Research expertise relied upon by the House of Lords and a ground-breaking partnership with Leicester prison have led to De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) being shortlisted for two “Oscars of higher education”.
The work of Professor Kenneth Morrison is in the running for Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, while one of our #DMUlocal initiatives – which uses the commitment, expertise and enthusiasm of DMU staff and students for the public good - has been nominated in the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category of the prestigious 2018 Times Higher Education Awards (THEAs).
In August 2017, Kenneth Morrison, Professor of Modern Southeast European History at DMU, was appointed specialist adviser to the House of Lords International Relations Committee for its ‘Beyond Brexit: UK and the Western Balkans’ inquiry.
His intimate knowledge of the modern history of the Western Balkans saw him called to guide Parliament on the shaping of Britain’s post-Brexit policies in the region. He played a key role in advising the committee, travelling with them and participating in high-level meetings with heads of government, drafting questions for witnesses during evidence-taking sessions and collating written evidence submitted to the inquiry.
Kenneth Morrison, Professor of Modern Southeast European History
Professor Morrison said: “I’m delighted to have been shortlisted for this prize. It is a surprising but welcome acknowledgement of the importance of my research and its practical application. Being in the House of Lords every week, and working alongside a number of remarkable individuals, was a tremendous experience and one I was privileged to have. My appointment also demonstrates the invaluable role that academics can have in informing those who are either formulating or scrutinising government policy.
“The support of my colleagues has been pivotal throughout and I’m grateful to them for it. Real expertise takes time to hone and develop, and DMU as an institution has recognised the importance of research and how it can underpin teaching excellence and benefit our students. So I’m delighted to be representing DMU, particularly in this category, at the THEAs.”
Professor speaks of 'tremendous' experience as a Specialist Adviser in the House of Lords
THE LONG READ: How student projects at Leicester Prison have helped prisoners feel part of the community
Double success for DMU lecturers in prestigious national teaching awards
DMU has also helped transform the fortunes of the once-troubled HMP Leicester, with more than 20 staff and 200 students working across 15 teaching, learning and research projects since the 2016/17 academic year.
HMP Leicester was the focus of a damning report by the prisons watchdog, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, at the start of 2016, and has now surged 50 places up the league table for UK jails. The prison’s then governor, Phil Novis, hailed the partnership with DMU's public engagement team, #DMUlocal, as one of the key factors behind the sea change.
Projects have included: ‘Learning Together' workshops, where prisoners and criminology students studied side-by-side; the construction of a memorial garden by students for staff; a revamp of the prison visitors' room by interior design students; a concert by the 32-piece DMU String Orchestra, which is thought to be one of the first staged behind bars in the UK; and a performance by the DMU Gospel Choir.
DMU Gospel Choir performing at HMP Leicester
Mark Charlton, Head of Public Engagement, Strategic and International Partnerships at DMU, said: “Working with HMP Leicester really gave #DMUlocal the opportunity to shine in a challenging environment. The men inside are often overlooked by wider society, but they are a community that need support, like any other group. Many of the men serving time in Leicester prison are from the city or surrounding area.
“Our partnership with the prison and its staff shared a vision that if life inside could be improved for the men through improving access to education, art and inspiring projects, then it would give them a better chance to make a new start outside, and this would benefit our city long-term. That continues to be our goal.”
These are the 14th annual THEAs and the winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London, on Thursday 29 November 2018.
John Gill, Times Higher Education (THE) editor, said: “In yet another record year for entries, and with more than 70 institutions represented on the shortlist, it’s a genuine privilege for the THE team and our judges to read through these many and varied tales of excellence from all corners of the UK. It’s a significant achievement to make this shortlist and we look forward to honouring all the finalists in November.”
Posted on Thursday 6th September 2018