The presentation of the inaugural Wonkhe Awards took place at Wonkfest on Monday 6th November at Wonkfest17 in London. The Awards are an opportunity for Wonkhe to recognise the brilliant work that goes on across higher education. As you can see from the winners, we’ve recognised individuals, groups and organisations working to make higher education the best it can be, and those showing wonkery at its best.
Most innovative intervention at a university, sponsored by Unite Students
The University of Central Lancashire provided refuge for hundreds of students whose university in the Caribbean had been severely damaged by hurricane Irma. Team Wonkhe was astonished by the scale of the task UCLan undertook, and the amazing demonstration of the positive impact that universities can have in the most difficult circumstances.
Best use of data to inform policy, sponsored by Hotcourses Group
HESA’s HECoS project will underpin data wonkery across the HE sector – as it will define the classification of academic areas, and thus the aggregation of related statistics, for years to come. It’s been a mammoth piece of work – initiated by an august team as a component of the wider HEDIIP programme – and a worthy winner of the data category.
Most important contribution to HE policy research, sponsored by Pearson
Gavan Conlon, of London Economics, is a hero amongst the wonks. His command of data, particularly on student fees, is supreme. In the last year Gavan and the team have made essential contributor to the Diamond Review of funding in Wales, and have played a key part in other big projects such as the Russell Group’s economic impact report.
Social media wonk of the year, sponsored by SMRS
@smitajamdar is the account to follow for all things Liverpool FC, remoaner commentary, and the finer details of the knottiest higher education legal issues. Smita Jamdar, partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, is one of HE’s most engaging speakers and she lets rip on Twitter on a regular basis. A must follow.
Best piece of original analysis or argument on Wonkhe, sponsored by Communications Management
Shân Wareing’s Letter to Sir Michael Barber is an innovative and engaging take on the difficult issue of metrics-based assessment. In a hotly-contested field, this piece is one the whole of Team Wonkhe enjoyed.
Most important contribution to HE policy-making, sponsored by Shakespeare Martineau
In a very busy year for HE policy, the contribution that The Lords Temporal and Spiritual made to the passage of the Higher Education and Research Act stood out. The challenge which their lordships provided improved the legislation, and the level of scrutiny, the Bill received – as evidenced by hundreds of government amendments made in response to issues raised. It showed the parliamentary process at its very best.
Baroness Wolf and Lord Willetts were at Wonkfest to accept the award on behalf of their Peers.
Wonk to watch 2017, sponsored by Minerva
This year, Gerard Dominguez-Reig has stood out for playing a key part in major reports from the Education Policy Institute. The “Wonk to watch” is an award for an early-career wonk – whose work might be in the background, but should be more widely recognised.
Wonk of the year 2017, sponsored by HSBC
As her Power List (#39) entry says Lucy Hunter Blackburn’s blog, Adventures in Evidence, is essential reading for a critical commentary on the funding of Scottish higher education. Lucy is widely-read and hugely respected as a knowledgeable and reliable wonk of the highest calibre.