Two Heriot-Watt University programmes have been shortlisted in the Guardian University Awards, in recognition of their impact in communities across the UK and beyond.
The programmes played an instrumental role in shaping and influencing new legislation focused on British Sign Language and Homelessness, and were shortlisted in the social and community impact and research impact categories.
Heriot-Watt University helped to secure the future of Scotland’s signing community by driving forward one of the world’s most progressive pieces of legislation in its field. Its work to promote the use of BSL helped to achieve the British Language (Scotland) Act, which received Royal Assent in October 2015.
Heriot-Watt’s research was critical in providing analyses that framed the consultation process leading up to the Bill. It made use of novel communications during the consultation phase, using Facebook, for example, to facilitate direct consultation in BSL with the national Deaf community about legislative priorities.
Graham Turner, Professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies in the School of Social Sciences, said, “We’re thrilled that our work has been recognised for its contribution to British Sign Language users in Scotland.
The new legislation helps to overturn the widespread, chronic social disadvantage experienced by BSL users, and is transforming the prospects of deaf and hearing people nationwide.
“The Act is also crucial to addressing the severe shortage of interpreters because, by committing the Scottish Government to promote the use and understanding of BSL, it is expected to inspire an increasing number of people into the sector’s workforce.
“This will serve to increase opportunities for BSL users, making it part of the everyday linguistic landscape for everyone in the country, something deaf people have waited generations to see.”
The Heriot-Watt University-led ‘Homelessness Monitor’ project was shortlisted in the research impact category due to its role in shaping the Homelessness Reduction Bill. The Bill is under consideration by the House of Lords and has already received £61million in committed funding from the UK Government.
The template for the Homelessness Monitor has also been adopted in Australia.
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, who led the project, said, “The Homelessness Monitor underpins the University's commitment to creating and exchanging knowledge for society’s benefit, and we are very pleased to have received acknowledgement for the impact the research is having.
“It is widely cited in local authority homelessness strategies, in the UK Parliament and devolved legislatures, and is relied upon by third sector organisations to shape their frontline services and campaigning work.”
The winners of this year’s Guardian University Awards will be announced in London on 29 March.