Reimagine Education: Inspiring innovative minds

Leaders and pioneers of the HE sector enjoyed two days of celebration and recognition at the Reimagine Education Awards & Conference in London

What will education look like in the coming decade? This question – examined through myriad sectoral and disciplinary lenses – was taken up by education’s most innovative minds at the 2019 Reimagine Education Awards & Conference, held at venues across London in December. 

Concluding at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Centre with education’s ‘Oscars’ night – the 2019 Reimagine Education Awards Gala Dinner – it also offered a chance for the year’s best university-led pedagogical approaches, education technology companies, and transformational non-profit initiatives to receive the international recognition their work deserved.

Co-organised by The Wharton School and QS Quacquarelli Symonds, and featuring Imperial College Business School as the event’s Visionary Partner – global higher education insights provider and compilers of the world’s most-consulted university rankings portfolio – the event offered 647 delegates from 58 nations the chance to come together to explore the future of teaching and learning in the tertiary education sector.

Building on a highly successful antecedent event in 2018 – held in San Francisco and proudly sponsored by Amazon Web Services – the event commenced on Sunday 8 December with its first-ever Active Learning Day, featuring a panoply of interactive workshops designed to give educators in attendance the opportunity to glean valuable insights from industry leaders.

Among those industry leaders facilitating the professional development sessions on offer were representatives from PwC’s Northern Ireland team (encouraging delegates to consider how education and industry could collaborate more felicitously); Carla Aerts, director of the Tmrw Institute (asking higher education leaders to imagine trying to build the sector from scratch); and Reimagine Education Steering Committee Member and Wharton Interactive executive director, Sarah Toms (who offered a whirlwind, but warmly received, walkthrough on how to successfully build interactive educational games, in recognition of the increasingly prominent role of, and literature body on, gamification in education).

Reimagine Education
Having a blast through active learning

The Active Learning Day – brainchild of Serena Ricci – was incepted in recognition of the desire to turn Reimagine Education into a conference that recognised the paradigm-shift it asks its delegates to examine: just as all those in attendance were seeking to move beyond a purely transmissive educational paradigm – sage on the stage, lectures, decontextualised content – so it has foregrounded attempts to move beyond the all-too-common transmissive paradigm. To further this aim, educators played and conceived educational games, competed in innovation challenges, debated and discussed and disagreed – and connected and collaborated. 

The partnerships that arise as a result of Reimagine Education are partly driven by its uniqueness as a forum: in bringing together higher education leaders, founders and CEOs of edtech startups, schoolteachers, edtech investors, and those working for not-for-profits, it offers delegates a chance to engage with those beyond their sectoral and disciplinary boundaries.

One way in which such cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary collaborations and interactions are cultivated is through the series of Connect 1-2-1 sessions held on the conference’s second day. Uniting top edtech investors and educational consultants with carefully selected startups and nascent projects, over 160 meetings were held.

The second day of the conference – moving from Imperial College Business School to the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, one of London’s premium conference venues – offered delegates a uniquely worldwide overview of what innovators across the world are doing to transform teaching and learning. On this second day, over 140 of the shortlisted applications to the 2019 Reimagine Education Awards cycle – selected from 1,518 submissions, a new record – presented their work in short, sharp, highlights-only seven-minute pitches. 

  The event offered 647 delegates from 58 nations the chance to come together to explore the future of teaching and learning in the tertiary education sector  

The Innovators’ Show Day featured the most efficacious, unique, scalable and innovative entrants received by the Reimagine Education Steering Committee, and, ably coached by Applicant Success Partner Dayton Johnson, they were able to dispatch their showcases with unprecedented preparation and panache.

Moving into the final day, the conference gave educational leaders the chance to share their expertise with the audience – and towards the conference’s culminative award ceremonies. Featured education leaders included Harvard’s director of educational research and evaluation, Jenny Bergeron; Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn; David Steiner, executive director of Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; and Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business School.

While delegates dined and final connections were cultivated, the Reimagine Education Grand Jury convened to run their expert, critical eye over the 12 highest-scoring category winners. Vigorous debates were held about the merits and demerits of each project, and those in the ‘room where it happened’ were privy to the range of insights and perspectives that only a truly international, intersectoral panel could offer.

There was, then, ‘only the last to come’ – only the two overall winners, and the recipients of the US$50,000 funding prize, to be announced before an enthusiastically expectant audience – who had also listened carefully to two-minute pitches from the finalists and cast their own live vote. After some warm final words of thanks were shared by the main award sponsors – Amazon Web Services and King Saud University – Ben Sowter, QS’s Director of Research, and the brain behind QS’s market-leading World University Rankings, took to the stage.

After a brief build-up of tension, the Overall Edtech Award – sponsored by AWS – went to Lyfta, a digital immersive learning platform where teachers and pupils can access stunning storyworlds and curriculum-based lessons that cultivate empathy and communication. 

The Overall Education Award was taken for the first time by the Cybathlon team at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich: a unique international competition in which people with physical disabilities compete against each other in one of six disciplines to complete everyday tasks using state-of-the-art technical assistance systems, thus providing a common collaborative platform for technology developers, people with disabilities, and the general public.

With the distribution of two of education’s most prestigious prizes complete, the conference concluded, and eyes have immediately turned to 2020’s decade-opener. This year’s Reimagine Education Awards cycle will begin on 15 March, when the new application window opens; it will conclude on 10–11 December, when the conference and Awards Ceremony takes place at San Francisco’s Grand Hyatt.

Those interested in applying, judging, attending or speaking can learn more at

A full honours list can be found at