The 2022 AUA Annual Awards were presented as part of the AUA 2022 Annual Conference & Exhibition. Looking back a few months on from the awards, we wanted to further recognise the achievements of our Member and Network of the year. Here, we look into their nominations in a bit more detail, along with hearing from them what it means to be awarded.

We would also like to take the time to acknowledge the members and networks who were shortlisted as part of our 2022 Annual Awards. Along with our award winners and all the other contributors to the AUA, they have played an important part in our role the sector.

2022 AUA Annual Awards Shortlist

Members of the Year

•  Lucy Johnson – University of Warwick

Network of the Year

•  Governance themed network
Alison Benson (University of Leicester) and Katherine Wass (University of Bradford)

•  Newcastle University Advocates team
Alexander Byrne, Jack Ennis and Susan Sheehan-Watson

Member of the year – Mita Mondal, University of Kent

Why Mita was nominated

Mita has contributed massively to the AUA in sourcing speakers and organising online lunchtime sessions. This has included finding topics that are relevant to both AUA members and regarding the broader HE landscape. These sessions have been very well attended. In total, 9 sessions took place from March 2021 – July 2022 with well over 600 people in attendance, and 3 of these sessions attracting over 150 people. These have helped raise the profile of the AUA amongst non-members and encouraged those to join.

In addition to these sessions, Mita also contributed to the 2022 AUA Annual Conference programme, delivering a session alongside Natalia Crisanti, who is also an AUA Advocate at the University of Kent. The session itself promoted becoming an AUA network leader. It highlighted the value of such roles to both other AUA member and HE professionals, along with describing professional development opportunities it can present to the network leader themselves.

Mita has also built strong relationships with other AUA network leaders, including her regional Advocates. This has included arranging monthly informal online meetings with these Advocates in order to discuss and plan both current and future network activity.

Mita’s nomination describes her as working tirelessly to raise the profile of AUA network and general events to her colleagues at the University of Kent. This has included encouraging the University of Kent HR team to adopt AUA CPD framework and professional behaviours since restructure of the University.  

She is described as going above and beyond to promote the work of the AUA, to tell her personal stories to help others understand the benefits of engaging with the network, events, and the AUA in general. She is always collaborative, cheerful, and invites others to participate and feel valued. Mita derives great satisfaction from her AUA membership and role, strongly believing in our values.

The nomination identifies Mita as a great role model and mentor for reacting positively to change, to balancing work and other commitments, and to bringing a spirit of cooperation and innovation to her working life.

What the panel said

The panel noted that she has undertaken her role as South regional network coordinator with collaboration and positivity in mind.

There was evidence of her commitment to her profession, her own development and inspiring others. Mita has embraced online delivery to keep engagement high, and been proactive in promoting the benefits of membership.

Mita has embraced online delivery to keep engagement high, and been proactive in promoting the benefits of membership.

“I am honoured and of course delighted to hear that I have been given this recognition! What lovely news to have! During the pandemic, we all coped with the huge pressures of balancing work and home life. The role of the “community” was more important than ever in helping us overcome these challenges.

Taking on the role of the South Network coordinator, my aim was to reach out to as many in the community as possible. In doing so I want to acknowledge and thank the many HE colleagues who were so very generous in mentoring me – together we were able to offer development courses which I think were beneficial to all.

I joined AUA in 2014 and never looked back. It is wonderful to be part of AUA and to work with colleagues who strongly believe in the ethos of AUA – our community. I will continue to work closely with University of Kent members, AUA South network members, and others, to establish more development opportunities across my organisation and our region. I cherish my AUA membership and am committed to my university and the sector we work in. “


Mita Mondal

Network of the year – Student Experience and Engagement

Siobhan Dumphy (University of Kent), Deputy Network Coordinator

“Running this Network is truly a team effort and I’m very lucky to have both Chris Whitehead and Siobhan Dumphy as spectacular deputies. Over the last year, having our little team has been great for talking through ideas and sharing out the responsibilities so that we can keep on running activities for our members.

It means a lot to win the Best Network Award, especially given that Student Experience and Engagement is still one of the AUA’s youngest networks, after having been launched by Josh Gulrajani in 2019. In that short time, it’s been lovely to see how many folks from across the HE sector have got involved in our regular events, discussions and interview series.

There is so much talent and passion across those working in student experience and engagement roles and I love that our network gets to bring those people together.”


David Gilani – Network Coordinator
Why Student Experience and Engagement were nominated

The nomination for the Student Experience and Engagement Network is split into two sections evidencing their activity.

1 – Delivering for members

The network have planned, organised and delivered monthly coffee break sessions. These informal sessions have covered a broad range of topics across student experience and engagement including developing engaging online events; finalist support; graduation celebrations, during and post pandemic; student comms; supporting diverse student populations, and the student voice. Attendance has been very good, with over 360 sign ups from more than 100 institutions and some sessions having over 40 people in attendance. The network has ensured these are hosted consistently, and feedback from members has been very positive.

Some of these sessions have provided a platform for members to present on best practice. For example, members from the University of Kent and Middlesex University London have presented their work on supporting the international student experience. Other sessions took a more ‘drop-in’ format. For example, the network’s September 2021 allowed members to drop in and discuss their planning, best practice and worries for the new academic year.

The network has been proactive in communicating regularly with members to make sure they are engaged and supported in their roles. Near the start of 2021, they produced a clear guide on the network’s aims and how members could get more involved (https://aua.ac.uk/student-engagement/). Each year, they also produce a summary of all relevant conferences to those working in the field of student experience and engagement, so that they can encourage continuous professional development.

Over the last year, the network began an interview series ‘From the World of Student Experience and Engagement’, recognising the variety of roles in the network’s area of HE. The interview series has given a platform for our members to share best practice, raise their own profile and encourage reflection on professional development – https://aua.ac.uk/category/from-the-world-of-student-experience-and-engagement/

The network has also ensured these resources are promoted widely by utilising their own social media profiles, especially on LinkedIn where our posts about the Network have received over 8000 impressions. They have also set up a JISCMail list – https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=STUDENTEXPERIENCE

2 – Collaborating to make the AUA stronger overall

The network has been proactive in working with other Networks. For example, in 2019 the SE&E and the Quality and Standards Network collaborated to run an in person conference. The network has continued this by adjusting the focus of its coffee break monthly sessions so that some of the topics would also be relevant Quality and Standards Network members. They have also linked with the North Wales and North West Network as part of their January conference, running a bespoke session on student experience and engagement matters, which was well attended. To support other network leaders, the network has also collaborated with the AUA central team to compile a guide on how to run online events.

They have also connected with other roles and programmes across the AUA. They continued their work to reach out to Advocates across the AUA whose institutions did not have members as part of the Student Experience and Engagement Network. They provided Advocates with details of the network and a template email that they could share with colleagues in student experience and engagement roles, encouraging them join the AUA and the network. Also the network has continued to reach out to the AUA’s PGcert programme was welcoming a new cohort, approaching organisers to share details of upcoming sessions to new students.

The network has also worked to promote the AUA Annual Conference. Last year, the network produced a blog that summarised all the sessions taking place at the conference that they might find interesting and encouraging members to attend – https://aua.ac.uk/aua-2021-conference-student-experience-and-engagement-related-sessions/

What the panel said

The panel described the network as active, engaging and innovative, promoting professional development and the AUA as a whole. This has included tailored events, such as their regular coffee break sessions. The have also produced varied communications to benefit its members, such as an interview series with network members and articles highlighting relevant events.

Lifetime achievement award – Hugh Jones

“It was a real surprise to find out that I had been given the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2022. There’s something very special about recognition by your peers. I feel very honoured to be the recipient this year. And also slightly daunted!

The AUA has been a very important part of my career. I joined when I was still fairly junior, and membership opened up a lot of opportunities. From local social events, which enabled me to meet people beyond my immediate work context; to conferences, which enabled me to learn about a whole variety of topics, and expand my skills by presenting.

I’ve also been involved with the PGCert and with its predecessor, the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Framework. This arose through meeting people at AUA conferences and events, and gave me opportunities to help me develop others, and also to continue to build my own skills. I’d just completed an MA in Higher and Professional Education when I started to be involved in the CPD Framework, and it was great to be able to put into practice some of the things I’d learned. As programme lead for the AUA since 2015 I’ve been able to help support a lot of people in their professional journey, and I continue to be in awe of what they do on the programme.

The AUA is embarking on a process to make sure that its mission and aims, and what it does for its members, are the right things for the sector. I’m confident that, with development opportunities as a big part of what it does, it will be as valuable for others as it has been to me.

Thank you again, AUA!”


Hugh Jones, FAUA
Why Hugh was nominated

Hugh Jones has work tirelessly for more than 20 years supporting, developing and leading colleagues in the UK higher education sector.

Through his numerous institutional roles across England and Wales, he has brought his unifying approach to countless endeavours. As a compassionate leader, Hugh has invested his time and energy into positive change through decades of tumultuous change in the sector. His kindness and strategic thinking has extended beyond his own reports and has helped shaped venerable institutions including University of London, City University London, Goldsmith’s, St. George and Cardiff. Pauper or Prince – Hugh makes no distinction; he treats colleagues both senior and junior with dignity, respect and encouragement to be more than our current circumstances dictate.

He dedicates endless amounts of time and effort to support the development of rising sector stars as course leader for the AUA’s PgCert in HE Administration, Management and Leadership. He lends his considerable knowledge and experience to the strategic development of University of South Wales and Birmingham City University as Governor and member of essential governance committees and working with senior leaders to shape the direction of their institutions.

Those who have worked with him are familiar with Hugh’s cheerful, generous spirit and his seemingly bottomless well of knowledge about our sector.

Those who haven’t worked with him directly have unknowingly benefitted from his impact as his work continues to lift us all through his proactive development of our profession. He brings out the best in people and believes in what we do. His commitment to the HE sector is exceptional and is worthy of special recognition.

Kelli Wolfe – University of Roehampton