Students Staff

01 September 2016

Partnerships with schools and businesses shortlisted for national awards

Graduate associate Miguel Martinez-Alvarez with Professor Udo Kruschwitz and Signal founder David Benigson

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership between graduate associate Miguel Martinez-Alvarez, Essex Professor Udo Kruschwitz and Signal Media founder David Benigson transformed the business, and has been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award

Two innovative partnerships, one with Essex schools and another with a developing high-tech business, have been shortlisted for national Times Higher Education awards.

The VI6 partnership forms part of the University of Essex’s Schools Membership Scheme, which nurtures relationships to raise students’ aspirations and attainment, and support their transition to University.

It allows sixth-form students from six north-Essex schools to study A-levels on the University’s Colchester Campus, enabling the schools to share teaching to offer a wider subject choice and giving the students insight into university life.

The partnership, which has just completed its first full year with 100 students studying seven subjects, has already had a dramatic impact on their University aspirations. The first term saw a remarkable 20 per cent increase in the number of students planning to apply to university.

Principal of Clacton County High School, Neil Gallagher, said: "The VI6 partnership has enabled our sixth formers to access courses that as a single institution we could not viably offer. The courses have been staffed with teachers from across the schools to ensure the highest quality of teaching. This partnership has really opened up a productive dialogue between colleagues about teaching and learning.

"The University has opened its doors to the students and many of them are now considering their future as an undergraduate. I know many of our students will be the first in their family to access a university education and their time at the University of Essex has really helped raise their aspirations.”

The partnership has been shortlisted for Times Higher Education’s Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year.

The University, in partnership with media intelligence company Signal, has also been shortlisted in the Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology category.

Through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Signal was able to use the University’s knowledge in natural language processing to pioneer a digital media intelligence service that functions in real time with unparalleled levels of accuracy. The partnership won Innovate UK’s Best of the Best Awards 2015 and Signal has gone on to become a leading technology company.

David Benigson, CEO of Signal, said: "Everyone at Signal is delighted to have been shortlisted for such a prestigious award. Our partnership with the University of Essex has been long and fruitful, and it has helped shape Signal into the innovative media company it is today.

"Working with Essex's natural language processing and text analytics researchers gave our start-up the technical expertise needed to differentiate ourselves in a competitive market. We hope the success of our partnership motivates other start-ups to explore the possibilities of academic collaboration in the years to come."

The University has one of the largest portfolios of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships in the Eastern Region. The partnerships are supported by funding awards which allow a recent graduate to work in a business to help improve its competitiveness and productivity.

Registrar and Secretary of the University Bryn Morris said: “Being shortlisted in two very different categories shows how the University’s mission to deliver excellence in education and excellence in research is being delivered through innovative and successful partnerships with schools, organisations and businesses locally, nationally and internationally.“

Winners of the Times Higher Education Awards will be announced on 24 November.

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