Campus round-up - 28 March 2013

March 28, 2013

Source: Dominic Stafford

Shrinking resource

About half of Cambodia’s tropical flooded grassland has been lost in a decade, university research suggests. According to scientists at the University of East Anglia, the grassland area around the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, covered 3,349 sq km in 1995. By 2005 it had been reduced to just 1,817 sq km - a loss of 46 per cent. The grasslands are of great importance for biodiversity, offering refuge for 11 globally threatened bird species. They are also vital for fishing, grazing and traditional rice farming. However, much of the land has been lost to private companies, which use it for intensive commercial rice production. The findings were published in the journal Conservation Biology.

Royal Veterinary College
Animal magnetism

A veterinary school is working with an inner-city further education college to encourage more students to enter the profession. Staff from the Royal Veterinary College will provide teaching sessions, open days and support for students at City and Islington College, in the hope that more people will take up extended BTEC diplomas and A-level courses that can lead to veterinary degrees. Frank McLoughlin, principal of the London college, said he hoped that the expertise of the academics would expand students’ career horizons. “It’s fantastic for our students and all of our staff to feel associated with one of the most prestigious veterinary colleges in the world,” he said.

University of East London
Grand slam

A university scooped five trophies in the annual student sports championships on the same day. The University of East London, which had previously never won a single team title in the British Universities and Colleges Sport competition, triumphed in each of the five sports in which it competed on 13 March. In what UEL is calling Wonderful Wednesday, the university scored victories in men’s football, netball, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s volleyball. “All our student clubs and teams have performed admirably, and the cup success is the icing on the cake,” said David Cosford, UEL’s director of sport.

University of Nottingham
Punishing regime

University managers may be interested to learn that the stick works just as well as the carrot in improving performance. A study led by the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that volunteers’ performance in a difficult sensory task improved in proportion to the size of fines imposed for wrong answers. Lead researcher Marios Philiastides said the associated findings about brain functioning could lead to new methods of diagnosing neural development disorders such as autism, ADHD and personality disorders, where decision-making processes have been compromised.

University of Essex
Rights leader

An academic expert on human rights and international law has been elected chair of the Human Rights Committee at the United Nations. Sir Nigel Rodley, already chair of the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, will now oversee the 18-strong committee of independent experts who monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He has previously served as the committee’s vice-chair. The UN Human Rights Committee meets three times a year for month-long sessions to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by UN member states.

University of Wolverhampton
Rising in the East

Setting up a regional office in Oman is the start of a university’s drive to build partnerships in the Middle East and to give advice to potential students. The University of Wolverhampton’s Middle East Regional Office, which was due to open on 25 March, is based in Muscat. It will aim to build long-term partnerships with Middle Eastern governments and private sector companies, to deliver consultancies for new projects and to offer short courses for continuing professional development. Geoff Layer, the institution’s vice-chancellor, said: “We are very much the ‘University of the Black Country’ in the UK and have a rich tradition and heritage, but we must also look and operate globally.”

University of Oxford
Putting ideas to good use

A group has been established to help find applications for UK research in Southeast Asia. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Oxford Forum will disseminate University of Oxford research to Asian policymakers and business leaders. The forum, supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will meet every three months to discuss major themes affecting all partners including trade, the environment and security. It will also support an annual conference to facilitate international research collaborations. John Jenner, of the university’s Faculty of History and director of the forum, said the launch came at an “epochal juncture” in East-West relations, with the centre of gravity for global growth generation moving “from the North Atlantic to the South China Sea”.

Falmouth University
Seeking exposure

Budding writers can get their work recognised with an award in memory of the Cornish writer Nick Darke. Falmouth University has opened applications for the 2013 Nick Darke Award, which aims to promote and inspire writers for stage, screen or radio who are pursuing an environmental theme, in recognition of the lifelong commitment to the issue of Mr Darke, who died in 2005. The winner will receive £6,000 to support them while writing a full script, as well as mentoring from last year’s winner. Judges include Jeremy Howe, drama commissioning editor for Radio 4, Molly Dineen, television documentary-maker, and Roger Michell, director of the film Notting Hill.

Cardiff Metropolitan University
Pact with the Devils

A university has accepted two ice hockey players on to degree programmes free of charge in return for advertising at a local team’s ice rink. Cardiff Metropolitan University will have its name displayed on the Cardiff Devils’ goalposts and rinkside panels, while Phil Hall and Josh Batch will study towards an MSc in strength and coaching and a BSc in economics, respectively. Dave Cobner, the university’s director of sport, said the institution had also forged very strong relationships with other key figures at the club.

Coventry University
Dealers in the making

A simulated, real-time trading floor gave school pupils a taste of the financial markets as part of a university’s attempts to offer guidance on undergraduate study. Year 10 and Year 12 pupils from across the West Midlands took part in the Stock Market Challenge at Coventry University, which involved two days of intensive “trading” with a £21,000 investment pot. The initiative, on 21 and 22 March, was funded by HSBC and supported by the university in partnership with publisher 10 Lane Learning. HSBC and Coventry staff provided teachers and pupils with guidance and information about career opportunities in the financial sector and associated undergraduate study routes.

University of Leicester
Look back and learn

The lessons that current Labour Party leader Ed Miliband could draw from the Blair-Brown years were the topic of a recent conference. The event, due to be held on March at the University of Leicester, featured academics and policymakers who were active during the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Organiser Oliver Daddow, reader in international politics at Leicester, said the event was about “getting away from the public face of New Labour…and teasing out useful lessons for the future of the party”. The resulting report will be sent to Mr Miliband in the hope of shaping his views “in a constructive and effective manner”.

University of St Andrews
Not watching? Then I’m off

A new way of displaying changes on a computer screen has been developed that tracks a user’s eyes and can tell when they are not paying attention. Researchers in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews have created the system, called “diff displays”, so that computer users do not miss anything new. If changes occur on the screen when the user is not looking at them, the system fades them out so that the user is not distracted from what they are focusing on. It is thought that the technology could help to increase productivity.

University of Reading
Malaysian base

A university has celebrated the start of construction in Malaysia of its first overseas campus. The University of Reading’s site at EduCity in Iskandar, which is already home to two other UK universities, will open in September 2015 offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in science, business and law, and the built environment. It will cater for 2,000 students.

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