The University of Manchester’s Professor Alys Young won the Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year award last night at the Times Higher Education Awards 2016.
The awards, sponsored by Santander, are now in their twelfth year and are among the most prestigious in the higher education sector, shining a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of institutions, teams and individuals working in UK higher education.
Alys Young’s nomination stood out in this new category, sponsored by the UK Council for Graduate Education, not only for her outstanding supervision work in Deaf studies and in social work, but for her fierce commitment to helping Deaf students access PhD-level study.
Able to provide high-quality supervision in sign language if needed, Professor Young has helped her students overcome both academic and personal difficulties, providing excellent pastoral and academic supervision well beyond graduation.
Thanks to her unstinting support, many students both from the UK and overseas who might otherwise have struggled to access research degree programmes have now obtained PhDs, found jobs in their desired fields and made their own unique contribution to the future of research. She is Professor of Social Work and the director of SORD - the Social Research with Deaf People programme.
She has also helped parents with Deaf children to undertake PhD-level study, enabling them to become parent-researchers within doctoral studies as well as social work students working in highly challenging fields of practice.
Students under her care have been directed towards training and development opportunities, while Professor Young has also participated in efforts to nurture the next generation of research leaders in her fields.
Praising the “highly distinctive” work of Professor Young and her exceptional support for students, the judges described how she had “helped [her students] overcome obstacles to starting or continuing their doctorate as well as providing opportunities to publish and disseminate their work to both academic and non-academic audiences.”
She said: “I’m very proud to win this award as it is recognition of the challenges that Deaf people and those with Deaf children face in trying to gain access to doctorates. I’m very proud of all of my students, past and present and happy that I’ve been able to help their talent shine.”
Following her BA Hons in English Literature from King’s College, Cambridge (1986), Alys qualified as a social worker in 1989 with an MSc in Applied Social Studies and a CQSW from Oxford University. She went on to work for Cambridgeshire Social Services as a community mental health social worker, ASW, generic social worker and specialist social worker with Deaf people. She gained her PhD in 1995 from the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, on the impact on hearing families of sign bilingual approaches to early intervention, carrying out her fieldwork in both BSL (British Sign Language) and English.
Appointed a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2015, Professor Young has been described as a “one-off” whose supervisions, support and research have had a global impact, making her a worthy winner of Times Higher Education’s very first award for Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year.
The black-tie event took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London, and was hosted by actor Richard E. Grant. Over 1,200 gathered to celebrate the extraordinary talent, creativity and resourcefulness of universities.
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.