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A winning night for York St John at the ‘Oscars of Higher Education’

Published: 08 December 2023

  •   Featured
  •   Campus & Estates
A group accepting an award on stage

Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig presented the team with their award.

It was third time lucky for the York St John University Estates department this year as they were named the deserving winners of the Times Higher Education (THE) award for Outstanding Estates Team 2023. The team have been repeatedly shortlisted in the hotly contested category after consistently impressing judges at the awards with their commitment to excellence and sustainability.  

Commonly known as the 'Oscars of higher education,' the THE awards are judged by a panel of sector experts and shine a light on the exceptional and innovative work taking place at UK universities. This year, Higher Education's biggest celebration took place on Thursday 7 December at ACC Liverpool, the first time the THE Awards have been held outside London since their launch in 2005.  

From the judging panel: “York St John University’s Estates team was recognised in this category for a series of projects it undertook to improve the efficiency and biodiversity of its sites.    

“These included the development of the Creative Centre, a £17.2 million project hosting facilities for programmes including performance, music and computer science, which has been held up as a remarkable example of sustainable design, and the team’s decarbonisation efforts. The institution invested £1 million in installing solar photovoltaics, solar carports, and heat pumps, which resulted in an 82-tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.   

 “Biodiversity initiatives, including Hedgehog Friendly Campus Scheme accreditations and tansy beetle preservation, underscored the team’s dedication to sustainable practices. Meanwhile, innovative partnerships and data-driven improvements showcased a holistic approach to sustainability.   

 “The Estates directorate achieved all this while undergoing significant expansion, adding security, timetabling, technical services, accommodation and catering to the team.”  

Judges said it was heartening to see an institution addressing many of the challenges that estates departments encounter in such a positive and engaging way.    

“York St John University has achieved just that, excelling in the delivery of its highly lauded Creative Centre as well as a range of biodiversity and energy conservation projects,” the panel added.   

 “Much attention was also placed on the student experience, with improvements to support students with longer commute times.”   

Nick Coakley, Director of Estates Management and Development at York St John University, said “I am absolutely delighted to receive this award, which reflects so much hard work and creative thinking from colleagues across the Estates team at York St John.

"We strive to reduce our environmental impact in everything we do, from buildings to biodiversity and recycling and I’m incredibly proud that our work to create a more sustainable future has been recognised.”  

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice Chancellor of York St John University said: "It is great to see the work of our Estates team being recognised nationally for its outstanding impact.

"From their initiatives to support biodiversity, to their commitment to sustainable development and decarbonisation, the team have focused on ensuring our campus can be enjoyed by students, colleagues, and local residents for years to come."

John Gill, THE’s editor said: “After 19 years, hundreds of winners and many thousands of entries, one might expect to get used to the amazing examples of excellence highlighted by the Times Higher Education Awards.     

“But the sheer depth of innovation, talent and dedication that exists at every level of universities across the UK and Ireland never fails to impress. Our winners exemplify the broad spectrum of ways in which universities are excelling and making a difference.”   

Winning the Outstanding Estates Team THE award rounds off an impressive year for the team. Their sector-leading environment-first approach was recognised with York St John Creative Centre named winner in the York Design Awards Sustainability category. In 2023, the Centre also secured Building of the Year and the Sustainability Award at the RIBA Yorkshire Awards, with judges specifically commenting on the ‘elegant example of sustainable architecture’ and ‘admirable’ sector-leading accessibility features. York St John was also recognised with the RIBA Yorkshire Client of the Year award, reflecting the success of the close relationship with the design team. 

The diverse projects from the team have led to other awards and accreditation this year too including: York St John named joint first for carbon reduction by student charity People and Planet; Gold accreditation in the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Scheme; Food for Life Bronze award from the Soil Association; SKA Gold for the sustainable fit-out of our expanded London Campus and a major grant from Natural England to spearhead work to preserve the endangered Tansy Beetle, Great Crested Newt and Water Vole.   

 More about Sustainability and environment  at York St John.

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