Confessions of a judge for the Times Higher Education awards

Are you thinking of applying for Business School of the Year? Anne Kiem, Chartered ABS CEO, sits on the THE Awards judging panel and shares her advice.

It is always interesting being asked to sit on a judging panel. There is an element of the unexpected in both the applications and your fellow judges, and it is really interesting to see how universities ‘sell’ what they do. There are some amazing things going on that I only know about because of sitting on this panel and more people need to know some of these things! In other words, there is a lot to be proud of.

For the THE awards last year there were about 15 categories for the judges to go through. The judging panel typically consists of a mix of people with very different experience and expertise. Inevitably as a judge there are some things you feel very comfortable making a judgement about, and others where you feel a little out of your depth, but you have to give it a go anyway. In such cases you rely completely on what is written in the submission, and what your fellow judges say.

With so many categories and so many shortlisted applications to go through, the applications themselves are reassuringly limited in length, just 500 words. But this also makes it difficult for the composers of these applications to make their entry stand out and justify the prize. But you are allowed to submit evidence in support of your application. Again, this is limited, but it is an opportunity you have to provide evidence for what you have written in your submission. It is surprising when entries make claims in the submission but don’t back it up with evidence.

Anyone entering any awards should assume little prior knowledge from the judges, but don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes. There is a great breadth of knowledge contained within the panel and someone is likely to spot where you have stretched the truth. Some have good memories too and notice if you just reproduce the same application as last year!

So, take care over your application. Make it clear what the effect of your activity has been and if necessary explain why it is good or different. And don’t tell us you are different when you aren’t. It is quite possible that we have just read another entry that makes the same claim about the same thing. Neither of your applications carry much weight after that.

And don’t just leave it to your marketing department to write your entry. Get someone senior to read through the application and ask them to consider it as if it were about another school. Is it convincing? Is it picking up the best things about your school? It is incredibly frustrating to sit there knowing that there are some fabulous things going on but just not being included in the entry. It isn’t the judges’ responsibilities to make your case for you.

Get the time period right. Tell us what you have done in the academic year being looked at, otherwise we can’t award it to you. Telling us that you have been around for 40 years this year is not in itself a reason to award you the top prize, so unless it is important and relevant, leave it out.

I am in a very privileged position in being able to visit many business schools, and I know there are some fantastic and innovative things going on; things that are making a real difference to students, local businesses, global businesses and the economy. It is a time to be proud and tell the world about what you are doing. Telling your story is not only good for your school, it is good for the UK’s business schools in general.

The 2018 awards are open for entry now. Apply before 27 June 2018 here.