Campus round-up

December 23, 2010

Bucks New University

Persuasive case for collaboration

A UK university has signed an agreement with a college in Saudi Arabia to help it set up the first advertising school in the Gulf. Academics from Bucks New University will lend their expertise and knowledge to the new College of Advertising, which will be based in the country's commercial capital, Jeddah. They will also advise on programme planning, staff training and building professional networks across the Gulf as part of the agreement with Jeddah's College of Business Administration, which is setting up the new institution.

University of Oxford

Web window on interview process

Tutors participating in the interview process for prospective students at one of England's ancient universities have posted online diaries about their experiences. It is the first time the University of Oxford has released such video diaries, which it hopes will shed light on the process as tutors interview the 10,000 students who have been shortlisted for a place at Oxford. Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions, said the university wanted to be as "open and transparent" as possible to show applicants how rigorous the process was.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Helping to put dreams into action

Recording artist Howard Jones has been sharing the secrets of his success during a songwriting masterclass. The singer-songwriter, best known for 1980s hits such as Like to Get to Know You Well, visited Canterbury Christ Church University's campus in Broadstairs, Kent, to lead a class of students in commercial music. Mr Jones, who continues to record and tour, said it was an "exciting time" to be an emerging songwriter as artists had the power to disseminate their own music using the power of the internet and social networking sites.

University of Central Lancashire

Signalling support with cash

A deaf studies unit has been awarded a €1.16 million (£990,000) grant by the European Research Council. The International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies at the University of Central Lancashire won the grant for a five-year project on multilingual behaviours in sign language users. Ulrike Zeshan, the institute's director, said the project would "have a huge impact on the international deaf researchers and communities who will work with us, especially those from developing countries".

Birmingham City University

Grand designs for a big city

Plans have been unveiled for a new university campus in the centre of Birmingham that will focus on supporting the creative industries. Birmingham City University has shown the public its proposals for a purpose-built facility to house its Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. Vice-chancellor David Tidmarsh called the development "an important part of the planning jigsaw that makes up Birmingham's 'Big City Plan', the most far-reaching citywide development project ever undertaken in the UK".

University of Salford

Soothing sounds

The use of music to help people with mental illness is to be explored by a new project. University of Salford researchers Adam Garrow, Robin Dewhurst and Tom Fawcett want to find alternative ways to help people suffering from depression, anxiety and some forms of schizophrenia, and one of their first ventures is the formation of a community choir in Salford. The singers are currently rehearsing the song (Something Inside) So Strong, written and recorded by Labi Siffre. Dr Dewhurst, senior lecturer in music, said: "GPs are already starting to look at social prescribing, using treatments like gardening and other creative activities as an alternative to drugs. We're hoping to use this project to show that singing and music can also be used as effective ways to treat certain conditions."

University of Nottingham

Aerospace institute takes flight

A university has launched a new institute for the commercialisation of its aerospace research. The University of Nottingham's Institute for Aerospace Technology, funded with a £3.6 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund, will focus on business engagement and knowledge transfer. The move follows Nottingham's recent identification of aerospace as one of its priority research areas for growth. It is also building a new aerospace technology centre, which will concentrate on knowledge transfer and demonstration of advanced prototype technology.

University of Derby

Browne boost for online study

Student enrolment on online courses has doubled in two years, the University of Derby reports. It had 700 students enrolled on its online foundation, honours and postgraduate degree courses at the end of the 2007-08 academic year, but that had doubled by the end of 2009-10, accounting for 26 per cent of all part-time students at the university. Derby expects the Browne Review to further increase the popularity of studying from home, and it is looking to increase the number of courses it offers online.

Hull/Sheffield

Lost voices could be restored

Researchers are developing technology that could help people who have had their larynx removed to get their voices back. Scientists from the University of Hull, the University of Sheffield and East Yorkshire NHS Trust have developed a technique that uses magnets on a frame inside the mouth to create a magnetic field that varies according to the shapes the mouth is making. The field can be matched by computer with specific words and speech patterns, which can then be spoken by a voice synthesiser. The researchers hope that eventually the synthesiser will be able to use people's natural voices, recorded prior to surgery.

City University London

Global ambitions for studentships

A London university is offering 75 fully funded doctoral studentships next year. City University London has announced that the full-time studentships, which are open to both UK and overseas students, will commence in October 2011. The studentships cover tuition fees and a maintenance bursary of £15,000 a year. Applications are being sought in disciplines including business and management, economics, music, nursing and midwifery, psychology and sociology. Dinos Arcoumanis, the university's deputy vice-chancellor (research and international), said: "Doctoral studentships are vital for maintaining research excellence and developing the innovative ideas that drive the global economy. We are delighted to be creating these places at City and we look forward to welcoming a new generation of world-class researchers."

University of Manchester

Many hands make light work

A university has joined forces with Diamond Light Source, the national synchrotron, to develop a three-dimensional internal imaging facility. The University of Manchester has signed a seven-year collaboration deal to provide development and staffing of Diamond's new X-ray tomography facility in return for substantial dedicated access for its own researchers. X-ray tomography allows scientists to study the internal structure of engineering components and organic structures without damaging them. Manchester opened its own dedicated imaging suite in June 2009, but Phil Withers, the facility's head, said the collaboration with Diamond Light Source provided the "perfect opportunity" to expand its capabilities.

Cranfield/Lancaster/Harper Adams

Targeting better irrigation

A four-year research project has been launched to improve energy and water efficiency as well as crop quality via new approaches to irrigation. In the UK, nearly three-quarters of field vegetable crops are irrigated using inefficient overhead methods, at a cost of about £16.5 million a year. Researchers at Cranfield University are developing precision irrigation methods aimed at reducing the annual running costs for water and energy by 20 per cent, or almost £3.5 million a year. The Cranfield team is working in partnership with 10 industry partners as well as Lancaster University and Harper Adams University College.

University of Birmingham

Is seasonal stress a life-saver?

Those expecting a hectic Christmas should heed new research that exposes the dangers of not reacting to stress. Anna Phillips of the University of Birmingham's School of Sport and Exercise Science said that "instead of high-stress reactivity being related to negative health outcomes or behaviours, it was the low-stress reactors who were more at risk". People who did not show large heart rate and blood pressure reactions to a stress task were more likely to become depressed and obese, according to research published online in Biological Psychology.

University of Bristol

Perils of dining al desko

Eating lunch while working at a computer could increase food intake later in the day, according to university research. A study by researchers in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol found that a group of people who ate lunch while playing computer games later wanted about twice as many snacks. The "distracted" participants also had a poorer memory of the items they ate for lunch, making it more likely they would crave food later. Similar observations have been made of people who eat while watching TV, said the researchers.

Epic endeavour

Academics and students have raised money for a leading charity for the blind with a 10-hour reading of John Milton's Paradise Lost. The 50 volunteers from the University of Manchester read all 86,340 words (10,552 lines) of the 17th-century poem, which recounts the Fall of Man. The event was organised by doctoral student Liam Haydon. He chose the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) as the recipient of monies raised because Milton was blind by the time he began the poem and had to dictate it to his daughters. "This is about raising money for RNIB but it's also bringing this fantastic work to the wider public," Mr Haydon said.

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