Times Higher success for Liam and Library team

  • Date

    Fri 10 Sep 21

Dr Liam Jarvis, smiling, wearing glasses, a grey scarf and black coat

We've successfully secured two spots in the Times Higher Awards 2021 shortlists with Dr Liam Jarvis in the running for the Most Innovative Teacher Award and our Library staff recognised in the Outstanding Library Team Award category.

The awards recognise achievements during the 2019-20 academic year with winners to be announced on 25 November at a London ceremony.

Dr Liam Jarvis, from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies (LiFTS) has been recognised for his creative and resourceful response when, in March 2020, Covid-19 threatened plans for a week-long intensive theatre workshop with students and industry professionals.

The students had been due to work with actor and director Mella Faye, playing the chorus in her reinvention of Oedipus. Instead, when lockdown struck Liam tore up the script and created a virtual residency, with just four weeks to spare.

The format proved so successful that in 2021, when online teaching was still the norm, Liam ran a second virtual residency.

Dr Jarvis said: “It has come as a wonderful surprise to have been shortlisted for this award. In 2020-21, amidst the widespread impacts of the global pandemic, the practice of making, presenting and attending theatre events has been among the riskiest cultural activities imaginable; with theatre buildings evacuated in favour of online platforms. Innovation and adapting at rapid pace has been a necessity.

"Our community has remained committed to inspiring and motivating one another during the most challenging of times and the teaching activities that have led to being shortlisted for this award have only been made possible through the significant reserves of good will, creativity and resilience of our Essex students, colleagues and guest professional theatre-makers with whom we have collaborated, and to whom we are indebted.”

Matthew De Abaitua, Director of Education in LiFTS, said: "Dr Jarvis’ creative response to the adversity of the pandemic shows the positive potential for collaboration across the learning community. It’s to Dr Jarvis’ credit that he brought so many people together to deliver this initiative. Every member of our community is uplifted by his example.”

The Library and Cultural Services team has also been recognised for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As university libraries around the world focussed on moving services online in 2020, our Library went a step further, taking a collaborative user-centred approach.

Personalisation and innovation transformed the way the Library supported teaching, learning and research. Collaboration with academic departments resulted in new approaches to teaching and a Talis Advisory Board Strategic Initiative award.

Dissertation support was moved online within weeks and one-to-one student support sessions meant Essex students could get personalised support from wherever they were in the world.

Cathy Walsh, Director of Library and Cultural Services, said: “It is wonderful to be shortlisted for this award for a second time, especially at this very challenging time. I am proud of the way our team has pulled together over the past 18 months, focusing on the needs of our students and academic staff from the very first day of lockdown. Colleagues across all three campuses have created new services from scratch, gone the extra mile to support individual students and worked hard to make sure we have continued to provide services and support, even when the doors were closed. They have also looked out for each other, and provided connections and support for students that go beyond the normal expectations of library services. I am so pleased that the team is receiving recognition for their commitment, hard work and creativity in continuing to provide high quality library services for our University community.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Lorna Fox O'Mahony said: “I am enormously proud of the ways that our community adapted to meet the extraordinary challenges of the 2019-20 academic year, at a scale and pace that at times felt over-whelming. The success of Liam and our Library Team in being shortlisted for Times Higher Awards is testament to their unwavering dedication, resourcefulness, and creativity. In a time of unprecedented turmoil they put our students and their learning first. They found new and innovative ways to work and I am delighted to see their remarkable achievements recognised in this way.”

Times Higher Education Editor John Gill said: “This is the 17th year that the THE Awards will recognise the best of the best in UK higher education, across 20 categories covering all aspects of university activity. But this year’s awards will reflect a period of turmoil and innovation necessitated by the pandemic, making it quite unlike any previous year.

“We look forward to celebrating the incredible response of university staff in exceptionally tough circumstances when we gather for the Oscars of higher education in November.”