For vice-chancellor Mary Stuart, the University of Lincoln can best be defined as “a 21st-century civic university”.
She says: “We always talk about this campus being established out of derelict railway lines, the whole process of decontaminating land and creating this new campus out of nothing.”
What was then the University of Humberside, granted university status in 1992, established the new campus around the old docks of Brayford Pool in 1996. It has grown by roughly one building a year, around the barges and swans, ever since.
The Great Central Warehouse became the university library in 2004, the old Engine Shed was fitted out with bars and a live music venue in 2006, but most of the other structures were purpose-built.
Although her own background is in street theatre and subsequently sociology, Professor Stuart has greatly boosted the university’s science provision since her appointment as vice-chancellor in 2009. Her aim, she says, was “to ensure we have a full range of ‘classical’ disciplines”.
Central to this was the creation of a new School of Engineering building, opened in 2011, in partnership with local company Siemens, which now has its training school on site.
Last year pharmacy, this year chemistry, and next year mathematics and physics, are being taught at Lincoln for the first time. “Linda”, the automated security guard, is the public face of a much wider programme of robotics research, which covers everything from direct agricultural applications to exploring human-robot interaction. And a new science and innovation park, in partnership with Lincolnshire Co-op, is expected to open in the summer.
The main tourist attractions of Lincoln are its castle and the cathedral, with its extensive archives and beautiful Wren Library. The city also owns one of only four original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta as well as the 1217 Charter of the Forest, which granted rights to the general populace as well as the aristocracy. They are soon to be displayed in a new vault in the castle.
The university will be closely involved in next year’s events to commemorate Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, with conferences, a young people’s symposium on digital democracy, and opportunities for student volunteering and for building links with the US institutions where the Lincoln Magna Carta is shortly to go on tour.
These precious local assets also mean that the university has actively developed closer ties with the city and built up its coverage in medieval studies, with a new research group bringing together forensic anthropologists, chemists, life scientists, historians and even experts in media studies exploring how the Middle Ages are presented today. A single librarian is now responsible for the special collections of both the university and the cathedral.
The arts and sciences also come together in the Lincoln School of Art and Design, home to 1,500 students, whose new building opened last year.
Rather unusually, conservation and restoration are also taught there, with the latest in 3D printing, colour-scanning and laser technology being applied to the reproduction of Victorian tiles or repair of damaged artefacts.
Crick Smith, a conservation consultancy specialising in historic paint analysis, has acquired English Heritage’s paint archive and hopes to use this as a basis for a broader national archive of historic decoration.
Although more than 50 per cent of students still come from within an 80-mile radius of Lincoln, the past four years have seen the proportion of international students jump from 2 to 12 per cent.
This is just one aspect of wider plans to diversify income streams, through research, consultancy and educational contracts, including one with the NHS to train nurses across the county.
As both a research-active expert in the subject and someone whose father was “a home-grown Irish intellectual who left school at 12 but taught himself to read Plato and enthused me with a love of Shakespeare”, Professor Stuart has a strong but realistic commitment to widening access.
“About 37 per cent of our students, which is quite high in the sector, come from family backgrounds with incomes under £25,000,” she explains. “Over 50 per cent attract some form of financial assistance under our Office of Fair Access agreement. We work with all schools in Lincolnshire, provide masterclasses, mentoring schemes and bursaries for 16- to 18-year-olds, again as part of our Offa agreement, to help students stay on in schools and complete their studies.
“We introduced a sixth form into an academy school in the South of Lincolnshire, which has since had progressively more students going on to university,” she adds.
37% of Lincoln’s students come from families with an income of under £25,000
University of St Andrews
A Scottish university is to help create a collection of photography about modern and historic Scotland. The University of St Andrews and Document Scotland, a group of four Scottish documentary photographers, will display modern work alongside the work of pioneering photographers in four events this summer. As part of the partnership, the university will buy a “substantial collection” of contemporary Scottish photography to add to its archive of more than 800,000 images dating from the 1840s onwards.
Yoga for expectant mothers significantly reduces their stress and anxiety levels, lessening the risk of side-effects for their children, research has found. A team from Newcastle University and the University of Manchester studied 59 pregnant women and found that a group that did eight weekly yoga sessions had reduced self-reported anxiety and lower stress hormone levels. Stress during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight and increased behaviour problems in the child.
University of Bristol
The chance to talk science down the pub may not come around every week, but academics from the University of Bristol will be giving a series of talks at four pubs in the city as part of the Pint of Science festival from 19 to 21 May. Up for discussion at each of the venues is a different scientific theme, including the human brain, the body, nanotechnology and volcanoes.
Bath Spa University
Researchers have developed an interactive app that gives users the chance to explore the history and origins of London’s streets. Academics at the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University have incorporated historic maps, images and original sounds and music into the package that lets users view the changes in a street over time. The team now hope to create a similar app about Beijing.
University of York
A science outreach centre with a primary focus on widening participation is due to be opened next week. The University of York facility, housed in its department of chemistry, contains its own laboratory and can cater for up to 100 visitors at a time. It will offer activities for all ages but aims primarily to help school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds improve their lab experience and qualifications.
University of Huddersfield
A university has acquired the archive of a socialist news-paper editor who outraged his readers by supporting British participation in the Great War. Robert Blatchford published a series of articles in The Clarion in the run-up to 1914 arguing that the UK would become a vassal of Germany if it did not fight. A collection of his letters, books, pamphlets and memorabilia has been given to the University of Huddersfield by Baron Clark of Windermere, who was a politics lecturer at Huddersfield before becoming an MP.
University of East London
An 80m-long sculpture designed by a university professor has been unveiled at Heathrow Airport’s remodelled Terminal 2. Slipstream, a 77‑tonne installation in the airport’s new £2.2 billion terminal, was created by two-time Turner Prize nominee Richard Wilson, who is a visiting professor at the University of East London’s School of Arts and Digital Industries. Inspired by the “exhilarating potential of flight” and reflecting the “physical aesthetics of aircraft”, Slipstream is one of Europe’s longest public sculptures and is expected to be viewed by about 20 million passengers a year.
A university-backed free school has appointed its first principal. Sophie Cavanagh will lead the secondary school in Kingston, southwest London, when it opens in September 2015. The as-yet-unnamed school, which is supported by Kingston University and other organisations, will admit 180 students in its first year and specialise in science, technology, engineering, maths and communications.