The UHR Awards for Excellence in HR 2023

The fantastic winners have been announced!

The winners of the 2023 UHR Awards for Excellence in HR have now been announced (Wednesday 10 May 2023) and we are so happy to be able to congratulate all of our winners, runners-up and shortlisted teams. This year we have new categories for Reward and Recruitment, and also for Wellbeing, and for the first time we have an individual award for an indispensable member of the team – our HR Star Award.

We are very grateful to the sponsors for the Awards this year.

The UHR Awards for Reward and Recruitment, and for our HR Star, are sponsored by Minerva.

The UHR Award for Business Efficiency and Organisational Effectiveness is sponsored by NTT DATA Business Solutions

The UHR Award for Culture Change and Organisational Development is sponsored by Notion-STAR.

Please head here to learn more about all of our partner organisations


Our winners!

The UHR Award for Business Efficiency and Organisational Effectiveness


The University of Salford: HR Change and Engagement Team for ‘Planning, projects and people’

Project overload, sporadic requests for change, no accountability for delivery, undirected budgets – at Salford getting control of the large demands on the HR team was no mean feat! But through effective programme management, consistent language and engagement, and clear decision making the university has a high performing team who are delivering at pace for the organisation. They now have a suite of supporting documentation, clarity of accountability and reporting structures, structured decision making, risk management, development of the team, and delivery of strategic, tactical and operational people initiatives. Putting together the submission for this award gave the Salford team an opportunity to reflect on just how far they have come as a team – and how valuable the contribution of many different skills sets are to making a team successful. Kate Whiteley, the HR Change and Engagement Manager, has led the team through the transition in to hybrid working and creating a culture which demonstrates both how they are committed to helping students and colleagues, but also how they support each other and give space for creativity whilst driving delivery of best practise. Julie Woosey, Associate Director for People Strategy at Salford said: “We are thrilled to have received this acknowledgment of the progress we have made and thank all those who have been involved!”

RUNNER-UP in this category

The University of Lincoln: People, Performance and Culture - Systems and Data Team for ‘Creating a Data-Driven Decision-Making Culture’

SHORTLISTED in this category

The University of Manchester: Workforce Solutions team

Manchester Metropolitan University: HR Business Support Team for ‘Manchester Metropolitan University - ​Renewing our approach to hourly paid work’


The UHR Award for Culture Change and Organisational Development​


Newcastle University: The ‘For Families’ Project Team

Speaking on behalf of the university, Head of EDI and Colleague Wellbeing at Newcastle, Paul Britton, said: “‘For Families’ is an ambitious three-year project to transform Newcastle University into a visibly leading family-friendly institution. As part of becoming a fully inclusive university, we aim to provide the very best support to all members of our community with caring responsibilities, either as a parent or as an unpaid carer, and enable them to reach their full potential as they work and study with us. The project actively listens to the diverse experiences of colleagues, and with them, we have developed and implemented an extensive programme of work to address the key challenges we’ve identified. Our project stands out by shining the spotlight on being family-friendly, being inclusive in our approach, and proactively tackling a suite of interrelated issues with a common purpose. We are proud to have achieved so much already, and will continue to embed the work of the project into our policies, practices and culture. 

“We are delighted to have won this award and would like to give thanks to Professor Candy Rowe (chair) and Claire Brunton (co-chair), as well as members of the For Families Steering Group, for successfully guiding the work of the project. We would also like to say a big thank you to all those who helped shape our project outcomes through their contributions to our listening sessions. Finally, we would like to give special thanks and acknowledgement to Renita Barbour, who has provided exceptional project management throughout the project.”

RUNNER-UP in this category

University of Surrey: HR Team for ‘Surrey Values: everything, everywhere, all at once’

SHORTLISTED in this category

The University of Lincoln: Reward Services Team in the Department of People, Performance and Culture for the ‘Savings for the Future Workforce Project’

Manchester Metropolitan University: People and Organisational Development Team for ‘How colleagues have shaped Manchester Met’s Road to 2030’

Northumbria University: Organisational Development Team for ‘Northumbria Values and Behaviours’


The UHR Award for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


The University of Lincoln: Reward Services Team in the Department of People, Performance and Culture for the ‘Savings for the Future Workforce Project’

The University of Lincoln identified that the auto enrolment pensions scheme was not motivational, or relevant to the large contingency of student workers who were a critical flexible aspect of the workforce plan. In order to ensure that the benefits offered were relevant and valued, the university piloted and pioneered the introduction of a workplace ISA with employer contributions and a cash back card to enable the concept of saving on a daily basis and reinvesting those savings back in to their workplace ISA. Alongside hosting a national employee Think Tank Savings Summit event the piece of work has received national publicity and has been picked up by the Pensions Minister and government bodies as a social experiment that could influence the design of pensions legislation going forward. More importantly it may influence the workplaces of graduates from the University of Lincoln in future years. 

RUNNER-UP in this category

The University of Surrey: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team for ‘The Menopause Project’

SHORTLISTED in this category

Buckinghamshire New University: the BNU Directorate of Human Resources for ‘Being you at BNU – building a University community where people can be themselves’ 

Staffordshire University: EDI Team for the ‘Consciously Inclusive thinking and behaviours work plan’

Sunderland University: for ‘Family Network Policies’


The UHR Award for Reward and Recruitment


The University of Surrey: Resourcing Team for ‘Surrey Future Fellows Recruitment Campaign’

The Surrey Future Fellowship recruitment campaign is an example of great inter-disciplinary collaboration and demonstrates the value of teamwork across the University, bringing together the best of both academic and professional services disciplines to achieve the University’s strategic aims.  As Head of Resourcing Helen Webb explains: “We attracted the brightest and the best future researchers to the University of Surrey in a candidate shortage and competitive market, resulting in the appointment of 27 Research Fellows into our three university Faculties and pan-University Institutes, and creating a pipeline of future talent. The approach encapsulated our values delivering innovation and inclusion and attracted over 1,400 applications from a single campaign. We achieved our diversity target of over 30% appointed candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds and exceeded our female target with 61% of appointed candidates being women, and over 80% of women at senior Fellow level. The campaign harnessed market leading methods in our sector, including an interactive recruitment video, alongside programmatic advertising augmented by traditional approaches to recruitment. Our approach created agility, with the ability to adapt our channels, in the UK and internationally, and take positive action in-flight during the campaign to deliver our diversity and quality goals. Each step of the way, HR was working with the academic leadership teams and Marketing to ensure that we were promoting truly open research areas and ensuring access to these opportunities to the broadest audience. We are proud to have succeeded in creating a community of inter-disciplinary researchers who will collaborate and pave the way for future ways of working and deliver greater impact for society. We would like to thank all those who worked on the campaign with us, our academic leaders and professional services colleagues in Marketing and HR.”

RUNNER-UP in this category

Durham University: Human Resources and Organisation Development Team for ‘Career Pathway Framework for Professional Services Staff at Durham’

SHORTLISTED in this category

Nottingham Trent University: LCPB R&R Team for ‘NTU Partnership Working’



The UHR Award for Wellbeing


The University of Exeter: Health and Wellbeing Team for ‘Supporting the mental wellbeing of your team’

On winning the award, Exeter’s Head of Organisational Development Christian Carter spoke for the HR team. “When colleagues across the sector are asked ‘What gets in the way of you doing a great job?’, stress, workload and mental wellbeing are often near the top of the list of responses. Colleague engagement (and other national) surveys have demonstrated that this continues to be a growing challenge and as a result has an impact on organisational and individual performance and outcomes. Whilst there are plenty of training products on the market, this project sought to develop something very different, an on-line package entitled ‘Supporting The Mental Wellbeing Of Your Team’, that is not only evidence-based but developed by experts in the field from within our University. Links are made throughout to best practice development tools (such as HSE Stress Management Standard), to ensure this is not only informative but also (vitally) linked to practical action. This is backed up by a new Colleague Mental Health Champion Programme. Trained by Occupational Health and Colleague Wellbeing and in partnership with Mind, we now have 58 colleague volunteers actively supporting our staff community on the ground across all our campuses as Colleague Mental Health Champions. We are proud to have these tools, and our Occupational Health and Wellbeing Teams, recognised by peers within the sector. This was a true collaborative project bringing together academic experts, occupational health, wellbeing and training professionals, as well as our external web training partner. All co-ordinated by the University Mental Health and Wellbeing Board, Chaired by Professor Janice Kay, Provost, it forms part of our University-wide commitment to the Health and Wellbeing of all the University Community.” 

RUNNER-UP in this category

Newcastle University: Newcastle NU Health Checks Project Team for ‘NU Health Checks Programme’

SHORTLISTED in this category

The University of Lincoln: Reward Services Team in the Department of People, Performance and Culture for the ‘Savings for the Future Workforce Project’

University College London: UCL Workplace Health Team for ‘UCL Nearby Nature’



The UHR Award for Exceptional HR – our ‘Team of the Year’ category


Buckinghamshire New University: BNU Directorate of Human Resources for BNU HR – reinvigorating people management 

Rachael Cornwall, Director of Human Resources at Buckinghamshire New University, was delighted to win the UHR Award for Exceptional HR, and said: “At BNU we recognise that, to compete effectively, much continuing work is needed to transform the way our people are supported, how their work is enabled and governed, and how we deploy management processes to reward and recognise excellence and challenge under performance. We can only achieve this with supportive, responsive and fit for purpose people management processes and procedures. Over the last two years, our HR team has gone ‘back to basics’ to deliver an improved people management experience. By focussing on the hygiene factors we have been able to significantly improve how HR operates and supports the business, which is evidenced in our recruitment metrics (improving time to hire by one month and increasing our proportion of ethnically diverse staff by 7%) , sector leading EDI work (particularly for Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showperson and Boater pledge and our definition of Islamophobia), improved staff survey results and employee metrics that demonstrate change (reduced sickness absence and voluntary turnover).

“We are delighted to have won the HR Team of the Year award that recognises the BNU HR Team for their determination to re-set the basics and foundations of people management. We would like to recognise the contribution and valued support from colleagues across BNU who have provided input and guidance as we have undertaken this work. We continue to work towards our goal for every member of our community to keep ‘Being you at BNU’ and will continue to do all we can to enhance the employee experience to ensure that, in turn, BNU’s students receive the best experience.”

RUNNER-UP in this category

Northumbria University: Northumbria HR Team for ‘NUHR #TakeOnTomorrow’

SHORTLISTED in this category

The University of Law: University of Law Talent Acquisition Team for ‘In support of a growing business model: Transforming Recruitment Practices’


The UHR Award for HR Star


Sam Coulby of Sheffield Hallam University

For all of our nominated and shortlisted candidates for UHR’s HR Star Award, there has been a period of what we might describe as ‘modest amazement’ – even to be considered for a nomination, never mind to make it through to judging, shortlisting and beyond. Our winner, Sam Coulby, People Portfolio Operations Manager at Sheffield Hallam University, said he felt “overwhelmed that anyone thought of putting me forward. It was a really nice feeling, but I thought that would be as far as it went. So to find myself shortlisted, and then to actually win this award, well I can’t even describe it. A bit stunned! A lot of the work I do is on projects that are a little behind-the-scenes by their nature, so I take the win for the project groups and working groups that I’m part of. I’ve had a lot of support from the whole HR team when the shortlisting was announced, and I’m grateful for that. This will be a boost for us all. It suggests we are all on the right track, and it’s great that this is a UHR Award for SHU for the second year in a row.”

That is a reference to Sam’s part in the Sheffield Hallam Academic Careers Framework project which won the UHR Award for Business Effectiveness and Organisational Performance in 2022. That project work continues to influence Sam’s current workload; while a new academic staff recruitment campaign, shortly to be launched, is one of his current main professional focuses.

The nomination paper spoke of Sam’s “rare ability to see the big picture and then follow through with an attention to detail that is forensic in its thoroughness. As has been referenced by his colleagues, he is a delight to work with, always calm and considered. He is supremely professional however blends that with a humour and lightness of touch. His modesty and self-deprecation are delightful. We had to advise Sam of this nomination which took him by surprise and he was quite overcome. Winning this award would be fitting recognition of his care, concern, diligence and loyalty to his colleagues and Hallam.

Speaking for Sheffield Hallam, Dr Sally Jackson said she “could not be more pleased if I’d won this myself. It is greatly deserved by Sam and he will be completely overcome by this; he is so modest in his achievements.”

UHR Chair Naina Patel, spoke for the awards judges in saying “Sam’s impact across a broad range of projects is clearly appreciated at SHU and has similarly been appreciated by the awards judges. They felt that the entry made it clear that Sam is appreciated by senior and junior colleagues alike, strongly represents the university’s values, and that he comes across as a low-ego individual, which has many benefits in the working environment. That this nomination is supported at such a senior level speaks volumes.”

RUNNERS-UP in this category

Paula Banks of the University of Edinburgh

Rachael Harber of the University of Hull



Congratulations to all of those shortlisted, and our thanks to those who have missed out this year. We hope you gained plenty from the task of making a nomination – a chance to review and reflect on success, to share team learnings, and to be proud of what were often strikingly good nominations despite them not gaining a shortlisting this year.


UHR Awards 2022

Our 2022 Award winners included an inspiring set of projects and teams and just as every year there was much for the UHR community to learn.

Read about the winners



UHR Awards 2021

The winners of the UHR Awards for Excellence in HR 2021 were announced at UHR’s 2021 Conference, themed ‘Refreshing HR’, on Wednesday 12 May 2021.

Read about the winners



UHR Awards 2020

It is part of our role to identify and share good practice in HR teams across HE and there is much to learn from all of our shortlisted teams. To our winners, congratulations, and to everyone who took part, our thanks and very best wishes

Read about the winners



UHR Awards 2019

The winners of the UHR Awards for Excellence in HR were announced at our annual conference in Manchester on May 23rd 2019

Read about the winners


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