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Learning, sharing and celebrating at the GTEA 2018 awards

27 Jul 2018 | Advance HE There can be no finer mission or purpose for a university than to transform the life of a student. That is a key purpose for why we exist and I think this teaching excellence award is a reflection of that.”

“It’s time for teaching excellence to attain the same status and recognition as academic research.”

That was the rallying call of Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s Director of Education at the 2017 Global Teaching Excellence Award (GTEA) ceremony, who described the award as a “milestone in the higher education agenda.” 

GTEA, which recognises and rewards institutional commitment to the pursuit of teaching excellence, is becoming a fixture on the global HE calendar. The 2018 award ceremony provided this year’s finalists with the opportunity to celebrate, reflect on and share best practice with global peers in a convivial setting.

GTEA 2018: sustaining the momentum of year one

Taking place in Edinburgh on 18 July, the award ceremony was preceded by an afternoon networking session, bringing together all of this year’s finalists. As Professor Sarah Springman, Rector of ETH Zürich said, the networking event and award ceremony provided “a great opportunity to come to Edinburgh to meet our colleagues, to be of this great event and to learn from each other.” 

Professor Sarah Springman speaking at GTEA 2018:

Stephanie Pastro, a Social Sciences student representative of Vancouver Island University who attended the afternoon networking event and the award ceremony said: “As a student, it is brilliant to see so many institutions working to better facilitate learning through their teaching practices, as it is students who directly benefit from such initiatives. Engaging with representatives from each of these global leaders in teaching has given me confidence in the value of my education and the institution where I have chosen to pursue it.”

“…questioning, thinking, difficult, feisty students”

The keynote for this year’s award ceremony was delivered by Simon Marginson, renowned Professor of International Higher Education, and Director of the ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education at University College London.


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To the audience of GTEA 2018 finalists, Professor Marginson reinforced the importance of excellent teaching and the role that higher education staff play in helping students to both acquire knowledge and develop as human beings:

“Students want much more than customer satisfaction or value for money.  They want to grow as people … We don’t want satisfied sheep.  We want questioning, thinking, difficult, feisty graduates who’ve been challenged by us.”

The finalists, representing 17 higher education providers from six countries worldwide, were recognised and celebrated on the night, with five institutions receiving Spotlight Awards and an overall winner, McMaster University of Canada, crowned as successor to the inaugural winner of GTEA, University of Huddersfield.

"A powerful validation of our teaching and learning strategy”

As Professor Bob Cryan, Huddersfield’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive said immediately prior to announcing the 2018 winner: “Winning this award was a powerful validation of our teaching and learning strategy.” Professor Cryan explained how the award has created potential for new international networks and that since winning the award, he and colleagues have had the pleasure of welcoming delegations from around the world, keen to understand what made Huddersfield stand out.


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In his acceptance speech, Dr Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University, outlined his own motivations for working in the HE sector, referring to his upbringing in South Africa and his recognition of “education as an irresistible force for justice.” 

Upon joining McMaster some seven years ago, he was confronted with the challenge of creating the best possible student experience in a research-intensive institution – a challenge that he and his team, notably Dr Arshad Ahmad, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) are clearly embracing and tackling with more than a degree of success.

“A well-deserved honour for our world-class educators and students”

As Dr Deane concluded, ‘Winning this award is a well-deserved honour for our world-class educators and students; their work helps advance our priority of improving teaching and learning outcomes and the prospects of our students on a daily basis.’ This statement truly captures the essence of the award and Advance HE’s desire to support great teaching and share best practice so that each and every student has a rich and rewarding academic experience and thus the opportunity to fulfil their potential as a global citizen.

Sharing enthusiasm and passion for teaching worldwide

There is of course, no end point in improving teaching; great teaching can become even greater. And to that end we will continue to work with all providers of higher education (including our growing GTEA community) to foster a sense of cohesion, mutual support and collaboration.


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We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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