Published on 27/11/2020
The awards 2020


  • The award celebrates Aston’s support for small businesses, the West Midlands region and student entrepreneurship
  • Judges praised Aston’s “strategic” and “inclusive” approach
  • Aston was also shortlisted for Business School of the Year

Aston University has lifted the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University trophy at the sixteenth annual THE Awards.

The THE Awards – widely referred to as the ‘Oscars of higher education’ – are the biggest celebration in the UK HE calendar, attracting hundreds of entries from individuals, teams and institutions from all corners of the country. Although 2020’s ceremony was virtual, over a thousand people logged in to hear this year’s winners announced.

It should be noted that this THE Awards entry window opened just as the Covid lockdown commenced, and that they focus on activity during the 2018-19 academic year.

Aston University’s “strategic” and “inclusive” cross-institutional approach to supporting businesses, the West Midlands region and student entrepreneurship impressed the judges in this category.

Aston Enterprise – the university’s flagship student start-up support body – enhanced its offering with the creation of Apollo, a new six-week mini-accelerator. The programme inspires entrepreneurs to develop business ideas through interactive masterclasses taught by business leaders. Seventy students participated, and 18 businesses were created as a result.

Meanwhile, Aston’s Centre for Growth celebrated five years of delivering practical business support to entrepreneurs with its most successful year to date. Thanks to cutting-edge research, first-class teaching and effective partnerships, the centre’s programmes have supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, established 210 new businesses, created 650 jobs and increased revenues by £120 million.

Aston Medical School opened to its first undergraduates in September 2018, with features including an innovative health leadership module delivered in conjunction with Aston Business School. This enables graduates to develop the entrepreneurial skills needed to run the business elements of a GP surgery.

April 2019 marked the launch of Building Business Leaders of the Future, a programme addressing the lack of leadership and management education targeted at ethnic minority-owned businesses, with 22 entrepreneurs participating in the first cohort.

In total, 35 businesses were created by Aston students and recent graduates during the 2018-19 academic year.

The judges praised Aston’s “excellent inclusive approach to enterprise and entrepreneurship”, saying it had “demonstrated a strategic approach with students at the heart”.

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said:

"It is a great honour to receive the THE award for Outstanding Entrepreneurial University. This award is an important recognition of the dedication of our hard working staff in supporting entrepreneurial students and our local small and medium sized businesses.

“The award also highlights the role that Aston University plays in supporting the West Midlands region and our local economy. We are incredibly proud to be able to support so many new business start-ups and SMEs in our community.”

THE editor, John Gill, said:

“In an extraordinary year, the opportunity to sit down with the THE Awards judges – remotely, of course – and immerse oneself in the stories behind our shortlisted entries was more rewarding than ever.

Because these awards recognise achievements in the 2018-19 academic year, we are dealing with the world as it was pre-pandemic, but the brilliance of our researchers, the exceptional teaching and the extraordinary ingenuity shown by administrative staff, all on display in this year’s shortlists, will be critical for both universities and the country in the period ahead.

In some ways, picking out examples of individual achievement seems at odds with the collective effort that has been so vital during the difficult months this year, but the THE Awards have been celebrating the UK sector in this way for 16 years, so a pandemic wasn’t going to stop us.

Congratulations to an inspirational group of winners, and indeed to everyone shortlisted.”



Notes to Editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.

For media enquiries in relation to this release, contact Rebecca Hume, Press and PR Officer, on 07557 745416 or email

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