Winners from Walsall, Telford and Greece at the University of Wolverhampton Student Union Awards

There were winners from Walsall, Telford and as far as Greece at this year's University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union Awards.

Winner Claire Watkins
Winner Claire Watkins

Students, staff and work placement providers have all been recognised for outstanding efforts at an awards ceremony in Wolverhampton.

Organisers of the 11th Wolverhampton University Students’ Union Awards received a record 250 nominations for people and organisations who went above and beyond.

It comes amid troubles at the university which has suspended enrolment on 138 of its courses as the union threatens to ballot staff over strikes as redundancies loom.

The awards recognised placement providers for the first time this year, to honour employers which offer students vital work experience opportunities.

Rapid Response Team, from Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, won Placement Provider of the Year.

Advanced clinical practitioner Claire Watkins, who has been responsible for overseeing placements for five years, said she was overwhelmed by the award.

She said: "This is amazingly rewarding. We always strive to treat our students as colleagues and get great feedback."

Presenting the Placement Provider of the Year award, academic lead on mental health, Clare Dickens, paid tribute to nominees for “restoring faith in humanity” for the way they had looked after students.

She praised the rapid response team for tailored support for students that wasn’t rushed, which she said was a ‘rarity’ in a clinical environment.

Outstanding Contribution for the Student Placement Experience went to teacher Adam Richards, from St George’s CofE Primary School, Telford. Professor Julia Clarke described Adam as an ‘outstanding and inspiring practitioner.”

Adam, of Ketley, said that he enjoys his role so much, he doesn’t see it as work.

He said: "I always wanted to be responsible for placements at the school so am shocked but delighted to receive an award."

Among the other winners were Clare Dickens who won an award for best pastoral care, Panagiota Balatsou who scooped School Rep of the Year and Sarbani Mookarji who won Student Diversity Champion and Angel Morphew who won Staff Diversity Champion. Gioan Peloumpi won Student Staff Member of the Year for his role at the Students' Union. Nirmla Devi, CEO of the University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union, revealed he only learned to speak English in 2019 after joining the university from Greece but was universally liked and respected for his work ethic and welcoming nature.

Nirmla said: "We are all inspired by the winners and this year, more than ever, we know that recognition is important.

"The two exciting new awards this year reflect how important work placements are for our students, as well as recognising what a challenging year it has been."

“The Students' Union Awards is already an opportunity for students to show recognition and celebrate the achievements of University staff, SU staff and their fellow students that have helped make their life at the University better so it makes perfect sense to add placements into the mix when a placement is such a key part of university experience.

“It's with this in mind that two new categories have been introduced this year to recognise placement providers that have a life-changing, far-reaching positive impact on the student journey.

“We are proud of the impact our students are having in diverse working environments as part of their courses and grateful for the welcome support and inspiration they benefit from ”

It comes as university chiefs announced earlier this month that recruitment would be halted on the 138 courses for the next academic year due to the impact of Covid and fewer students.

But when taking into account variants of these courses – foundation years and part-time courses – the figure rises to 418, with staff cuts also believed to be on the cards.

Now the University and College Union (UCU) has warned it will be left with no choice but to ballot staff for strike action if the university pushes ahead with its proposals.

University chiefs say the Covid pandemic has increased its costs, while enrolments have been falling.

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