Cambridge celebrates Teaching Excellence

Jackson Caines 10 May 2014

Last night Cambridge staff and students gathered to celebrate and acknowledge academic and non-academic staff who have shown teaching excellence this year.

The awards ceremony for the CUSU Teaching Excellence Award (TEA) took place in Cambridge University’s historic Combination Room, next to the Senate House. CUSU said the intention of TEA was to highlight the work of “lecturers, supervisors, administrators and other staff who are exemplary teachers and mentors”.

The staff were all nominated by students. CUSU received over 190 nominations; a committee of students and academics then selected 15 winners and 10 special mentions from a shortlist of 50 nominees.

At the ceremony, English Faculty Rep Bhavik Shah gave attendees a sample of the praise lavished upon supervisors and lecturers by the students who had nominated them. Nominees were thanked for offering their students coffee and cookies; taking a student’s damaged Shakespeare collection to the book-binders; and even marking 50 optional essays by one enthusiastic supervisee.

Many nominees were visibly moved by receiving their award. Dr Philine zu Ermgassen of the Department of Zoology, who won in the supervisor category, said that being acknowledged in this way was “really touching” and that it was “all the better coming from the students”. Historian Dr Chris Briggs said he was “thrilled” to be a winner in the lecturer category.

The importance of pastoral care was highlighted throughout the evening. Many student testimonials expressed appreciation for staff who listened to their problems and made them feel at ease in a challenging academic environment.  Flick Osborn, outgoing CUSU President, spoke of her gratitude for Reverend Liz Adekunle, Chaplain at St John’s, singling out her “really good sense of humour”.

Lauren Steele, outgoing CUSU Women’s Officer, said the awards sent a message to staff that “students really appreciate what you do, and when you put that extra mile in it really makes a difference”.

She also drew attention to the political context of the awards: “With students increasingly treated like customers, you can lose sight of the real reason we’re at university, which is to learn… These awards give staff and students the opportunity to appreciate each other”.