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The University of Chester has won a prestigious industry award for an innovative communications project, designed to help school and college students applying to university and enhance their education under lockdown.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March last year, the University wanted to support not just its current students, but also prospective ones as they made their all-important university choices – and this is set to continue.

Academic staff worked quickly to move their teaching online and, having adapted quickly, worked with the marketing and recruitment team to produce the Kitchen Sessions.

The wide-ranging sessions are a series of mini-lectures aimed at prospective students to help them feel more connected and experience the benefits of online learning.

Now The Kitchen Sessions project has won in the HELOA (Higher Education Liaison Officers Association) Best Practice Marketing Communications Award.

Dozens of Kitchen Sessions on a huge range of topics were delivered from academics’ home environments to students after they were sent home from school due to the first lockdown.

The easily accessible 20-minute mini-lectures covered areas as diverse as ‘The Power of False Confessions’ from the School of Psychology and ‘Contemporary French Pop Music’ from the Department of Modern Languages. All of the lectures are still available on the University’s website at chester.ac.uk/kitchen-sessions.

Dr Lindsey Murray, Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, who delivered one of the first Kitchen Sessions, said: “It was really nerve-wracking to go live on YouTube, but it was totally worth it! We knew this sort of learning was new for most school pupils and we wanted to demonstrate to them that online learning can be interactive, inspirational and valuable. The feedback we received has been fantastic.”

Nikki Mullineux, Marketing Manager, thanked the academic staff as well as the marketing recruitment team for making the initiative such a huge success. She added: “When we initially had this idea we knew that it would sink or swim, based on the enthusiasm of our academics and their passion for their subjects and for what we were trying to achieve. Thankfully, we have some of the most committed and supportive academic staff you could wish to find, and award reflects that.”

Following the success of the Kitchen Sessions 2020, the University is continuing them now in 2021, which should prove useful for Year 11 to 13 students, as well as members of the public, during the latest lockdown.

Sign up to the Kitchen Sessions now at chester.ac.uk/kitchen-sessions and to find out more about the many other ways the University works closely with students, teachers and advisors visit https://www1.chester.ac.uk/departments/outreach

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