Campus round-up

February 24, 2011

University of Manchester

Brief lives up North

People from the North of England are significantly more likely to die before the age of 75 than those in the South. Researchers from the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council analysed death and population data from 1965 to 2008 relating to the five northernmost and four southernmost English regions. They found that on average, overall death rates for people under 75 were about 14 per cent higher in the North in those four decades, although they decreased significantly in the 1980s and 1990s before rising steeply again to the current level of about 20 per cent higher. The differentials were wider among men and younger people. The researchers said more research was needed on the failure of government policies to reduce such inequalities.

Nottingham Trent University

Dance of death

The discovery of a honeybee dance that heralds an impending swarm could help prevent further declines in the insect's population, scientists believe. A team from Nottingham Trent University used vibration-sensitive equipment to study communication between bees within a hive and discovered a dance that precedes a swarm by up to a fortnight. Swarming is known to lead to the death of large numbers of participants and experts hope the ability to predict swarms will allow beekeepers to prevent them and halt the sharp recent decline in bee populations.

University of Portsmouth

It pays to mean business

A physics degree curriculum that was designed with help from local businesses has won development funding worth £30,000. The course at the University of Portsmouth focuses explicitly on applying physics to real-life industry problems in areas such as the environment, healthcare and the space and defence industries. It has already had input from companies such as satellite-maker EADS Astrium and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Portsmouth said it was the first physics degree in the country in which local organisations were involved in designing the curriculum. It was one of 10 successful bids for funding from the National Higher Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Programme run by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

University of Chichester

Nordic exposure

Two experts in widening participation have spent time in Sweden contributing to a project to increase higher education opportunities in the Scandinavian country. Carole Nairn and Lesley-Anne Holder of the University of Chichester were asked to address a national board meeting of Include, Sweden's widening-participation programme. They also visited a number of Swedish institutions to learn what methods are used there to help break down barriers to the academy. The trip was funded by the Erasmus programme.

Anglia Ruskin/Hertfordshire/East Anglia

Low-carbon admissions

Three universities in the East of England have joined forces to run a low-carbon project, backed by a combination of funds from the East of England Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund. Anglia Ruskin University and the universities of Hertfordshire and East Anglia will be running free events in Cambridge, Watford and Norwich for small business owners, highlighting opportunities for investment in low-carbon goods, services and activities. Businesses based in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex that employ 250 people or fewer may attend the events free of charge.

Edinburgh Napier University

The stressful network

The more Facebook "friends" you have, the more the social-networking website becomes a source of stress, researchers have found. Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University asked 200 students about their Facebook activity, finding that for a large number of users, the negative effects outweigh the benefits of keeping in touch with friends and family. The study shows that those with the most contacts or who spend the most time on the site are the most stressed. It says a "significant minority" experience considerable "Facebook-related anxiety".

King's College London

Good neighbours' artful plans

The Southbank Centre is partnering with a London university to launch a master's programme in education and culture. Many people work on educational programmes in arts organisations, but to date there has been no professional qualification available, King's College London said. It added that its MA in education in arts and cultural settings would be the first qualification of its kind, with a specific focus on education and the professional needs of arts educators. King's has been a neighbour of the centre for 60 years. "Perhaps it is about time that we pooled our expertise around a shared endeavour," said Rick Trainor, principal of the college.

University of East Anglia

Take as directed, please

It is enough to give doctors everywhere high blood pressure: a large proportion of patients with hypertension are failing to take their medication properly. Academics at the University of East Anglia found that approximately half of patients with hypertension fail to reduce their blood pressure because they are not taking their prescribed medication correctly. People failed to adhere to medical instructions by taking only some of the medication, not taking it in the way instructed and, in some cases, refusing to take it altogether, the study found. The authors suggest that "adherence therapy" - 20-minute face-to-face sessions with trained clinicians - may improve the situation.

University of Sunderland

Healthy dividends

A multimillion-pound science complex in the North East will lead to major health benefits for people in the area, according to a leading scientist. Lord Robert Winston said that the £8.5 million science complex at the University of Sunderland will also offer crucial support for health-sector businesses. A range of health issues will be tackled through the new development, which will allow health-related businesses access to scientific expertise and up-to-date facilities.

Newcastle University

Underwater and under stress

A new technique for calculating the vulnerability of coral reefs has indicated that more than a third of species are at risk of local extinction because of climate change. Research by marine scientists at institutions including Newcastle University found that a third of reef fishes from individual locations across the Indian Ocean were susceptible to stresses placed on coral reefs by global warming.

The "extinction risk index" developed by the team is aimed at providing marine managers with a tool that will help protect the world's coral reefs.

Kingston University

Higher fees, you're fired

Raising the cap on student tuition fees was an "absolute outrage", according to a star of the popular reality television show The Apprentice. Nick Hewer, who appears as Lord Sugar's business adviser on the BBC show, made the comments while addressing students at Kingston University. "It's an absolute outrage because education is a right," he said in response to a student's question about his views on the current government. "These measures will mean that students from poorer backgrounds will shy away from higher education, to their and the country's detriment. And it's very disappointing because some things the coalition has done have been quite brave."

Imperial College London

The shape of things to come

Mathematicians are creating their own version of the periodic table that will provide a vast directory of all the possible shapes in the Universe. The table will explore shapes across three, four and five dimensions, linking them in the same way as the periodic table links groups of chemical elements. The three-year project should provide a resource that mathematicians, physicists and other scientists can use for calculations and research in a range of areas, including computer vision, number theory and theoretical physics. The work will be conducted by researchers from Imperial College London and institutions in Australia, Japan and Russia. Alessio Corti, professor of pure mathematics at Imperial, said the aim was to create a directory that lists all the possible geometric building blocks. "We expect it to be a very useful tool," he said.

University of York

Brief encounters for the cause

The organisers of a feminism festival are asking women from around the world to donate their knickers. The garments will be strung together to make bunting for the University of York's Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism next month. Organised by the university's Centre for Women's Studies, the three-day event will celebrate 100 years of International Women's Day. The bunting will be made by textile artist Julia Triston. She said: "We will be putting on show, proudly and honestly, what is usually unseen and taboo."

Building expertise

Academics specialising in the construction industry have launched a project in partnership with a university in Sudan to help improve building standards in the country. The collaboration between the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading and the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Khartoum hopes to improve "sound practice" within the industry. Those involved in the project - which is funded by the Department for International Development and administered by the British Council - are also aiming to further the contribution of women in the field. They are under-represented in the Sudanese construction industry, despite making up 90 per cent of students enrolled at the Khartoum faculty.

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