Awards celebrate inspiring work of The University of Manchester’s community

Written by: Joe Stafford

The University of Manchester has held its annual Making a Difference awards ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate the incredibly inspiring work of its staff, students and alumni.

Those in attendance at the Whitworth Hall ceremony – and those watching the online livestream - were able to hear about the extensive range of social responsibility initiatives involving the University. The awards covered categories such as benefit to research, widening participation, environmental sustainability and equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Nearly 160 entries were submitted this year, with judges recognising 16 winners and 23 highly commended. Winners included a project addressing period poverty, an engagement initiative translating biodiversity into new music in Colombia and a model for teaching LGBT+ History to secondary school students.

In the outstanding benefit to society through research category, the staff award went to Tony Lujia Chen from the Faculty of Science and Engineering - he identified a way to replace SF6 - a highly potent greenhouse gas widely used in the energy sector - with an environmentally-friendly alternative. His research led to the world’s first SF6-free substation, which has prevented over 141,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions since December 2021.

The student award in the same category went to Charlotte Brown – also from the Faculty of Science and Engineering – who created a way to map the areas of a city most vulnerable to extreme heatwaves. Her methodology has been used by the UK Climate Resilience Programme, and was adopted by Bristol City Council to inform the city’s heatwave resilience framework. 

We pride ourselves on being a pioneering institution for social responsibility, and the Making a Difference Awards allow us to celebrate some of the best work that our staff, students, alumni and partners do each year to enhance the wellbeing of society and the environment. 

Julian Skyrme, Director for Social Responsibility

“It was a wonderful experience to be involved in an event that recognises the inspiring work that our staff, students, alumni and partners are involved in,” added Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility. “These awards have shown how the unique abilities and resources of universities can create positive change in wider society through research, innovation, and most importantly our people.”

This year’s event was Lemn Sissay’s final one as the University’s Chancellor. He concluded proceedings with the live reading of a new poem to commemorate his time in post, and he was presented with a new award - the Chancellor’s Making a Difference Award - to acknowledge his seven years at the University. 

“Lemm has been a truly outstanding and inspirational Chancellor, has raised the profile of the University, and has been a real champion for our Social Responsibility work,” said Nalin Thakkar. “In every ceremony or event that Lemm has presided over, he has made people laugh, relax and feel included. This is such a wonderful quality to be able to create spaces where people feel noticed, feel valued and feel respected. Lemm welcomes everyone in our community with open arms.”

Lemm said: “My highlight has been to be surrounded by so many incredibly intelligent people who match their intelligence with integrity. I am surrounded by people at this university who know much more than me about many things. The way they apply their knowledge to the community and to themselves is outstanding. I’m constantly humbled by being in that environment, and honoured to be a Chancellor.”

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