Campus round-up

March 10, 2011

Newcastle/Northumbria

Student forum aims to aid city

Two universities and a college have joined forces to create a new city-wide student forum. The initiative brings together Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Newcastle College, which are working with Newcastle City Council to set up a group that can address issues ranging from housing to transport to community safety. Between them, the institutions have about 37,000 full-time students. Tom Delamere, president of Newcastle University Students' Union, said: "It is great to see the city council, universities and college coming together for this forum. Students contribute in many ways to the diverse and energetic atmosphere that surrounds Newcastle. This project sets out to positively benefit all who live in the city."

University of Greenwich

Spotlight on sleepy fellows

The life of the dormouse is to be the focus of a conference this week. Topics up for discussion at the University of Greenwich event on 12 March include captive breeding and the reintroduction of the hazel dormouse in England, the importance of hedgerows for dormouse numbers, and long-term monitoring of the species. Debbie Bartlett, senior lecturer in environmental conservation at the university, said: "The conference provides an excellent opportunity for our students - particularly those taking their MSc degrees in environmental conservation - to learn from the experts. They will gain in-depth and up-to-the-minute knowledge about this fascinating animal."

Durham University

The wisdom of Solomonic Ethiopia

A manuscript containing the oldest known copies of books from the Ethiopian Old Testament has been identified by a researcher. Ted Erho, a postgraduate student in the department of theology and religion at Durham University, made the find while examining microfilms of classical Ethiopic manuscripts. He said the age of the document, which dates back more than 750 years to before the Solomonic period in Ethiopia, which began in AD10, was significant because so many Ethiopian manuscripts were lost or destroyed in the past millennium. The manuscript contains the books of Job and Daniel, as well as two homilies and a monastic inventory list. It is still stored in Ethiopia.

University of East Anglia

Sowing the seeds of change

A new degree course is aiming to counter the view that genetically modified crops may have negative and unforeseen consequences. The one-year master's degree in sustainable agriculture and food security will be taught at the Centre for Contemporary Agriculture. The centre is a recently launched collaboration between the University of East Anglia, Easton College, the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research, the Sainsbury Laboratory, the National Institute for Agricultural Botany and the Arable Group. Students will explore the potential of new agricultural techniques in areas such as irrigation and plant breeding to feed the rising world population.

Queen's University Belfast

US town taps water technology

Technology designed at a Northern Irish university that has helped to protect millions of people in Asia is now being used to make drinking water safer in the US. The system designed at Queen's University Belfast, which removes arsenic from groundwater via an oxidisation and filtration process, is already in use in six plants in the Indian state of West Bengal. Now it has been successfully tested in a rural community outside Bellingham, in Washington State, where high levels of arsenic have been a problem. The Queen's technology was employed after local officials read about it on Wikipedia.

Keele/Manchester/Staffordshire

Hybrid vehicles for green ideas

University curricula are to be made greener thanks to an initiative funded by the Higher Education Academy. Keele University is leading the project, Hybrid Problem Based Learning: A Scalable Approach to Sustainability Education, in collaboration with the universities of Manchester and Staffordshire. The three institutions will explore ways in which real or imaginary scenarios can be used as vehicles for students to learn about environmental issues.

University of the Highlands and Islands

Call to aid part-timers equitably

A new university has urged the Scottish government to give parity of support to part-time students. The University of the Highlands and Islands, which won university status earlier this year, made the plea in a response to the Scottish government's recent Green Paper consultation on the future of higher education funding. It argued that the same level of funding support should be made available to both part- and full-time students, on a pro rata basis. "This is the only equitable solution. Challenging as this is, it is critical if higher education is going to develop towards greater flexibility," the response states. Currently about 60 per cent of the university's students are part-time, and a similar proportion are over 25.

Manchester Metropolitan University

Hulme and cry in days gone by

The secret history of gay Victorians is being unearthed in a new study. Research at Manchester Metropolitan University is looking at attitudes to homosexuality during the past 150 years and charting the city's origin as one of the UK's most gay-friendly cities. The research has included the analysis of thousands of court papers from Manchester, Salford, Chester, Cumbria, Carlisle and Liverpool between 1850 and the 1970s, pinpointing hundreds of cases against men under the 1885 Criminal Amendment Act - the same law that was used to prosecute Oscar Wilde. Among the most prominent cases found was a police raid on a "drag ball" in Hulme in 1880, reports of which caused a national outrage. At least 38 men wearing women's clothes were arrested.

Nottingham Trent University

Lunar fringe theories probed

Was Neil Armstrong's one small step just one giant hoax? Claims that man has never set foot on the moon were put to the test at a public event hosted by Nottingham Trent University. Martin Hendry, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, examined the science behind various conspiracy theories. His lecture this week addressed in scientific detail a range of evidence cited by conspiracy theorists to support claims that Armstrong's moon walk was filmed in secret on Earth.

Bath Spa University

Olivier hopes for Moscow-set tale

A playwright who teaches a university scriptwriting course has been nominated for a national theatre prize. Hattie Naylor, who lectures part-time on the master's course in creative writing at Bath Spa University, is up for a Laurence Olivier Award for Ivan and the Dogs, which is based on the true story of a four-year-old Russian boy who left his family home in Moscow to live with a pack of wild dogs. The play, which was originally written for radio, had a month-long run at the Soho Theatre in London last year and won widespread critical acclaim. The Laurence Olivier Awards will be presented in a ceremony in London on 13 March.

Imperial College London

Fizzy drinks pile the pressure on

People who consume sugary drinks are more likely to have high blood pressure, according to a study. Research reported in the scholarly journal Hypertension indicated that, for every extra can of sugary drink consumed per day, study participants saw increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This difference was statistically significant even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height. The senior author of the study, Paul Elliott, who holds a chair in epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial College London, said: "It is widely known that if you have too much salt in your diet, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure. The results of this study suggest that people should be careful about how much sugar they consume as well."

University of Southampton

The art of healing by degrees

An English university has become the first in the country to move to an all-graduate programme for nursing training. All nursing students enrolling at the University of Southampton from September will be educated to degree standard after the Nursing and Midwifery Council gave approval to the institution's move. The government announced in November 2009 that by 2013 anyone wishing to become a nurse would need a degree. Jessica Corner, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Southampton, said: "Nurses now require a high level of technical competence, clinical knowledge and decision-making skills in addition to their more traditional caring role. By qualifying to degree level, our graduate nurses will have the range of skills they need."

University of Salford

Data at the end of the rainbow

Research into "trapped rainbows" could revolutionise computing, medical science and virtual reality, scientists believe. The University of Salford is leading an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded project focused on designing structures that, when a beam of white light is shone on them, can store individual colours of the rainbow. The data storage implications could help to increase computer speeds, boost the clarity of images used by surgeons during operations, and allow the projection of TV pictures at a clarity and depth far exceeding current 3D capabilities.

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