Blazing a trail
Two academics have visited the Costa Rican jungle to help launch a new qualification. The postgraduate certificate in international field leadership offered by Birkbeck, University of London, has been developed in partnership with Raleigh International, a charity that organises expeditions and volunteer projects abroad. Students on the course will spend at least eight weeks as a volunteer manager on a Raleigh expedition overseas, leading a team of 17- to 24-year-old volunteers. Sue Jackson, pro vice-master for learning and teaching, and Zhu Hua, reader in applied linguistics and communication, spent a week observing the learning methods used and joining the volunteers' treks.
A university and a further education college have forged strong links with a traditional UK industry to launch a national school of excellence. The first National School of Furniture, a partnership between Bucks New University and Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, will offer everything from courses in basic skills to doctorates. Architects of the project believe it is the first time such a range of learning levels have been offered through an integrated centre. The school's official launch took place in London earlier this month.
Dust to digital
A collection of rare books has been acquired by an arts and social sciences library. Among the collection at Cardiff University are Bibles dating from 1540, atlases including a world map published in 1492 and a number of Restoration plays. The volumes are on display to members of the public, who can virtually turn pages of digitised copies of the books using special software.
University College London
We're watching you, m'lud
A London institution has launched the UK's first centre of excellence in research, teaching, policy engagement and scholarship on the judiciary. University College London's Judicial Institute aims to create a more thorough understanding of the judicial system and its workings. It is dedicated to the study of how judges are appointed, how they reach decisions, how the courts operate, and how the judiciary interacts with other institutions and branches of government. The institute was launched last week with a panel debate on the future of judging.
A challenge to current thinking
Researchers are working on a groundbreaking project to explore the energy-saving potential of running university computers on a direct current (DC) electricity supply network. The University of Bath scientists, working with energy firm RWE npower, will set up 50 computers in the institution's library to draw electricity from a specially created local DC network rather than normal alternating current sockets. The six-month trial is designed to test the feasibility and potential energy, financial and environmental benefits of using such a supply, given that electronic equipment such as computers, televisions and communications systems use a DC current.
A short time in politics
A university project that used Twitter to spur interest in the study of politics during this year's general election by drawing parallels with the 1992 campaign has won an award. The Open University's OpenLearn portal received the E-Learning Award in the "best use of social media" category for its 92 Rewind initiative. As the 2010 campaign ran, 92 Rewind delivered regular tweets on news headlines from the same point in the 1992 election, reflecting on similarities and differences. Tweets were supplemented with blog posts, a podcast series, short videos on YouTube and links to politics courses.
With a lot of help from its friends
Book lovers in Scotland have donated £260,000 to help to fund a new library and special collections centre. The Friends of Aberdeen University Library, a charity with about 200 members worldwide, has made two gifts to the university repository. The first, worth £200,000, will go towards the construction of the new building. A second contribution of more than £60,000 will pay for the provision of community learning activities in the new library.
A dark day for superbugs
A pioneering lighting system that can kill hospital superbugs including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile has been developed by researchers. The technology, created at the University of Strathclyde, decontaminates air and surfaces by covering them in a narrow spectrum of wavelengths known as HINS-light. Trials at Glasgow Royal Infirmary showed that the system killed bacteria in the hospital more effectively than cleaning alone. The university said it provided a "huge step forward" in the ability of hospitals to prevent the spread of infection.
Let the gaming begin
Two new institutes have been created with the aim of enhancing students' employability and creating links with businesses. The University of Wolverhampton's Institute of Media Arts and its Institute of Gaming and Animation were officially launched this month. The university said the two institutes "bring together expertise from different areas of the university to provide students with access to the latest technology and placement opportunities in the fields of gaming, animation and the media arts".
A UK university has set up a scheme for students from a South Korean college to join its education programme. Nottingham Trent University's partnership with Soong Eui Women's College will give the college's graduates in early childhood education the opportunity to join the second year of Nottingham Trent's BA course in early years and education. The first six students are set to arrive in October 2011, with the cohort expected to expand in time to 12. Discussions about further academic partnerships are under way.
One for the album
An exhibition of former students' work is being held to mark the 10th anniversary of a university's master's degree in biological photography and imaging.
The course, run by the School of Biology at the University of Nottingham, offers science graduates the opportunity to learn camera skills, business management and web design. The exhibition will feature work by alumni who have gone on to careers in biological research, wildlife photography, medical imaging, film-making and writing. It will showcase their skills in microscopy, digital imaging and image manipulation and specialist camera techniques.
Twenty-five years after Band Aid implored the public to "feed the world", academics are asking how it might be done. Researchers at the University of Essex have compiled a list of the top 100 questions for the future of global agriculture. A multidisciplinary team of 55 experts from the world's major agricultural organisations, scientific societies and academic institutions was asked to identify the most important issues for global agriculture and food. The Essex team, which whittled the 618 suggestions down to 100, says that, if addressed, the questions will have a big impact on agricultural practices worldwide.
Surplus grows to £10m
The University of Derby says it is in the "best position" to face up to the implementation of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Browne Review after reporting an increased operating surplus of £10.1 million for the latest financial year. The sum is a significant increase on the previous year's surplus of £8.1 million. However, Hari Punchihewa, deputy chief executive and finance director, said the surplus would not be used to reduce course fees. "That would take us to the point of having no money for developments and improvements. It would be a short-term move and after two years or so there would be no money left to improve the facilities," he said.
Something to sing about
Three sopranos helped to mark the silver jubilee of the merger of Bedford and Royal Holloway colleges with a concert. Dame Felicity Lott, Susan Bullock and Sarah Fox, all alumnae of the institution, performed at Royal Holloway, University of London, accompanied by the college's choir. Paul Layzell, principal of Royal Holloway, said the colleges had been "pioneering institutions in the movement for women's higher education".
University of East London/Birkbeck
Stratford hub gets go-ahead
Planning permission has been granted for a university hub in East London. The academic building in Stratford will provide shared teaching facilities for the University of East London and Birkbeck, University of London as well as partners including Newham Sixth Form College. Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of UEL, said that despite the challenging economic circumstances, "we can still create a major new university hub here in East London, through collaboration; one that will meet the academic aspirations of local people". The building is due to be completed by autumn 2013.