Northern Centre of Photography snaps up new national teaching award

The University of Sunderland is celebrating today after picking up a new national award which recognises teaching excellence by teams in higher education.
The Higher Education Academy (HEA) unveiled Sunderland’s Northern Centre of Photography (NEPN) as the winner of the first ever team award – the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) at a prestigious awards ceremony in London this week.
The NEPN team (Alexandra Moschovi, Carol McKay, Professor Arabella Plouviez, Dave Harvey, and Amanda Ritson) has operated as a research and development agency for photography in the North East. And since 2009, with support from Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts, the team has commissioned a number of major photography projects, as well as producing the region’s first International Festival of Photography.
The CATE award, being piloted by HEA this year, is an important development which reflects the key role that teamwork has in promoting student success through learning and teaching. Fifteen Universities from across the UK were shortlisted, and six of these institutions will be awarded grants of £15,000 to share their learning and best practice.
University of Sunderland Pro Vice-Chancellor Gary Holmes said: “It’s incredibly gratifying to see our commitment to good student learning and innovative teaching recognised on a national platform. These colleagues are at the forefront of practice in their field.”
Professor Plouviez, Head of Photography at NEPN, added: “We are delighted to win the first ever CATE award. It is really fabulous for the work done within NEPN to be recognised in this way and even more of an achievement when you consider the quality of work done by the other 15 teams shortlisted, there was enormous competition.
“NEPN has supported the development of a vibrant photographic community from which Sunderland students can benefit and to which they can continue to contribute post graduation. Collaborative working is part of the rationale for NEPN and is central to the way in which it operates with students and external partners.”
The criteria for the CATE award included: ‘excellent practice’, teamwork, and the team’s dissemination plan. Teams needed to show direct student involvement in their work and excellent practice in areas such as: assessment and feedback, student retention, employability, staff development, students as partners, technology and social media.
As well as announcing the CATE, 55 new National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) have also been revealed by the (HEA). A National Teaching Fellowship is the most prestigious individual award for excellence in teaching in higher education.
Professor Marshall, HEA Chief Executive, said, “I am so pleased the HEA has the opportunity to run these awards, and to help to disseminate the best practice they reveal. Celebrating great teaching, whether by teams or individuals, is really important and highlights just some of the great work in the sector to improve the student experience.
“All the awards provide compelling case studies of best practice which we can share around the sector.
“We have also had an excellent response to the new collaborative award. I’m sure the whole higher education sector will join me in agreeing that we are very proud of your achievements.”
The NTF and CATE schemes are run by the HEA on behalf of the award funders: the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland (DfE). The schemes are open to staff whose teaching or support roles enhance the student learning experience.
Northern Centre of Photography, University of Sunderland
North East Photography Network (NEPN) functions as a research and development agency for photography in the North East region. Since 2009, the team has commissioned a number of major new photography projects, as well as producing the region’s first International Festival of Photography.
NEPN also runs a regular programme of public talks and seminars by leading photographers and experts in the field, while also offering professional and post-graduate mentorship. The team also develops live learning opportunities for current students and graduates through an ongoing series of projects that involve students, staff and external organisations working together as partners.
In working to develop the profile of photography in this way, NEPN aims to attract high quality photography students to the University. The team’s approach aims to engage students and graduates in communities of practice, in ways that help build the confidence of students as active cultural participants, as consumers as well as producers.
The NEPN team also believe that enhancing such opportunities for ‘live’ engagement is particularly important for students who are sometimes resistant to more traditional academic modes of learning. It is also a means of encouraging students to develop ownership of the need to learn and to understand the value of social learning.
With partners across the region, the team is developing a second International Photography Festival for autumn 2018. As part of this, they will work alongside an extended community of students and graduates to produce a showcase exhibition (‘New Talent’).
NEPN is particularly proud that its model of collaboration and exchange between academics, students and the wider cultural sector has been recognised beyond the University and that photography has been identified as a key strength in Sunderland’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021. 

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