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EU Excellence Award Recognises Ulster's Commitment To Develop Research Staff

22 January 2013

The University of Ulster is one of just 11 UK universities to attain the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award this year.

The award, which was announced today, recognises the University’s commitment to improve the working conditions and career development of its research staff which will, in turn, benefit the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of the society and the economy.

Professor Hugh McKenna, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, said the University of Ulster was delighted to have been selected for the European Commission award.

“The University of Ulster is very proud of the quality and impact of our research and we very much believe the development of our staff is critical to that success,” he said.

“Ulster has 15 research institutes where staff are translating the knowledge they acquire to create a better society and a healthier economy.

“We are proud that in the last UK-wide research assessment exercise, Ulster was in the top third nationally for research strength. We were the only institution in Northern Ireland to have institutes in the top three nationally in their respective fields – in biomedical sciences, nursing and Celtic studies.

“The University is also very proud to achieve this award which commits Ulster to ensuring our action plan for recruiting and developing research staff to EU standards. That investment in our research staff can only further strengthen our research output.”

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: "I would like tocommendthe University of Ulster in being one of theUK Universities to be recognised by theEuropean Commission for this prestigiousHR Excellence in Researchaward.

“This award reflects the university's commitment tothe career development for research staff and underlines the vital role played by ourhigher level institutionsin conducting world-leading research and innovation which delivers real economic benefits to Northern Ireland.

“The University of Ulsterhas long placed an emphasis on the welfare and development of researcherswhich is clearly demonstrated through this latest recognition from the Commission.

“This award is also timely in the wider context of EU research following my recent announcement with Minister Foster of thenew DEL/DETI Higher Education EU Support Fund which will assist the universities to develop and implement a strategic approach to becoming more successful in the EuropeanResearch and Developmentarena, particularly the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme.”

Ulster and 10 other universities in today's announcement have become the latest recipients of the award.

The other universities include the University of Warwick and Imperial College in London, while the Universities of Edinburgh, Exeter and York have retained the status they achieved two years ago.

David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science said the award to Ulster and the 10 other universities showed the UK’s world class universities were leading the way.

“It is great news that another 11 UK universities have been awarded the HR Excellence in Research Award,” he said.

“It's vital that the working conditions of researchers continue to improve because world-class science and research are the key to future economic growth.

“The total number of UK institutions with this award is higher than in the whole of the rest of Europe put together, which is a great testament to the strength of our research base.”

The European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said UK universities were to the fore in strengthening their research base and ensuring their staff had the rightskills.

“It is good to see so many organisations putting in place strong support for researchers and their careers,” she said.

“The European Commission is committed to supporting research and innovation across Europe, through its Innovation Union flagship initiative and Horizon 2020 programme. What we now need is to prioritise investment in research, with strong budgets at the national and European levels.”

Ellen Pearce, Director of Vitae which represents the UK on the European Commission HR Strategy Group and which announced the award winners, said todemonstrate their suitability for the award the universities had to producerobust implementation plans for how they would attract, manage and develop research staff.

“This is part of the strategy outlined in the Concordat to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK, and to improve the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy,” she said.


Notes to editors

1. The University of Ulster has 15 research institutes across its six faculties. These are in the Faculty of Art and Design (the Art and Design Research Institute and the Built Environment Research Institute), the Faculty of theArts (the Arts and Humanities Research Institute, the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute and the Centre for Media Research), the Faculty of Computing and Engineering (the Computer Science Research Institute and the Engineering Research Institute), the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences (the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, the Environmental Sciences Research Institute, the Institute of Nursing and Health Research, the Psychology Research Institute and the Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute), the Faculty of Social Sciences (the Institute for Research in Social Sciences and the Transitional Justice Institute) and the Ulster Business School (the Business and Management Research Institute).

2. In the last national Research Assessment Exercise, the University of Ulster entered 496 staff and was judged to have 86% of its research activity of international quality. Ulster is ranked in the top third of UK institutions for research strength, and had three subjects in the top three in the UK nationally in their respective fields – biomedical sciences, nursing and Celtic Studies.

3. The European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research award acknowledges higher education institutions’ alignment with the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for their Recruitment. The UK process incorporates both the QAA Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers to enable institutions that have published Concordat implementation plans to gain the HR Excellence in Research Award. The UK approach includes ongoing national evaluation and benchmarking.

4. All submissions were assessed by a UK panel comprising of:

- Guy Gregory, HR Director, University of Bristol; Chair of South West region, UHR; and member of the Concordat Strategy Group:

- Professor Trevor McMillan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Lancaster University; and member of the Concordat Strategy Group:

- Denis Clarke, Policy Officer - DG Research and Innovation, European Commission:

- Lee Parry, Research Associate, Cardiff University and member of the UK Research Staff Association:

- Ellen Pearce, Director, Vitae and UK representative on the EC HR Strategy Group and on behalf of the Concordat Strategy Group.

5. The award acknowledges that institutions have completed a gap analysis of their existing policies and practice against the Concordat, developed a robust action plan for implementation, and taken into account the views of researchers.

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