The University of Southampton is creating an “engineers’ playpen” as part of a £140 million redevelopment of its Boldrewood campus that vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam believes will create university-business links on an “unprecedented scale”.
The site, which sits to the west of the university’s main Highfield campus, is being developed jointly with engineering and services company Lloyd’s Register, which has a long history of collaborating with the institution.
“It is a really exciting co-location,” Professor Nutbeam said. “It was a very significant strategic decision for Lloyd’s Register [because] they were being aggressively courted by other countries to move their global technology division overseas.”
The university will move a “significant part” of its engineering and technology facilities on to the campus and will also develop new facilities that have a direct application to the work of Lloyd’s Register, historically a major player in the maritime industry. New facilities include an anechoic wind chamber and a 186m towing tank that will facilitate detailed research on new maritime technologies.
The facilities and co-location with Lloyd’s will create a “seamless opportunity for our students and academic community to engage with a vibrant technology-based industry”, Professor Nutbeam said.
Previously the campus hosted the university’s Schools of Biological Sciences and Medicine and the office of the now defunct Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. The campus buildings were in a poor state of repair and refurbishment was deemed to be uneconomical.
In September 2007, the local council granted planning permission for the university to redevelop the campus as a Maritime Centre of Excellence. Enabling works began that year and subsequently the university relocated staff from the site to the new Life Sciences Building on the main campus, Southampton General Hospital and the University of Southampton Science Park.
The new campus is due to open later this year and will house the Lloyd’s Register Technology Centre, the university’s Engineering Centre of Excellence and the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, the initial stage of a Maritime Centre of Excellence.
Southampton has been working with Lloyd’s Register on research projects for more than 40 years. “They saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Professor Nutbeam said. “We want to create this magnet for other businesses that have a stake in advanced technology in the marine and maritime sector.”
The university is now in discussion with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership to see if it can channel resources into the project “to build upon the market advantage we have as a sector in the Solent region”, he explained.
Other developments planned at the university include the creation of a business school. It is scheduled to be launched in the next academic year and will focus on science and engineering.
Southampton will spend a further £20 million to establish a cancer immunology centre that will be aligned with the Francis Crick Institute in London, which is due to open in 2015. A £10 million gift from an anonymous private donor has provided half the funding and the university has committed to raising the rest.
Meanwhile, on the teaching front, undergraduates who started this academic year have the option for the first time to choose a minor subject alongside their main degree.
Offering minor options in subjects that are currently suffering from weak student demand, such as philosophy, could preserve teaching and the research base in these areas, Professor Nutbeam said. Southampton’s undergraduate intake of UK students dropped by 700 in 2012-13, the first year of £9,000 fees. However, recruitment bounced back substantially this year and, according to Ucas figures, is up 23 per cent year-on-year.
“What we are trying to do is anticipate the interest of students in more flexible approaches to their learning,” Professor Nutbeam said of the major and minor subject options.
He added that students frequently have a “broad idea” of what they want to study before coming to university but then find themselves “somewhat locked into a programme…that offers relatively little flexibility”.
To help boost flexibility, the university went through an “incredibly painful process” of standardising its modules and timetabling to allow students to take modules outside their chosen programme.
The institution has also set its sights on creating Moocs and other free-standing programmes within the curriculum.
Professor Nutbeam said the “greater flexibility” resulting from such initiatives would give students the option to bolster their existing studies – perhaps over the summer vacation for example – or change from full- to part-time study.
£140m redevelopment for University of Southampton’s Boldrewood campus
University of Edinburgh
A ban on smoking in public places cuts premature births by 10 per cent, a study has found, and reduces the number of children hospitalised by asthma attacks by the same amount. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh worked with peers at Maastricht University, Hasselt University and Harvard Medical School to look at data on 2.5 million births and nearly 250,000 asthma-related hospital attendances in North America and Europe.
The Open University
The National Union of Students is teaming up with The Open University to undertake research into the experiences of part-time students in the UK higher education system. The project has been commissioned by the Higher Education Academy, and will consult thousands of students over 12 months to glean their views on what it is like to study part-time, and to shed light on the barriers they face to learning, particularly after the coalition government’s reforms.
Oxford Brookes University
One institution has gone back to its roots to launch a programme of celebrations for its impending 150-year anniversary. Academics established the Oxford School of Art, which later became Oxford Brookes University, in a single room at the Taylorian Institute next to the Ashmolean Museum in 1865. To kick off the anniversary celebrations, the university presented a collection of live performances, research showcases and demonstrations at the Ashmolean on 14 March. The attractions included a full-size humanoid robot, a pair of mountain bikes made of bamboo, and performances by singers and Indian drummers.
University of Winchester
A university has published a list of names of staff and students who identify themselves either as members of a sexual minority or as heterosexual supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. The University of Winchester says that the “OUTlist”, as it is known, shows the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity on campus. Deputy vice-chancellor Elizabeth Stuart said that such lists were already common at universities in the US.
A Labour MP has petitioned the government to not sell the student loan book to private buyers because of fears it would lead to a rise in graduate repayments. Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, made the representation to the House of Commons on 25 March on behalf of city residents and students of Durham University. “Increasing the burden of debt further, as is inevitable if student loans are privatised, would be grossly unfair,” the petition says.
University of Sheffield
A university’s total staff count has topped 7,000 for the first time, marking a 26 per cent increase since 2009-10. The University of Sheffield also said that new academic appointments rose from 54 in 2010 to 144 in 2012-13. Staff turnover fell from 19 per cent to 13 per cent during the same period, and the number of new starters across the institution increased by 35 per cent year on year.
King’s College London
Brazil’s sports minister, Aldo Rebelo, gave students in London an insight into the origins of his country’s “samba-style” football ahead of this summer’s Fifa World Cup. Speaking at a packed conference on 17 March at King’s College London’s Brazil Institute, Mr Rebelo argued that Afro-Brazilians and indigenous Brazilians added a “unpredictable, joyous, dancing, weaving style” to the more disciplined European game, making Brazilian football an “expression of the passion, desire and fantasy of the socially excluded”.
Soas, University of London
Postgraduate students have helped to create a new exhibition detailing the lives of Ugandan Asians forced to leave their homeland more than 40 years ago. Running at the Wolfson Gallery at Soas, University of London, until 22 April 2014, Making Home includes student interviews with Ugandan Asians expelled on the order of the dictator Idi Amin in 1972. Part of a Council of Asian People project entitled Exiles: The Ugandan Asian Story, the exhibition is hosted by Soas’ Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies.