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Cardiff University lifted the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community trophy at this year’s Times Higher Education Awards, held in association with Santander Universities UK. These awards, now in their 13th year and widely recognised as the “Oscars of higher education”, shine a spotlight on the exceptional achievements of individuals, teams and institutions.

The Caerau and Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project is a collaborative partnership between Cardiff University, community development charity Action in Caerau and Ely, local schools, community groups and major heritage organisations in Wales.

Tackling social exclusion by working with schools to bring to light a little understood Neolithic and Iron Age heritage site earned Cardiff University the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community.

The project focuses on Caerau Hillfort, a nationally important heritage site located between two Cardiff housing estates that are among the most socially and economically challenged wards in Wales.

The scheme puts local people at the heart of archaeological and historical research through excavations, artefact analyses, exhibitions and films. CAER has built partnerships with seven local schools involving 1,538 pupils in co-produced activities, and engaged with almost 15,000 visitors at its events.

Twelve academic staff from the university have provided research expertise and educational support, while 100 students have also been involved, and some have even produced dissertations that were directly informed by research on the project.

“Historical research and archaeology involving academics, volunteers and local people have become a means of addressing contemporary issues of social exclusion and educational needs, promoting skills development and challenging negative perceptions of these communities,” the judges said.

“Substantial grants have also been secured to transform the historic site into a sustainable future resource for this community, with the potential evidenced by the many thousands of visits the site has received.”

Winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges, from hundreds of entries submitted by universities from all corners of the UK.

THE editor John Gill said:
“At a time when discussion about universities is too often reduced to terms of economic impact and output alone, the stories behind the winning entries this year tell a far richer story.
Universities remain crucial to the health and well-being of the country, as well as to its prosperity, and anyone who doubts that – or who thinks that excellence is the preserve of one segment of our system – need only read about our winners to see the evidence with their own eyes.”

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