Graham Galbraith experienced a revelation not long after he began walking the halls of the University of Portsmouth, where he became vice-chancellor in September last year. “I was surprised at how good the university is. As I delved more and more into the university, I became more and more surprised. Since I arrived, I have been bowled over by the stuff that we are doing and the impact that our activities are having. Our profile externally doesn’t reflect the strength of the university.”
One strong point is the breadth of Portsmouth’s research and its impact, he explained. The university’s work spans everything from a dental academy to work on extraterrestrial probes to explore Mars, and Portsmouth ensures that students gain insight into how their chosen subject affects society and the wider economy.
The university is “passionate” about the transformative power of higher education and the use of its research to “stretch students”.
“The National Student Survey scores are good, and we need to continue to drive that forward,” he said. “I want this to be the university of choice for a first-class student experience and one that leads to employment.”
Professor Galbraith is keen on Portsmouth expanding – but not rashly. Before any growth, the university must “grapple” with where it wants to go. “We have got to think as an institution long term [about] what size is the right size.”
For popular universities such as Portsmouth, there is a “real danger” of expanding almost unwittingly, incrementally taking on more students. “That might not be the answer for us; we need to maintain our quality,” he said.
Maintaining a comprehensive spread of subjects that takes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as areas in the humanities and modern languages is also important amid any expansion, he said.
“My impression is that we want to strengthen our postgraduate offering,” Professor Galbraith said. This area of higher education is facing an “uncertain and difficult” climate, he admitted, and presents many challenges. “But this is a debate about what we would ideally want to do to fix a rise in the future and not be driven by the constraints of today.”
The pipeline from undergraduate to postgraduate to academic “is not there” in UK higher education at the moment, he observed. “There is a fall-off in postgraduate study” that will affect the size and composition of the pool of future researchers and academics. “If we do not have that throughput, our universities are not going to be staffed by UK nationals.”
One area of particular concern for Professor Galbraith is engineering, a subject with an ageing demographic. “There will reach a moment when we will suddenly wonder what we did, why we did not prepare,” he said.
Keeping engineering strong is vital because the high-level skills it offers are essential if the UK wants an economy built on high-end manufacturing, he explained. “We as a nation need to worry about it…[otherwise] in 10 to 15 years’ time we are going to have to be buying [the skills] in.”
Increasing the number of undergraduates who progress to postgraduate study at Portsmouth will also help to “open the horizons” of his students. “We are an institution that has a fantastic record of widening participation,” said the vice-chancellor, who would like to ensure that students have the same opportunities to move on to higher-level study as those in any university.
Also being considered by Professor Galbraith is internationalising the curriculum to ensure that students are prepared for an increasingly global employment market. This could include elements such as giving law students the opportunity to explore jurisdictions outside the UK and covering international standards in engineering courses.
The importance of Portsmouth’s image abroad is not lost on Professor Galbraith, who was previously pro vice-chancellor international at Glasgow Caledonian University, which has just opened a satellite campus in New York.
“We will have to think about our brand presence overseas,” he said of Portsmouth, which has a number of partnerships overseas but no branch campuses.
12 - the number of undergraduate courses in the field of modern languages at Portsmouth
University of Edinburgh
Low testosterone levels in men – which are linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease – could be caused by a lack of the hormone while in the womb, according to research. University of Edinburgh scientists found that Leydig cells, which are responsible for producing the hormone in adults, have their function impaired if there is little testosterone present in the womb. It is hoped that the research could lead to better advice on diet and lifestyle for pregnant women.
Liverpool John Moores University
A Merseyside university has been teaching statistics to students using only a social networking site. The approach gives undergraduates at Liverpool John Moores University the option of attending no lectures or workshops, and instead learning via a series of tasks and evaluations uploaded to a Facebook page. The concept was devised by Mark Feltham, principal lecturer in animal ecology, and is open to those studying degrees in biology, zoology, wildlife conservation, geography, animal behaviour and forensic anthropology.
University of Bristol
Soap bubbles that have images projected on to them and release a scent when burst form part of new multisensory technology developed by researchers. The SensaBubble technology – detailed in a paper presented this week at a conference in Canada and developed by a University of Bristol-led team – could be used to create a clock that allows users to tell the time by smell, or a maths game for children that uses smell to give feedback.
Scientists at a university are to investigate whether the winter storms have caused damage to the seabed on the south coast of Devon. The group from Plymouth University will use cameras to survey changes in Lyme Bay in a five-month project. The area, which is a coastal Marine Protected Area, has been monitored by the university since 2008. Martin Attrill, director of Plymouth’s Marine Institute, said that this gave the researchers a “worldleading database” to compare the results against.
The modern idea that there are multiple universes is implicit within a 13th-century treatise, according to a project that looks at the work of the Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste. A team led by scholars from Durham University freshly translated Grosseteste’s work from the original Latin and applied modern mathematics to his equations on a Big Bang-like beginning to the universe. One of the calculations generated a series of celestial spheres, as he had predicted, which the researchers say have parallels with the idea of a multiverse.
University of Manchester
Women in north-west England who have suffered domestic abuse can now access free counselling support, thanks to a collaboration between the University of Manchester and the Stockport Without Abuse refuge. Nerys Owen, who is studying for a doctorate in counselling psychology at Manchester, works one day a week offering therapy to women at the refuge. It comes after Kath Dunn-cham, accommodation manager at SWA, and Terry Hanley, course director for the doctoral training programme in counselling psychology at Manchester, identified the need for such a service.
King’s College London
People who were bullied as children still suffer the effects nearly 40 years afterwards, psychiatrists have claimed. Victims of childhood bullying are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health at the age of 50 or to suffer from depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts than those who were never bullied, according to researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, come from a longitudinal study of children born in 1958.
Royal Holloway, University of London
Shakespeare is more popular than ever in the Bollywood film industry, an international symposium will hear next month. Indian cinema’s love affair with the Bard – there are several film adaptations of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, and there are versions of Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors in the pipeline – will be explored at a conference, in London on June, organised by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London.