Campus round-up

December 16, 2010

Institute of Education - Primary class divide

Different rates of progress among children in their first two years at school are still driven largely by their parents' social class, a UK-wide study has concluded. Researchers at the Institute of Education analysed the assessment scores of more than 11,000 seven-year-olds. They found a strikingly large performance gap between the children of parents in professional and managerial jobs and those with parents who were long-term unemployed. At the age of seven, after allowing for other factors such as ethnicity and family size, the children of professionals and managers were, on average, at least eight months ahead of pupils from the most socially disadvantaged backgrounds. The gap was about four months wider at seven than it had been at age five.

London School of Economics - Strategic heights

The "lost art" of strategy is to be rediscovered on a new course. At a time when leading politicians have warned of an absence of strategic thinking, the London School of Economics is launching Strategy in the Age of Global Risk, a programme whose enrolment will be limited to just 15 high-flyers. Leading academics from LSE will teach the Executive MSc, and senior former diplomats and government advisers will lend their expertise, including Tony Blair's former chief of staff Jonathan Powell and Sir David Manning, former UK ambassador to the US, Nato and Israel.

University of East Anglia - A cleverer endoscope

An international team of researchers has developed a new kind of endoscope to aid the early detection and diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease.

A powerful microscope allows clinicians to view the bacteria that are thought to trigger Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Instead of relying on biopsies, they will now be able to use routine colonoscopies to examine at a sub-cellular level the crucial processes within the mucous membrane of the gut. The technique was designed by a team led by Alastair Watson, clinical professor at the University of East Anglia.

Birmingham City University - Now grilling

Students on a criminal investigation course will become the first in the country to benefit from state-of-the-art interviewing equipment. Birmingham City University has introduced the £50,000 equipment for recording audio and visual interviews to help teach students skills in investigative interviewing of suspects and witnesses. Nick Howe, programme director of the BSc (Hons) criminal investigation degree, said: "This equipment has only recently been released to police forces so it's a real coup for us to have it."

Edge Hill University - Additional gains

A groundbreaking programme to help pupils who are falling behind in maths is having impressive results. Edge Hill University's Faculty of Education designed Numbers Count, a 13-week course of intensive lessons for Year 2 pupils taught by teachers trained at the university as part of a government-funded scheme. Official figures show that of 7,820 children taking part - who were on average 13 months behind their classmates - 99 per cent made progress, improving by 14 months on average.

University of Worcester - Le computer est ici

A course has been launched to prepare primary teachers for the introduction of modern languages to the curriculum. The University of Worcester has started its virtual learning course - blending face-to-face and online teaching - as foreign languages are opened to all children in Key Stage 2. Course leader Judy Barker said: "It aims to help teachers improve their use of target language in the classroom, enabling them to be more independent and experimental in using the language, which in turn helps pupils learn and become more confident themselves."

University of Bedfordshire - Reel-to-reel dancing

An animated film by a university researcher has been shown at the Dancescreen 2010 international film festival in Amsterdam. Maria Wiener, course leader in media performance at the University of Bedfordshire, drew on motion-capture data of dancer Jamie Dryburgh that she created in the lab as part of her PhD when she was studying at Sheffield Hallam University. This was incorporated into an animated film, Start from Scratch, which was selected as one of more than 40 dance films, documentaries, retrospectives, installations and interactive projects at the four-day festival, which ran from 9 to 12 December.

University of Manchester - Eat the colour purple

Eating purple fruit and drinking green tea can help prevent diseases including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, research suggests. Douglas Kell, professor in the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester, found that a certain form of iron is prone to produce disease-promoting toxins called hydroxyl radicals. But he found that brightly coloured - especially purple - fruit and vegetables, as well as green tea, are excellent sources of chemicals that convert the iron into a harmless form.

Newcastle University - Beer mat chat-up lines

Who says time spent in the campus bar is time wasted? A group of postgraduate computer science students at Newcastle University have devised a novel way to make the first move on a prospective partner - with a beer mat. Using an interactive bar surface, the students have designed beer mats that are able to "chat" to one another in the form of scrolling text messages. "The idea is that the mats gain a personality when placed on the bar - some are funny, some are naughty, some are scared of other mats and some are out to talk to everyone," said PhD student Tom Bartindale.

University of York - Sports project on the blocks

A university has unveiled plans for a new £9 million sports facility. The York Sports Village will be co-funded by the University of York and the City of York Council and will be open to both students and the public. Any profits made will be reinvested in the facilities, which will include a competition-standard swimming pool, a full-size AstroTurf football pitch and a large gym. A planned second phase of development would see the addition of grass pitches, a fitness suite and a sauna. The first phase is expected to open in July 2012, subject to planning permission.

University of Nottingham - Green blueprint

A new facility to develop more environmentally friendly chemical processes is expected to result from a partnership between a university and a pharmaceutical giant. GlaxoSmithKline and the University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry will collaborate on research projects at the green chemistry facility. The building, which will house around 60 researchers, will also aim to be the first carbon-neutral laboratory. Earlier this year Nottingham and GSK also launched an undergraduate module that will give students experience of work in the pharmaceutical industry.

University of Exeter/University College Falmouth - Cornwall campus boost

A further £20 million is to be invested in a flagship joint campus in Cornwall. The Tremough site in Penryn - which is shared by the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth - will benefit from the creation of a new teaching and research facility called The Exchange as well as an innovation academy. Money for the two projects, which follow the construction of a new performing arts hub at the campus, has come from sources including the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the European Regional Development Fund and the South West Regional Development Agency.

Bournemouth University - Nightmare terror scenario

A fictional terrorism plot in which al-Qaeda liaises with the IRA to plan an attack has been created by lecturers to help students learn the ropes of crime scene investigation. Bournemouth University used the Streetwise education centre to set up the simulation, which included fake samples of bullets and blood that students could later examine in the lab.

University of Cambridge - Website for dying languages

An open database of endangered languages has been launched by researchers who hope to allow access to the world's disappearing spoken traditions. The website, developed by the World Oral Literature Project based at the University of Cambridge, includes records for 3,524 world languages including 21 "disappearing" tongues in Britain. It is hoped the database will enable information to be gathered not only about the languages but the stories, songs, myths and folklore associated with them.

Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan and Swansea - Talent network launch

Some of the best researchers from across Wales are to be brought together by a group of universities to solve major challenges. The Welsh Crucible, a development scheme for research leaders of the future, has been set up by the St David's Day group of Welsh universities including Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Bangor. Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, it will provide training for 30 successful applicants and establish a "network of talented individuals" for the country.

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