmes that the University is undertaking to spread opportunity, further developing Northumbria’s role as a driver for social mobility in the North East and beyond.

Professor Graham Wynn, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education at Northumbria, believes that the University is building an education for its students that will enable them to take on tomorrow in their own way. “Our ambition is to give all students with the potential and ability, the opportunity to succeed. Our education is enriched by the

6 | THE AWARDS 2022
Excellence in research and a genuine, robust social mobility mission have not traditionally come hand-in-hand for higher education institutions in the UK. Northumbria has broken the mould.

research we do. All of this takes place in a learning environment that’s been shaped by our heritage to be open, inclusive and welcoming.

“Northumbria also champions student entrepreneurship and employability through a strong programme of placements and internships which give students experience of many different businesses and varied workplace environments. This is supported well by our Graduate Futures team and is complemented by our own NU:Opportunities scheme, which provides students with paid work experience within the University,” adds Professor Wynn.

This approach to higher education is fully supported by Northumbria’s Students’ Union (NSU). Independent of the University, NSU is a studentled body with elected Sabbatical Officers who represent student interests to ensure the Northumbria student experience is the best it can be. Grace Armstrong, Northumbria University Students’ Union Vice President Welfare, states: “The Northumbria student community is wide and ever-changing. The University’s transformation is making it possible for any student with potential to come to this university no matter their

background and have the opportunity to be taught by lecturers who are doing actual research in their subject area. It goes to show the strong value Northumbria holds for both research and education.” Grace goes on to explain: “Northumbria is one of the highest achieving universities for employability in the UK – it’s in the top 25 for the number of full-time UK graduates who go into skilled jobs. It has also been in the top five for graduate start-ups for 10 of the last 12 years. This means that students come out of their course empowered by Northumbria to fulfil their own career ambitions and potential, including for instance starting up their own business through the Northumbria University Incubator.”

In awarding the title to Northumbria the Times Higher Education judges commented: “Sometimes, the achievements that secure the University of the Year title are less about a response to immediate circumstances and more about a long-term strategy.” Over the last 15 years, in the words that have become synonymous with Northumbria, the University has strategically, ambitiously, determinedly and genuinely positioned itself to Take on Tomorrow.


From space weather to glaciers, global development to DNA sequencing – the research being carried out at Northumbria is addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Click the QR code to explore some of the University’s areas of excellence and expertise in research that are making a real impact across the globe.










“I’m incredibly proud to be the Chancellor of Northumbria University, the University of the year.”

Newcastle City Council

Today has to be one of the highlights of my career. @NorthumbriaUni is #THEAwards University of the Year. It’s been a long journey in transforming the University into the UK’s first research-intensive modern university, and I really am proud to be Northumbria.


Winning University of the Year 2022 in the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards marks an historic milestone in Northumbria’s transformational journey and an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the collective achievements that have brought the University to this point. Through the power of social media, as the news of the award broke late on the evening of the 17th November, messages of congratulations and support began to flood in from staff and students, past and present, as well as Northumbria’s global family of friends, partners and stakeholders. Within hours Northumbria University campuses turned gold and from community stakeholders to international partners, local councils to Westminster, news of the win spread far and wide. The initial announcement confirming the University of the Year win quickly became the most liked, shared and commented on post of the year across Northumbria’s social media channels, attracting thousands of interactions and hundreds of comments. And here are just a few of the highlights.

Absolutely fantastic news!

The Chronicle Northern Accelerator

Congratulations to our fantastic partner @NorthumbriaUni! The UK’s first research-intensive modern university and now @timeshighered University of the Year

So proud to have been part of the alumni of this wonderful uni.
8 | THE AWARDS 2022
Croft Northumbria Alumna
A huge congratulations to all staff and students at Northumbria University on this fantastic achievement for the Northeast.

Congratulations to Newcastle’s very own @NorthumbriaUni for winning University of the Year for the Times Higher Education Awards 2022. Well done to all students and staff! #THEAwards @timeshighered

Sarah Green

Chief Executive at Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI)

Hugely deserved win for Northumbria University — more national recognition for the region’s incredible innovation and research assets!

“I’m two and a half years into my journey with Northumbria University and couldn’t be prouder of the institution I work for — a research intensive university that has retained its clear social mobility mission.”

Jacqui Darwood Business Development Adviser, Graduate Futures at Northumbria University

Justine Greening

Former Education Secretary

Fantastic news, incredibly well deserved - I’m delighted to see @NorthumbriaUni, a modern university that puts such a big focus on levelling up being recognised for its achievements across the board.


Its a great achievement. Feeling proud to be a graduate from this prestigious instituion.

Jahangir Khan Northumbria Alumnus

Catherine McKinnell Labour MP for Newcastle North

Congratulations to @northumbriauni on winning @timeshighered University of the year. A fantastic achievement for a great North East institution (and I can testify to that as an alumna!)

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE

Former Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University

A fabulous result for Northumbria. So proud for what colleagues and students have achieved — a wonderful shared success!

BMS Business Management School Sri Lanka

Northumbria University, UK named as the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2022

Fantastic news for the city and region as Northumbria University has been named University of the Year by Times Higher Education!

Was there from 2017-2019 as an MSc student. Really golden times of my life. Congratulations

Northumbria Uni

Nishat Shaoli Islam

Northumbria Alumna

Emma Collier Students’ Union President

“So on Thursday I went to a little event and just happened to win an award... Northumbria University is University of the Year!!”

George Freeman MP

Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology

So well deserved @NorthumbriaUni for all your great work with @UniofNewcastle building a cluster of R+D excellence, social mobility & opportunity to drive innovation-led regeneration.

Wonderful to see University of the Year in the North(East)

Newcastle NE1


Northumbria University’s vision, set out in 2008, is now a reality. Through our truly transformational journey, we’ve challenged the status quo and repositioned as a new kind of university, a credible alternative to more established institutions. Through our strategy we have embedded quality research at the centre of everything we do, alongside a clear social mobility mission and an alignment to business and the demands of the regional and local economy.

Northumbria has become a disrupter in Higher Education and has created a new unique space for a researchintensive, modern university, enabling us to meet the world’s changing needs and make a positive difference. While this is clearly important for us, I also believe it is significant for the city and the region. Newcastle now has two research-intensive universities making a positive contribution to the civic good. So, for me, this Times Higher Education (THE) Award evidences the genuine value Northumbria is bringing to the region: from the high potential local students who now have the choice of another great university on their doorstep, to regional businesses who can benefit from increased access to impactful research and innovative partnership opportunities. With 55 per cent of our students coming from the local area and 63 per cent of our graduates staying in the region for employment we’re also helping create the conditions to overcome an historic challenge to increased growth and productivity – the loss of talent from regional labour markets because of a lack of local jobs.

Northumbria’s steadfast resolution to invest in and drive transformation has ensured we have secured a robust and challenging position in the increasingly competitive world of Higher Education. In our own words, we are taking on tomorrow. So, I am thrilled that we have been named this year’s THE University of the Year and I am excited to lead us on the next stage of this journey. The key question now is – how can we build on this success?

At the simplest level I think this comes down to confidence and ambition. Despite the success Northumbria has seen in recent years, not least in the last 12 months, in a changing, challenging world we know that we cannot stand still if we are to continue on our ambitious trajectory. While the University’s overarching vision remains the same, we cannot and will not rest on our laurels.

We have the opportunity to build on our reputation as the research-intensive modern university. And I genuinely believe we are the research-intensive modern university –not one of several. We are well placed to ensure this vision is embedded across the full range of activities undertaken at Northumbria. Take for instance just one area – that of partnership working. Our enhanced reputation offers us the opportunity to secure more long-term partnerships with leading companies and other organisations linked to our research and education, and in turn we should be looking to use these to leverage further Government support for our activities.

Continuing to grow the quality of our research base remains a key focus. Northumbria has established an impressive platform that we can build upon. In particular, we need to secure more external funding for our research while developing the range of knowledge exchange activities related to our research strengths so that we can share our expertise more effectively and collaboratively with our many partners. This ranges from consultancy through to industry-related projects, from short courses to continual professional development.

We also need to make sure our taught courses remain distinctive and fully reflect our research strengths. Weaving that cutting-edge research into our world-class teaching fosters even better outcomes for students, providing them with the opportunity to work with academics, to participate in research, and to co-create knowledge. This, combined with our sustained mission to drive social mobility, will ensure we continue to unlock opportunities for students with the highest potential and ability, irrespective of background.

2023 also marks the development in earnest of our new University Strategy 2024-2030, through which we will continue to build on our transformational journey. One highlight of this will be the creation of our new Centre for


23RD IN UK FOR RESEARCH POWER Times Higher Education / Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021


Graduate Outcomes 2019/20

TOP 5 FOR GRADUATE START-UPS FOR 10 OF THE LAST 12 YEARS HE-Business and Community Interaction Survey 2020-21


New UK students; POLAR Quintiles 1 & 2; Northumbria University 2021/22 enrolment data


Health and Social Equity, known as CHASE. Through CHASE, Northumbria University will become a true centre of excellence for, and an essential partner of, anyone working in the areas of health, wellbeing and social inequalities in the region, across the wider UK and indeed across the globe. And through CHASE we will also be able to transform learning, teaching and research experiences for all of our students and staff based in Newcastle, particularly those currently at our Coach Lane Campus.

For me, one of the most exciting parts of all of this is that we are only part way along on this journey. There’s so much more that we can do, building on the foundations we’ve laid and our ambition to develop skills, share new knowledge, unlock potential and create opportunity. If we can continue to secure investment, if we can forge collaborations between business and academia that drive innovation, upskill workers and stimulate positive change, we can continue to make an impact regionally, nationally and globally, and ultimately transform lives.

It would be disingenuous of me to try and claim any credit for Northumbria’s success in being awarded University of the Year 2022 –fundamentally that is a testament to my colleagues, past and present, for more than a decade of delivery on behalf of our students. But what I can say is that the reasons Northumbria won this award represent so many of the things that brought me to this exciting University. It is a privilege to lead such a fantastic institution as we strive for even greater achievements with renewed confidence. Working together with our students, stakeholders and partners we will continue in our shared ambitions to take on tomorrow. I genuinely believe there is no limit to what we can achieve together — the best is yet to come.



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