Professor Tim Stratford wins Chancellor’s Award for Teaching

Professor Tim Stratford at the Chancellor's Awards ceremony
Professor Tim Stratford at the Chancellor's Awards ceremony

Our Director of Learning and Teaching, Professor Tim Stratford, has won the University of Edinburgh’s Chancellor’s Award for Teaching.

A very small number of Chancellor's Awards are bestowed by the University each year, in recognition of individuals who have demonstrated particular innovation, relevance, creativity, personal dedication and impact in teaching and research.

Professor Stratford was presented with the Award by the University's Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, at a gala dinner held at the Palace of Holyrood House on Friday 19 November, where he was also congratulated by the Lord Lieutenant and Rt. Hon. Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

Rare honour

Professor Stratford is one of four staff across the University to receive the Award in 2021, and is the first member of Engineering staff ever to receive the honour.

Established in 2003, the Chancellor’s Awards reward staff in four categories for teaching, research, outstanding contribution and showing great potential in early career teaching and/or research.

The Award for Teaching honours a colleague who has recently enhanced the University's teaching reputation through a significant contribution to improving or invigorating student learning at any level.

Leadership during Covid-19

Professor Stratford was nominated for several areas of contribution, including providing leadership and effective communications to students and teaching staff during the Covid-19 crisis.

At the onset of the pandemic, he rapidly pulled together a plan for the School’s transition to a new ‘hybrid’ mode of teaching, which would allow students to continue learning whether they were on campus or across the world in a different time zone.

A key component of this new approach was the delivery of live ‘hybrid’ seminars, combining in-person and online attendees and methods of tuition. Under Professor Stratford’s leadership, the School succeeded in delivering live hybrid seminars for every single course in the School in semester 1 of the 2020/21 academic year – a unique achievement across the University.

He was also commended for keeping in consistent, regular contact with all students on taught programmes from the outset of the pandemic – providing a reassuring voice during a time of great uncertainty, and ensuring that student and staff wellbeing were prioritised in the School’s Covid-19 mitigation measures.

Curriculum renewal

Since autumn 2019, Professor Stratford led a Curriculum Renewal project to modernise Edinburgh’s engineering curriculum.

The new curriculum will equip the next generation of engineers to meet the demands of the 21st century, providing multidisciplinary programmes which balance technical depth, experience-based learning, and engagement with industry.

Through the Renewal project, Professor Stratford and his team have created new year 1 courses which introduce students to the breadth and complexity of many modern engineering problems, and nurture the creativity, resilience, team-working and problem-solving skills that our engineering graduates will need to meet the future needs of society.

Creative design

In his own specialism of civil engineering, Professor Stratford has pioneered an approach which places creative design at the heart of teaching, in response to the digital revolution in the engineering profession.

Professor Stratford focuses on the importance of developing students’ creativity to tackle “super-complex” problems, and agility in learning and applying new skills. His innovative approach to engineering education was recognised by the Institution of Structural Engineers’ (IStructE) Award for Excellence in Structural Engineering Education in 2016, and the following year he was invited to give the keynote presentation on the topic at the Technical University of Denmark.

His work on this “design thread” has also been showcased in multiple publications, prompting discussion across industry and academic on the importance of art and creativity in the engineering design process.

“Prestigious award”

Reacting to the award, Professor Stratford said: “I’m delighted to receive this prestigious award for teaching. It is a particular honour to be receiving it after two years when colleagues from across our University have invested so much hard work and innovation in teaching.

“I’m particularly proud of how the School of Engineering community has responded over the last 20 months. I’m privileged to work with Engineering’s dedicated and enthusiastic academic and professional services team, and also very proud of how our students have responded during a very difficult time. It’s been great to see everyone back in our buildings this semester."

Head of the School of Engineering, Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, commented “I am delighted that Tim Stratford has received this prestigious award from the University, the first engineer to do so.

"It is a recognition of Tim’s leadership during the pandemic and his innovation in teaching and curriculum renewal. It is also a recognition of the hard-working Learning and Teaching Team which has supported Tim during the last number of years, as well as all the staff in our School that are working so hard towards improving our courses and curriculum.”

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