Firstly, a piece of good news- there are no set rules for what your teaching awards should look like. The main thing to think about is that your awards do what you want them to.
Thinking about Categories and Criteria
Thoughtful categories are a very important aspect of your awards. Think about what will make students vote- what are they passionate about? How can you present this as something to care about?
Good categories and criteria are necessary to engage your membership in the awards and make the judging easier. Think about the challenges and issues that you’re currently facing at your university. What are your other education campaigns about? Your NSS, PTES and PRES results are a good starting point; what issues have these identified? Also, what information can you obtain from your course reps?
That’s not to say, however, that you need separate categories at all. Some award schemes just have a single, all-purpose category. However, in all cases, clear criteria are crucial otherwise the shortlisting and judging process will be a real challenge.
Don’t feel that you need a large number of awards in order for them to be worthwhile. Some schemes only consist of one or two categories, and are really positive and useful initiatives. It is better to get at least something in your union’s programme of work that can be built on in coming years than nothing at all.
Developing an Identity for your Awards
It’s important that your awards grab the attention of your students- after all, you’re going to need them to make the effort to nominate.
One of the most important things about your awards is that they reflect the identity of your university and of your students. This need not be a vastly expensive undertaking; you probably already have a great SU brand (or even one for your education campaigns) that could be the point of departure for this too.
What about Support (Professional Services) Staff?
Increasing numbers of students’ unions across the UK are choosing to recognise professional services (non-teaching) staff alongside their other student-led teaching awards.
This is definitely something worth considering. In the modern HE environment, the line between professional services and purely academic staff is becoming increasingly blurred. Both have the ability to impact on the education environment, so excellence in both groups should be given equal importance. In the same way that teaching awards highlight good practice that can be shared with other academics in a constructive way, recognising excellence in professional services can have the same effect, and show staff standards that can be aspired to.
For more information on this, as well as a suggested professional services award that NUS have developed in partnership with the Association of University Administrators (AUA), find our briefing in the ‘Resources’ section on this website.