Campus round-up: 21 February 2013

February 21, 2013

A chance to learn

An academic has been honoured for his role in founding a school in Nepal for children with no prior access to education. Kevin Fossey, a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton’s School of Education, led a campaign to raise tens of thousands of pounds to construct school buildings, buy equipment and pay for daily subsistence for the pupils in the remote hilltop village of Malagiri. The school opened in 2011. A group of undergraduate students travels to Nepal annually to visit the school and to support educational projects across the country. At the university’s winter graduation ceremony at the Brighton Dome on 7 February, Mr Fossey (pictured above with Lorraine Harrison, head of the School of Education) became the first recipient of the institution’s new Excellence in Community Engagement Award, which recognises “outstanding professional and personal” commitment to community engagement by a staff member.

Newcastle University
Keep it flowing

Academics are leading a Europe-wide project to trial satellite navigation systems in cars that warn drivers of accidents ahead, alert them to vehicles that have jumped red lights and advise them of the speed that will allow them to pass through a series of traffic lights on green. Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council are leading the Compass4D study, part of a €10 million (£8.7 million) European Union-funded project that is also being rolled out in six other European cities. The car units will communicate with Newcastle’s existing traffic management system.

Queen Mary, University of London
Legal blend

A master of laws course launched in Paris by a UK university has won an award for furthering Anglo-French legal relations. The Paris LLM programme is taught in English at the University of London Institute in Paris by academics from Queen Mary, University of London, as well as by visiting lecturers from French law firms and universities. It was awarded the 2013 Franco-British Lawyers’ Society Prize, which was presented by Lord Hope of Craighead, deputy president of the UK’s Supreme Court, at a ceremony at the House of Lords. He praised the LLM, which is run by Queen Mary’s Centre for Commercial Law Studies, for providing valuable opportunities for French and British lawyers to work and study together.

University of East Anglia
Harsh interpretation

Brutalist architecture has long divided opinion, but one university’s iconic buildings have provided the inspiration for a new exhibition of contemporary art. The University of East Anglia-inspired Falling Backwards includes drawings, installations and filmed performance works by the artist Ruth Proctor. The work responds to the university’s brutalist buildings, including the grade II listed Ziggurats, designed by Denys Lasdun, and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank. The exhibition, which runs at UEA from 1 March to 9 June, comes as the university celebrates its 50th anniversary. Student and co- curator Felicity Bridges said: “We hope that visitors will immerse themselves in the work and the campus environment that inspired it. It is particularly exciting that we are able to host this exhibition as the university celebrates its landmark anniversary.”

Edinburgh Napier University
Information quality concerns

Communications scholars are to examine whether the influence of newspaper columnists is being eroded by bloggers and other online commentators. The study by experts at Edinburgh Napier University will look at writers including the political blogger Guido Fawkes, who recently signed up as a Sun on Sunday columnist. Alistair Duff, a reader in information and journalism at Edinburgh Napier, said: “The quality of political opinion-writing is…of major significance for a healthy, informed democracy. That then leads on to wider questions about where expertise lies in an information-saturated society.”

Aberdeen/Durham universities
Paws for thought

A £950,000 grant from the Natural Environment Research Council will enable scientists to pinpoint when humans first domesticated dogs. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and Durham University will examine the DNA, bones and teeth of dog remains found in Asia and Europe to shed light on when the transition happened. Greger Larson, a reader in the department of archaeology at Durham, said: “We have a good feel for the times and places of when cows, sheep, goats and pigs were domesticated, [but] we still don’t have the first clue about dogs.”

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
You ‘shall’ go to the school

A charitable trust is to provide £500,000 for outstanding students at a London performing arts school over the next three years. The Leverhulme Trust, which awards £60 million to higher education each year, will fund arts scholarships in five categories at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, based in southeast London, from this September. “These scholarships mean that talented young people can have access to financial support to enrol on our courses, without which they wouldn’t be able to,” said the conservatoire’s principal, Anthony Bowne.

University of Wolverhampton
Save the street children

More and more children are sleeping rough and are vulnerable to exploitation or abuse, yet there are few signs that protective measures have proved effective. A pioneering £1 million research project is being launched by the University of Wolverhampton, along with partners across Europe, to address the issue. Interviews will be carried out with social workers, health and education experts, police and victim support groups, as well as children from the streets. Although “figures show that 100,000 children go missing every year in the UK”, said team leader Kate Moss, professor of criminal justice at Wolverhampton, currently far too little is known about them. It is hoped that the new project will play a major role in “finding ways to assist them and develop networks for the agencies across Europe to share knowledge and best practice”, she added.

University of Portsmouth
If you didn’t see it, it wasn’t me

Dogs may be capable of understanding a human’s point of view, research suggests. A study by Juliane Kaminski, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Portsmouth, found that domestic dogs were four times more likely to steal food that they had been told not to eat when they were in a dark room than when they were in a lit room. Dr Kaminski said the findings, published in the journal Animal Cognition, implied that “dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective”. The research is said to be an advance in comprehending dogs’ ability to think and understand, which could be of use to those who work with dogs, including the police and the blind.

University of Salford
Funny how things turn out

One of the country’s best-known comics has returned to his home town and old university to give a masterclass. Jason Manford graduated from the University of Salford in 2004 and has become a household name through appearances on Live at the Apollo and 8 Out of 10 Cats as well as a starring role in Sweeney Todd on the London stage. Speaking to more than 50 students on the new BA in comedy practices and other courses on performance, he offered tips on dealing with hecklers and using knock- backs to improve one’s act. He also explained how one of his comedy heroes, Peter Kay - another Salford alumnus who has given a masterclass at his alma mater - helped Mr Manford to get a place on a media and performance Higher National Diploma that eventually led to his BA.

Brunel University
Matching service

A London university is helping to develop an information bank to enable doctors to diagnose cancers more quickly. Brunel University is one of seven medical, research and higher education institutions across Europe involved in a £2.2 million project to create a network of “biobanks”, which will contain digital images of cancerous human tissue that can be compared against biopsies taken from patients. “There would be a faster and more accurate diagnosis of diseases, thereby preventing, or reducing, the need for multiple invasive tests,” said Francesco Moscone, professor of business economics at Brunel, who is responsible for the commercial side of the European Commission-funded project.

University of Essex
Double spaced

Researchers working with Nasa on a project to control a virtual spacecraft by thought alone have found that combining the brain power of two people provides more accurate steering than flying solo. University of Essex researchers have been using brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to develop control commands for applications such as virtual reality and hands-free control. The £500,000 project with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, involved two people together steering a virtual spacecraft to a planet using a unique BCI mouse. With two people taking part in the test, the results were more accurate as the system could cope if one of the users had a brief lapse in concentration.

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