Two different research projects undertaken at the University of Central Lancashire have been shortlisted for prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) Awards. The two very different projects have been shortlisted as contenders for two different awards. The first project is a research project exposing contaminated soil around Grenfell Tower. This has been shortlisted for Research Project of the Year (STEM). The second project is a collaborative project working with refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. This project is a contender for International Collaboration of the Year.

Led by UCLan Professor of Fire Chemistry and Toxicity, Anna Stec, the Grenfell study showed significant contamination by carcinogenic fire residues in soil surrounding Grenfell Tower. This led to Anna Stec giving evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, and further subsequent Government recommendations. These included health screening for the local population and firefighters active on the night of the fire. Speaking on the matter, Anna said:

“I have worked hard to make sure that serious long-term health risks caused by the Grenfell Tower Fire aren’t ignored and additional screenings are put in place.I am delighted to be shortlisted for a THE Award.”

The second project was led by Professor Ali Melling MBE, Director of the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership at UCLan. This project, called ‘Letters from Lesvos’ invovled working collaboratively with The UN Refugee Agency, the University of the Aegean, Metadrasi – Action for Migration and Development and other NGOs, with the aim of providing a voice to children fleeing conflict or persecution. This effort to support the thousands of child refugees living on the island of Lesvos involved art projects, peer support and a planned e-book sharing between Metadrasi, asylum-seeking children, and children from partner school Marsden Heights Community College in Brierfield, East Lancashire.

Speaking on the matter, Professor Melling said:

“Through the Letters to Lesvos project, we wanted to create a welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers and importantly give vulnerable children a voice to share their experiences with the outside world. All of the children we worked with had undertaken perilous journeys and experienced significant trauma before their arrival on Lesvos, so it is important that their stories are told. n the e-book we are planning to publish, we want to inform other children, policymakers and strategists about the realities of life as an unaccompanied child asylum seeker. To see the project shortlisted for the International Collaboration of the Year Award reinforces its significance.”

Winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 26 November.