Better Together!

At this autumn’s AHE Awards Ceremony in Manchester we had the pleasure of watching colleagues from Birmingham City University’s (BCU) Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment receive their Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) for their University Assistant App. It was BCU’s second CATE win in as many years, having been awarded another only the year before for its High Achievers Recognition Scheme.

The CATEs are a wonderful celebration of the collaborative endeavour that characterises much of what we do in Higher Education. In our experience, not only does the process of pitching for the Award energise the diverse teams of staff, students and partners, but winning one can provide your project with considerable profile back in your home institution. Innovative projects and practices that have hitherto characterised a particular Faculty’s ‘offer’ become much more widespread. The CATE can confer real leverage and produce an impetus and the resources to effect change for the better across a University. Indeed the impact may go well beyond your own institution and spread to other parts of the sector that can recognise a really good idea when they see one!

As the title makes clear, collaborative excellence is the key to success. Whilst recipients of CATE are as diverse in the focus of their projects as it is possible to imagine, there are two things that unite them all. The first is the teams’ abilities to demonstrate genuineness in their approach to teamwork. The sense of identity, belonging, shared purpose and ‘belief’ is palpable. The second feature of the CATE winners is their impact. Over the past two or three years some of the CATE projects have touched the lives of hundreds or even thousands of students. For others the numbers have been much smaller but the impact was no less transformative. CATE teams are engaged in some of the most challenging and powerful student-facing work imaginable in the HE sector.

So, to anyone involved in just such a collaborative project in your own University and who may be thinking of entering next year’s competition, we would say ‘Do it!’ The competition will be fierce: each HEI can nominate only one CATE entrant, but the rewards can be profound and not just for winners: all those who take part in the process will be affected by it. So, if you’re part of a team that is passionate about its mission; if you and your colleagues (staff and students alike) display a collective willingness to embrace curiosity and courage, then the CATE is something you should seriously consider.

If your collaborations are based on shared goals, outstanding communications and a learning culture; and if you can demonstrate a real impact (whether in terms of breadth, depth or reach) then you should definitely take a look at the entry process for next year’s Awards.

Mark O’Hara & Juliette Gaunt, Birmingham City University

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