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The University of Southampton

Innovative academic wins higher education ‘Oscar’

Published: 2 December 2013

Simon Kemp from the University of Southampton has been named ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ by the Times Higher Education magazine, considered the Oscars of the higher education community.

Simon, Principal Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, is known to students and colleagues as a passionate and committed educator. His work has previously received recognition at national level through the award of a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy. He was also honoured by the Southampton University Students Union with an Excellent Teaching Award earlier this year for Best Innovative Teaching.

“I am absolutely thrilled to win such a prestigious award!” said Simon who is also Chair of Sustainability Action at the University. “I am passionate about my teaching and I always seek to provide a rich and rewarding learning experience for our students.

“Education for social and environmental good is not simply altruistic, it can be genuinely transformative for students, and that what I aspire to provide in my work,” he enthused. “I constantly strive to innovate in my teaching and assessment, and to deliver both in a manner that challenges and inspires students to perform at the highest possible level.

“My aim for each module I teach is to equip our students with the skills they will need to thrive in the workplace, whilst making a positive contribution towards solving the world’s problems,” he concluded.

The judges for Times Higher Education were hugely impressed by Simon’s imaginative approach to teaching, particularly by putting students in high-pressure, real-life business situations. Moving away from traditional classroom-based lessons on environmental management courses, Simon asked students to conduct professional audits under his supervision for several major organisations in Southampton, including Southampton General Hospital, Skandia Insurance and West Quay Shopping Centre, under his supervision.

Students presented their work to the clients and received feedback on their services – inspiring some to set up their own consultancy firms on graduation. They have worked with nearly 100 local businesses, prompting many firms to improve their green credentials.

Students praise Simon’s teaching as “brilliant”, “extremely well designed”, “totally unique” and “incredibly academically rewarding”, and laud his dedication to providing an outstanding learning experience.

Simon has also embraced technology, filming his lectures and using Twitter to extend debates beyond the classroom.

“Simon’s teaching exemplifies the best in innovative and inspirational teaching in UK higher education today,” said lead judge Philippa Levy, Deputy Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy. “His imaginative approach to teaching sustainability and environmental management systems challenges and supports students to learn actively and to develop crucial employability and professional skills.”

Simon was nominated for the Times Higher Education award by University Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education, Professor Alex Neill, who praised his ability to channel his passion for his field into effective student-focussed teaching.

“It’s very good to see Simon’s work as an educator recognised once again at national level; winning the THE award is a real achievement of which the University is extremely proud,” said Professor Neill.

In addition to his more academic role at the University of Southampton, Simon has co-led and contributed to numerous sustainability projects including leading Southampton’s Sustainability Action programme (previously Green Academy), which is working towards placing sustainability within the CORE (Curriculum Operations Research and Experience) of the University.

For the last two years he has successfully led the Southampton Blackout, the largest energy switch-off and audit of its kind in UK higher education. He is currently working with the University’s Students’ Union on the BEES project – Business Ethics & Environmental Students – to help transform ethical and environmental business practice in the University and across the city of Southampton.

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