The 2014 Liverpool Biennial – often regarded as the country’s premier cultural event outside London – opened earlier this month. It is a sign of Liverpool John Moores University’s close integration with the cultural life of its city that it has a joint appointment with the Biennial – Joseph Grima, senior lecturer in architecture – as well as joint appointments with Tate Liverpool and the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. It also reaches out to the city through a long-standing series of Roscoe Lectures, exploring citizenship (often through stories about overcoming hardship), where speakers have ranged from the Dalai Lama to Ken Dodd.
All this is just how vice-chancellor Nigel Weatherill wants it. He joined the university in September 2011 and, with the new fees regime coming in, soon found himself involved in the process of renewing its strategic plan. This led him to think back to its 1823 origins as the Liverpool Mechanics’ School of Arts and to develop the idea of a “modern civic university” adapted to the needs of a city that has obviously changed hugely but that is again seeing “significant investment” and is “culturally very vibrant – in music, contemporary and classical art, theatre, never mind sport”. Here was also one of the keys to enhancing the student experience.
“Within about 400 metres [of the university],” he explains, “we’ve got a world-class symphony orchestra at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic with a world-leading young conductor [Vasily Petrenko], we’ve got Tate Liverpool and we’ve got the Everyman Theatre, which has just been rebuilt at a cost of £30-odd million…Of course we need excellence in the classroom and the laboratory, but we believe passionately that we want to give our students far more than that. If we can work in partnership with one of the country’s best provincial orchestras and Tate Liverpool, we don’t need to invest funds in our own art gallery or concert hall – because we will never do these things as well as them.”
Such thinking has led to new or greatly extended but still developing partnerships, although Weatherill stresses that they are “not only about reductions in ticket costs and things to go to, but real solid partnerships where our students in their hundreds and thousands will interact with the musicians and conductors and get a chance to talk to the artists at the Tate. We are not trying to convert them into ‘culture vultures’ but to give them some experience and confidence. If they don’t like contemporary art, that’s fine, but at least they can say ‘I touched it, I experienced it. That was all part of my Liverpool John Moores experience.’ ”
LJMU is one of the two principal partners of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, providing financial support and help in kind, such as lending their staff office space while their hall is being redeveloped. Subsidised tickets enhance the students’ experience of the city and culture while helping the orchestra to reach an often inaccessible younger demographic. A forthcoming concert tour of China will also allow the university to host events for potential clients and to raise its profile there – very important for an institution that hopes to boost its proportion of students from outside the European Union from 4 to 15 per cent by 2020.
Cheap season tickets for concerts and plays at the Everyman and free entry to Tate Liverpool may be attractive to students, but such partnerships can also serve deeper purposes for both institutions.
Last year, there was an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013, that arose directly out of a PhD at LJMU. This included “a working office and education centre” known as “The Office of Useful Work”, which amounted to a highly unusual experiment in incorporating a university seminar within an exhibition.
“What does it mean to do a seminar in a public space?” asks Francesco Manacorda, artistic director of Tate Liverpool. “Both our institutions are concerned with the acquisition and distribution of knowledge. Can we break down the conventions of how we present knowledge? If you think of a museum as a learning machine, and less as a form of entertainment, working with higher education becomes quite empowering. We are exploring ways of working with students in creating public-facing programmes that are co-created, as well as looking at the emancipatory potential of art. I hope we can both get part of our core mission realised in the partnership.”
15% - Target for proportion of students from outside the EU by 2020
University of Manchester
A 19-storey, 326-bedroom hotel is to be built on a university campus. The development at the University of Manchester will also incorporate an executive education centre for the university’s business school, which will be financed by the money raised through the lease of the land for the hotel to developer M&L Hospitality Group. The development is part of Manchester’s £1 billion campus masterplan, funded by a £300 million bond issue.
People aged 50 and over are starting businesses at record levels, and in greater numbers than 18- to 29-year-olds, research suggests. The surge in the number of older entrepreneurs was recorded in a study by Mark Hart, who leads the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme at Aston University. The study found 6.5 per cent of over 50s are now engaged in entrepreneurial activity.
Queen’s University Belfast
A film about the Hillsborough disaster based on an academic’s research has been nominated for an Emmy award, which honours excellence in television. Hillsborough: The Truth, a book by Queen’s University Belfast criminology professor Phil Scraton, and his research for the independent review into the incident where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death, was turned by the BBC and ESPN into a two-hour documentary called Hillsborough. It has yet to be screened in the UK because of the new inquest into the tragedy.
Research conducted by a university has informed the Welsh government’s decision to ban smoking in cars. A study carried out at Cardiff University’s Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement found that 9 per cent of 10- and 11-year-olds surveyed in 2014 said smoking was allowed in their family vehicle. Six per cent of that age group also said they had tried an electronic cigarette, three times the number who had smoked a normal cigarette.
University of Leicester
A UK academic has become the first international examiner for postgraduates in Iraq. David Lambert, professor of anaesthetic pharmacology at the University of Leicester and director of postgraduate research at Leicester’s College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, performed the role for two English-language master’s students during a trip to the University of Kufa, which uses Leicester’s medical curriculum.
An academic is staging a Ben Jonson play in the Derbyshire castle where it premiered almost 400 years ago. Tom Betteridge, professor of theatre at Brunel University, is the producer and director of Love’s Welcome at Bolsover, which will be performed at Bolsover Castle on 26 and July. It was first performed at the castle for Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria in 1634. The performance of the piece will include several Brunel students.
Imperial College London
A university has joined forces with accountancy firm KPMG to create a new data centre. The firm will invest more than £20 million in the eight-year project with Imperial College London, which is designed to put the UK at the forefront of data science. The centre will develop new tools for dealing with big data to help tackle issues such as fraud. Academics from the university’s business school will lead the initiative.
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
One hundred dancers and musicians are to perform an original “movement choir work” this summer in tribute to a dance school’s founder. Produced by staff, students and alumni from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in south-east London, In Memoriam 2014 will celebrate the life of influential Austro-Hungarian dancer and choreographer Rudolf Laban, who set up the Laban Dance Centre that later merged with Trinity College of Music. The creation of the piece has been filmed by a documentary crew for general cinema release.