The THE Awards are now open – discover our 8 top tips for writing a winning award entry!

It’s almost that time of year again when the UK HE sector puts forward their best successes, programmes and initiatives for the chance to be celebrated at the Times Higher Education Awards.   

Dubbed the ‘Oscars of higher education’, the THE Awards are free to enter and recognise the hard work, innovation and dedication of teams and individuals across the sector.   

But how do you write a killer award entry? 

It’s one thing to have an amazing story to tell but telling that story can be an art in itself. As this year’s sponsor of the Outstanding Library Team award, we wanted to share our 8 top tips for writing an award-winning entry.  

  1. Triple check the entry requirements
    Read the entry requirements, then re-read them, and then read them again! The last thing you want to do is write a 3,000-word masterpiece only to realise that the entry should be a maximum of 500 words (which, by the way, it is in this case!). Be sure not to get caught out by the time-period either. This year’s awards focus on activity that happened during the last academic year – so that’s 2020/21.
  2. Know your category
    You’ll need to fully address the criteria in the category description to win over the judges. Rather than diving straight in, take the time to plan. Bullet point your key messages to ensure you’ve got all the criteria covered before you start telling your story.
  3. Celebrate your unique selling points
    Want to be remembered? Bring some new to the table. If you or your team drove innovation or you’ve implemented something exciting that’s unique to your institution, shout about it. Ask yourself, what makes you, your team or your institution special?
  4. Prove it
    The fact that you’re considering entering the awards suggest you have something special to share that’s worthy of recognition, but you’ve got to back it up with evidence, evidence, evidence. For example, if you’ve recently introduced a new student mental health initiative, be sure to support any claims you make with evidence like engagement data or anecdotal feedback from students who have benefited from your work. Remember, you can include this as supporting documentation, so it doesn’t eat up your word count.
  5. Focus on impact
    You’ll notice that the category requirements often ask you how you achieved something but don’t explicitly ask you to detail the impact of your actions. If your university library supplied all transnational students with access to their core textbooks digitally and in record time during 20/21, that’s great news! But don’t just focus on what you did, describe the positive impact this had on those students and their programmes – and if you have evidence to support this, even better
  6. Be succinct
    There are some awards that afford you a substantial word count – THE is not one of those awards. With 500 words to play with, brevity is key. The age-old ‘Point, Evidence, Explain’ technique is just as applicable here as it was in Key Stage 2 English.
  7. Give yourself time
    You might be thinking: what’s 500 words? I could write that overnight. However, judges will appreciate a well-structured entry. It’s also important not to underestimate the time it can take to gather evidence. If you’re relying on others to provide you with qualitative or quantitative data, that will add time to the preparation of your entry. Enlist help early! If you’re submitting your entry at 23:59 on deadline day, you probably started too late…
  8. Remember to proof!
    If there’s one step in the award-entry-writing process you don’t want to miss, it’s proofreading! The pressure of writing an entry can lead to unfortunate mistakes, which is why getting it checked by a second pair of eyes is always a good idea. Whether you’re entering for Outstanding Library Team or Business School of the Year, you don’t want to be telling the judges how you rose to a challenge by working as a ‘close-knit cream working tiredly to support prudents in their studies’. 

Keep an eye out for the nomination window this spring. Don’t miss out!