The following UHR member institutions have been nominated in this category.


Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh Napier University has gone through a significant period of cultural change over the last 2 years and the HR Team have been fundamental in supporting the University in working towards the achievement of our strategy.

Through the introduction of the My Contribution performance management process the institution has seen increased engagement and understanding of how individual performance impacts the overall performance of the University.

Through focusing on the development of a leadership culture Edinburgh Napier is supporting both leaders and teams to embed a high performance culture based on an engaged workforce.

Focusing on recognition through the introduction of the Above and Beyond awards is demonstrating the value placed on individual and team performance while celebrating the great successes across the whole University.

Continuing to drive more proactive and data-based decisions through Workforce Planning conversations ensures everyone knows the skills and behaviours required to be successful in the future while helping the university attract and retain talent.

Focusing on continuous improvement across all our process, policies and procedures has helped simplify and reduce time on a number of activities including consultation, recruitment and line manager activities.

In summary the Edinburgh Napier HR Team have successfully created, launched and embedded a number of key initiatives and strategies that are supporting the University in becoming not only a highly successful University but one that is also seen as an employer of choice and a great place to work. 



University of Exeter

The University of Exeter apprenticeship strategy is boosting workforce capability through ‘growing their own’ talent from a variety of entry routes, and enhancing skills of the existing staff to meet existing and future skills gaps. This is being delivered by a holistic approach reaching across all campuses in Devon and Cornwall. 

Working with quality local, and national, training providers has ensured that their apprentices are of the highest calibre and has helped to address social mobility and skills shortages.

The University of Exeter is a proud supporter of apprenticeships, with over 107 new apprenticeship starts since May 2017, and believe that apprenticeships will help to develop talent in the South West and will give people the opportunity to work in a Russell Group University.

Apprentices at the University perform exceptionally well and are able to add value to their teams from the day they join.  Many of these go on to secure jobs at the University or progress to the next level apprenticeship on successful completion.



Imperial College

In the past, Imperial College had a reputation of being a tough place to work. The College’s 2015-2020 strategy set out to challenge this perception and to ensure that staff felt supported and valued even in a highly competitive external environment. The HR team recognised that change would not be felt unless all the community came together to improve the culture and behaviours and to support each other. They also recognised that the changes needed to be driven from all areas of HR. A range of initiatives were therefore developed in conjunction with the staff community. This approach was highly successful, and the College now has volunteers from all departments and all grades supporting colleagues in accessing services, coaching, mentoring, mental health awareness, career progression and social activities.  

The HR team at Imperial have also improved consultation and engagement with the wider College community. This has included education and feedback during local pay bargaining that has changed the pay and benefits offer and supports lower paid staff. The HR team have demonstrated successful collaboration and engagement with change programmes for their own restructure and also by developing and supporting wider continuous improvement champions for change across the organisation.

Imperial College is still a demanding place to work but there is now evidence of a successful HR partnership on the people agenda working with the wider community on a shared agenda of collaboration and mutual support to improve the working lives and experiences for staff at Imperial College.



Leeds Trinity University

A 2014 survey of Leeds Trinity staff clearly stated that people wanted well-being to be high on the University’s agenda. The University’s response started with the launch of a centralised portal and expanded into a range of community events and initiatives.

Leeds Trinity was one of the first Universities to implement the “Juice” platform, an employee-driven “hub” for well-being activities co-founded by Leeds Trinity alumnus Gary Butterfield. Since the launch, a range of activities have followed, including a series of “Juice Boosts” on topics such as nutrition, mental health and financial wellbeing, regular health checks run by the University’s fitness centre sessions on Tai Chi and mindfulness. These activities are free to employees, and can be done in work time. Annual events such as Mission Christmas and the Trinity Challenge also bring the University Community together and strongly build on team work and community spirit.

The October 2017 staff survey produced a 13% increase (from 56% to 69%) of staff who believed the University was effective in supporting well-being and early indications look positive this will increase for 2020. The University has managed to achieve these results on an extremely limited budget and with little resource by engaging with internal experts and alumni and setting up a network of department Well Being Champions to embed the University’s commitment to wellbeing.



University of Westminster

The University had a financial challenge which required a restructure from five faculties to three colleges with a total staff cost savings of £21 million between April 2017 and 31 July 2018 (15 months).  During this restructure the HR and OD department was itself being reduced by 70 percent.

Staff and non-pay cost pressure at the University had continued to exert an upward shift in costs – rising at a time when overall University income is falling.  HR was responsible for ensuring that there was a clear strategy and operational plan (5 phases) in place that delivered the cost savings and new structure within the timeframe set by the Court of Governors.

Some of the key activities that enabled the HR function to operate and deliver to tight timescales in difficult and challenging times included:  A robust communication plan; HR providing manager briefings and a suite of guidelines & templates to empower managers to lead on formal consultation meetings (without HR present) ensuring ownership at a local level; and offering a wide range of resources and services to assist and engage staff during this period of organisational change (e.g. Career Support Portal, career coaching and resilience workshops).

This project demonstrates that despite the enormity and scale of the task and the very tight timeframe, a well-planned and high performing HR team can make a real and sustained difference to the challenges and operational difficulties that the sector currently finds itself operating within.