Campus round-up

February 17, 2011

London School of Economics

Credit line for post-crisis study

A hedge-fund manager has donated £2.5 million to fund new research and teaching on Europe's role in the post-financial crisis world. The gift from John A. Paulson, who founded the investment-management firm Paulson & Co in 1994, will establish the John Paulson chair in European political economy at the London School of Economics. Howard Davies, director of the LSE, said: "Europe remains the world's largest trading bloc, but it faces serious challenges, focused particularly on the future of the euro. This donation is therefore as timely as it is generous. It will enable scholars to examine the causes and the consequences of the crisis in a systematic and considered way and pass their knowledge and restructuring recommendations on to decision-makers."

University of Northampton

Library gives them power

A university wants to take over its local library and turn it into a base for new community services run as social enterprises. The University of Northampton aims to install a "social entrepreneur-in-residence" at Danesholme Library, which is slated for closure by Northamptonshire County Council. The entrepreneur will work with local people to identify and deliver the services. These might include a job club, a computer learning centre, a social enterprise start-up site or a play area for children out of school hours.

Manchester/Open

Not made in Britain

The government's efforts to boost UK manufacturing could be compromised by the fragmented nature of the existing domestic supply chain. This is the conclusion of a report by the Economic and Social Research Council's Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, based at the University of Manchester and The Open University. The fact that one-third of manufacturing jobs in the UK stem from foreign-owned subsidiaries with "limited ambitions", combined with the small size of many domestic suppliers, means that many components have to be sourced from abroad. One of the report's authors, Sukhdev Johal, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "Unless we fix this problem, the benefits of any renaissance in British manufacturing will leak abroad to mainly West European suppliers."

University of Exeter

Join the club

A partnership of four southern English universities that helps to commercialise research by supporting the growth of new spin-off companies is being joined by a fifth institution. The University of Exeter will become part of the SETsquared initiative from next month alongside the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton and Surrey, its existing members. The group, which was established almost 10 years ago, has supported about 650 companies in fields such as biotechnology and sustainability. It has worked on areas including the prevention of cot death and the creation of satellites.

The Open University

Better by design

A course that recreates the design studio online so that students can share ideas, collaborate on projects and give each other feedback has won an award for pushing the boundaries of digital learning. The Open University received the Gold Award in the Innovation in Training Services category at the IT Training Awards 2011 for its Design Thinking: Creativity for the 21st Century programme. Rather than relying on downloadable documents, the course uses special software applications, including a digital scrapbook, so that the design process can be assessed in a bid to create a complete interactive learning environment.

University of Cambridge

Great Scott

A university museum that is home to the last letters of polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions has been longlisted for a major arts award. The Polar Museum at the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, which reopened last year after a £1.75 million redevelopment scheme, is one of 10 museums up for the £100,000 Art Fund Prize. The accolade, which recognises excellence and innovation in museums and galleries, will be awarded at a ceremony on 15 June. Other exhibits at the museum, where visitor numbers have tripled since its reopening, include the sleeping bag used by Scott's companion Captain Lawrence Oates and images by Herbert Ponting, photographer for the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole.

University of Dundee

Hanging on the SpaceWire

A Scottish university and its successful spin-off company have signed an agreement with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation to test high-speed software and computer networks for use on spacecraft. The University of Dundee and spin-off STAR-Dundee Ltd will work with the Chinese group's Software Test and Evaluation Centre to research "SpaceWire" technology, used on many space missions. Academics at Dundee were instrumental in designing SpaceWire.

Keele University

At last, a warm welcome

Refugees and asylum seekers will be welcomed on to a university campus for a five-day series of events organised by staff and student volunteers. Shifting Landscapes will take place on 21-25 February - National Student Volunteering Week - and will involve Keele University students and staff working with the participants to create a "rich cross-cultural experience". Emma Dawson, academic staff developer at Keele's Learning Development Unit, said some asylum seekers had to abandon higher education when they left their countries. She added that "a large proportion" of the refugee community "would benefit from the opportunity to experience a UK university".

University of Worcester

Hoop dreams

A university has been chosen as the West Midlands Regional Centre for Wheelchair Basketball. The University of Worcester was chosen because of its work in promoting and developing disabled sport. It will now take the regional lead in hosting training and coaching sessions, running tournaments and developing young players.

Salford University

Communicative partners

An agreement has been signed by a university and a telecommunications giant to collaborate on research and student placements. The three-year collaboration between Salford University and BT will include the development of joint research initiatives. The agreement will also explore opportunities for the company to participate in FIRM - an innovation framework for the Salford Quays development that includes Salford University, the BBC, the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Anglia Ruskin University

Shock absorbers

A "pedestrian-friendly" bonnet is being designed to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by car accidents. Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University are working with impact-absorption specialists Cellbond to make use of an aluminium mechanical-energy absorber. It works via a sheet of metal that is etched into a grid format so that, on impact, it collapses inwards - absorbing the impact energy and reducing the reaction forces that cause injuries. Pedestrians account for 20 per cent of all traffic fatalities in Europe, with the majority of deaths caused by head injuries.

University of East Anglia

Reign of fire and fun

Families wandering around universities should be warned: on at least one campus, there be dragons. Throughout the Dangerous Dragons and Degrees day at the University of East Anglia on 19 February, children can listen to dragon stories, follow a "dragon trail", help create a dragon collage, make slimy dragon snot and learn about dragon bites and burns. The event has been designed to give families the chance to learn together in an informal and enjoyable way. Participants will also have the opportunity to talk to UEA representatives about their learning experiences and aspirations. The day is part of a wider programme of events marking the second Norwich Dragon Festival - a two-week celebration of the role of the dragon in the heritage and culture of Norwich.

Imperial College London

Benefits of behavioural change

The big drop in the number of people infected with HIV in Zimbabwe is a result of mass social change driven by the fear of infection, according to an international study. Zimbabwe's HIV epidemic was one of the worst in the world until the number of people infected there almost halved between 1997 and 2007. Findings published in the journal PLoS Medicine show that Zimbabweans have been motivated to change their sexual behaviour as the result of improved public awareness of Aids deaths and a subsequent fear of contracting the virus. Simon Gregson, professor in demography and behavioural science at Imperial College London and senior investigator on the study, said: "Given the continuing, and worrying, trend for high HIV/Aids infection rates in many sub-Saharan African countries, we felt it was important to understand why the disease has taken such a dramatic downturn in Zimbabwe. Very few other countries around the world have seen reductions in HIV infection."

Fish out of water

One of the world's most biologically diverse lakes is not as self-contained as scientists thought. Received wisdom had it that the 500 species of fish living in Lake Malawi evolved from a small number of ancestors isolated there millions of years ago. But an international team of scientists led by Domino Joyce, lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of Hull (pictured), have found that fish populations in nearby rivers have similar DNA signatures, implying that the lake has had several biological "leaks" during its history. Dr Joyce said: "This was a really exciting and unexpected finding. It shows that...fish can reinvade or escape as the boundaries of the lake change with geological movement."

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