The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has been awarded the prestigious University of the Year award at the Times Higher Education Awards 2016.
The School was the judges' unanimous choice for the award, given in recognition of its response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014/15.
The awards, held in association with Santander Universities, are now in their twelfth year. They are widely recognised as the Oscars of the higher education sector, shining a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of institutions, teams and individuals working in UK higher education.
According to the judges: "For most of the UK's universities, 2014-15 was a year to hold tight and try not to come off the rails as the policy helter-skelter continued.
"But for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, it was one of the most extraordinary years in its history: a moment when a small institution seized the opportunity to take an unfolding catastrophe by the scruff of the neck and put all of its expertise into action. This, of course, was the Ebola crisis during which 10,000 people died across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea before the crisis ended earlier this year.
"When the outbreak began, the school had a reservoir of expertise it could deploy alongside charities and NGOs, from teams who model the spread of disease, to student volunteers who were able to clean up datasets from the field, ensuring that the sites of outbreaks were recorded accurately. The School ensured that staff who were keen be part of the response and had the skills to help were able to do so without losing funding or income.
"It was an extraordinary example of research expertise being deployed in real time in the real world. But the School's response wasn't only about putting people in the field. There was also a need for education to combat Ebola's spread. It established an online platform that pooled resources from anthropologists to help those on the ground understand and work effectively within the cultural context of the region. Another initiative took the form of a massive open online course – a free three-week programme aimed at health professionals, emergency response workers and students.
"This was a moment for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to come into its own, to pause the normal business of the school to allow its world-leading experts to make a difference in a way for which they are uniquely qualified. It did all of these things, and was the judges' unanimous choice as THE's University of the Year 2016."
The award was accepted by the School's Professor John Edmunds, who received an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours for his services to infectious disease control, particularly the Ebola crisis response in West Africa.
Prof Edmunds said: "We are honoured to be named University of the Year 2016. During the Ebola crisis our committed community of staff, students and alumni mobilised and put their expertise into action to respond to the outbreak. Their continued work and dedication means that we are able to make an important contribution to addressing urgent challenges in global and public health."
The black-tie event took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London, and was hosted by actor Richard E. Grant.
Winners were chosen by a panel of judges including Alison Johns, chief executive of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Joanna Newman, vice-principal (international), King's College London, and Malia Bouattia, president of the National Union of Students.
John Gill, editor of THE said: "The spirit of relentless improvement, of competing but also working together for the greater public good, will be vital for our universities and the country in the months and years ahead. Universities face major challenges as a result of Brexit, but as can be seen from the extraordinary group of winners this year, the THE Awards serve as a timely reminder of just how strong they are as a group: "world class" is a cliche, but an apt one in this case".
The full list of this year's winners can be viewed at http://www.the-awards.co.uk/the2016/winners
About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with more than 4,000 students and 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and among the world's leading schools in public and global health. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk