Page content

Heather Burgess, Embroidery Technician in Belfast School of Art and Co-Chair of the University’s Technician Commitment Steering Group, has been shortlisted in the ‘Outstanding Technician of the Year’ category in the 19th annual THE Awards.

Widely known as the 'Oscars of higher education', the annual THE Awards recognise excellence across the UK and Ireland, with 20 award categories covering a wide range of university activity across leadership and management, administration, and academia.

In a region renowned for its textile industries, artist and technician Heather Burgess blends this longstanding heritage with contemporary, progressive techniques and themes. A central member of Ulster University Belfast School of Art’s textile art, design and fashion team, across both research and teaching, Heather delights in introducing and delivering training on new equipment that makes more possible.  She forges a collaborative learning environment that supports students to flourish though enhancing their technical skills with confidence, embracing unusual or experimental techniques and unlocking creative expression.  Heather pioneers new ways of working that can become embedded in teaching practice.

A champion of fellow technicians through her role as Co-Chair of the University’s Technician Commitment Steering Group from 2021, Heather stretches her skills beyond the textile workshop, coordinating shared efforts and objectives for this professional community. Always innovating to make the student experience better, her generosity, care and skill leave a lasting impression.

Damian McAlister, Chief People Officer and co-chair of Ulster University’s Technician Commitment Steering Group, said,

“We are delighted that Heather has reached the shortlist in these prestigious annual awards.  The nomination reflects not only expertise and technical skill but also the pastoral care and encouragement for which Heather is known and which is so characteristic of our diverse technician community at Ulster University.    

It’s encouraging to see this THE category showcase the talent and contribution of technicians in higher education.  This reflects the work underway within our Steering Group to recognise the impact of the many technicians making it all happen in our studios, labs and specialist teaching and research spaces here at Ulster.  

This shortlisting is so well deserved and Heather in is very good company on the ‘Outstanding Technician of the Year’ shortlist. We look forward to cheering her on at the awards ceremony in December.”

Heather is one of over 150 talented technicians working across diverse disciplines at Ulster University, applying their specialist skills to the delivery of teaching, the student learning experience, and research and innovation. Experts in their field, Ulster’s technicians apply their expertise to bring materials, techniques, technology and equipment to life – making a difference on campus and beyond.

THE editor John Gill said:

“19 years on from their launch, I’m delighted to say that the enthusiasm for the THE Awards continues to grow. This year saw yet another record number of entries, but maybe more importantly, we also have more institutions represented on the shortlists than ever before – a clear indicator of the great strength in depth of UK and Irish higher education. Across 19 categories, you will find not only some long-established big names, but also younger, aspirational institutions, those with a community-centred civic vision, and others with a much more specialist focus – all of whom deserve wider recognition for their brilliant work. 

Our awards are inclusive by design, and while THE has learned countless things over the past 52 years covering the sector, right up there is the fact that innovative and inspirational ideas can originate at any institution, whatever its shape, size or reputation.  We’re incredibly proud to host this biggest celebration of the sector, and particularly excited this year by the prospect of taking the final ceremony on the road for the first time. The ACC in Liverpool awaits on 7 December, and the THE team are all looking forward to seeing everyone there and toasting your success.”

The full shortlist is available at

The THE Award ceremony will take place at ACC Liverpool on 7 December 2023.