Campus round-up

April 7, 2011

University of York

Physical hub for digital ambitions

A multimillion-pound campus extension's first building has officially opened. A £21 million home for the University of York's department of computer science is one of four academic buildings in the first phase of the university's £750 million campus expansion. The building contains purpose-designed facilities for teaching and research, including a laboratory in which technology to support disabled people can be tested in a real-life setting. It will also provide space for spinoff companies. Brian Cantor, York's vice-chancellor, described the new addition as "a physical expression of our determination to foster the highest standards of academic excellence".

Leeds Metropolitan University

When the inspector calls, call us

A university has launched a consultancy service to help schools prepare for Ofsted inspections. The service was developed by Martin Samy, senior lecturer in accounting and financial services at Leeds Metropolitan University, during a pilot exercise involving four of the city's primary and secondary schools. Dr Samy produced a bespoke survey to identify the views of teachers, pupils and parents about each school, and presented its findings to the schools in a report to help them prepare for the self-assessment required by school inspections body Ofsted. The Schools Improvement Service will be run in conjunction with the Carnegie Leaders in Learning Partnership, of which the university is a member.

University of the Highlands and Islands

Wave of interest in marine energy

Scottish researchers are to lead a green energy project that could make the Hebrides one of the most important "marine energy" sites in Europe. Academics at Lews Castle College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, are working to explore the potential of wave power to the west of the Outer Hebrides for commercial development. Martin McAdam, chief executive of Aquamarine Power, an industry partner in the research, said the project offered an opportunity for the region to become a centre of expertise in the field. "This research will develop skills, knowledge and expertise in the Western Isles that can be retained on the islands and will help generate economic opportunities," he said.

Queen's University Belfast

Online home for Irish exiles

A virtual library specialising in the history of population change in Ireland has opened to researchers. The online resource, Documenting Ireland - Parliament, People and Migration, has been set up by Queen's University Belfast, and provides material charting migration throughout Irish history. It includes three searchable databases including Irish emigration statistics; recorded oral histories; and more than 15,000 British parliamentary publications dating from 1800 to 1922. Peter Gray, professor of modern Irish history and director of the project, said: "Ireland's history since the 18th century has been marked by cycles of emigration and immigration. With another period of extensive emigration now seemingly looming, our attention is turning again towards understanding why people migrate, how they make life-changing migration choices, and how the experience of migration has been expressed."

University of Dundee

Male infertility gene pinpointed

Scientists have identified a gene responsible for one of the causes of male infertility. An international research group, including scientists from the University of Dundee, has discovered that a genetic defect with a sterilising effect on male sperm is the root cause of a little-understood condition called "round-headed sperm", or globozoospermia, which affects a small percentage of infertile men. The research was sparked by a family of five brothers in Jordan who all had globozoospermia, four of whom were found to have the genetic defect. "Now that we have identified the genetic defect we are able to offer successful treatments, and there have been positive results in using assisted conception for families," said Christopher Barratt, professor of reproductive medicine at Dundee.

Aston University

Gathered together in King's name

A Midlands institution has named its new multi-faith centre after Martin Luther King Jr, the US civil rights leader. Aston University opened the centre on 4 April, the 43rd anniversary of the Reverend King's assassination. Kate Parsons, staff and student diversity and well-being manager at Aston, said the centre would be "an ideal place to share, celebrate and recognise our different ways of life, beliefs, attitudes to faith and religion".

University of Worcester

E-marketers make a Paris match

Students swapped the Severn for the Seine in a university collaboration. Master's students from Worcester Business School spent a week at Paris Dauphine University, before their French counterparts joined them back in the UK. The partnership has allowed Worcester and Paris Dauphine students to work on an e-marketing project worth three credits per student under the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

University of Manchester

Poverty, not diversity, divides us

Deprivation, rather than multiculturalism, is the cause of fragmented communities, new research suggests. A team led by Laia Becares, a postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Manchester, analysed the results of the 2005 and 2007 Citizenship Surveys in England. They found that neighbourhoods with higher ethnic diversity were associated with higher rates of social cohesion. Lower levels of social cohesion were associated with high deprivation. "Politicians seem to link racial tensions to the perception that ethnic minority people and newly arrived migrants are not integrated into their host culture, but our study complements other research that shows that multiculturalism hasn't failed," Dr Bécares said.

University of Salford

Fresh ideas in the great outdoors

Outdoor lecture theatres feature in a university's vision to transform its campus. The University of Salford will launch its 20-year plan in 2012, when work will begin on a series of public spaces including lecture theatres, performance areas and quieter external meeting places for staff, students and public. Adrian Graves, deputy vice-chancellor at Salford, said: "Our plans will forever transform the campus and give our students access to outstanding facilities and an experience of unparalleled quality."

Essex/Plymouth

Think that tune

A scientific breakthrough has allowed a paralysed woman to play music merely by thinking about it. The trial, a joint project between computer scientists at the University of Essex and the University of Plymouth, involved using brainwaves to operate a computerised music system. Using electroencephalography, the study participant wore a cap with electrodes that picked up different patterns in her brainwaves depending on what she was looking at on a screen; in this case objects flickering at different frequencies. This was adapted using control mechanisms to link the different frequencies to different musical instruments, which the patient operated with her eyes. After a few hours of the trial, she was able to play a short orchestral piece.

University of East Anglia

Norfolk plays host to Tennessee

The centenary of the birth of US playwright Tennessee Williams has been celebrated with an international conference. The meeting on 26 March considered Williams' status as a key figure in 20th-century US literature. Organised by the University of East Anglia's School of American Studies and supported by the British Association for American Studies, Celebrating 100 Years of Tennessee Williams (1911-2011) focused on theatrical representations of US identities. Keynote speaker Stephen Bottoms, Wole Soyinka professor of drama and theatre studies at the University of Leeds, spoke on Williams' contribution to the reshaping of American theatre, arguing that his works were crucial in the emergence of alternative levels of American theatre in the 1950s and 1960s.

University of Bristol

Funding council says yes

A university has received £1.6 million from a research council to help fund a centre looking at the process of human decision-making and how it can be adapted to computerised systems. It is hoped that the work at the University of Bristol will lead to better artificial decisions in areas such as computer-based traffic flow, automatic stock market trading and early warnings for disasters. Researchers at the centre, which is being set up with money from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will carry out experiments on human volunteers in order to understand how decisions are made.

University of Reading

Net gains via work/study path

Students are being offered the chance to take a fast-track route into accountancy with a major professional services firm through a new degree programme. Under the four-year BA (Hons) accounting and business course with the Henley Business School at the University of Reading, students who pass their exams and succeed on work placements will be offered a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers UK. They will study for the ACA, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales' professional qualification, in parallel to attaining a degree. While on placement with the firm they will also be paid a salary to help defray the cost of their tuition fees.

Flexible friends

Budding animators were graced with the presence of Oscar-winning plasticine figures at a university lecture. Wallace and Gromit made the surprise trip to the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham in Surrey accompanied by Merlin Crossingham, creative director at Aardman Animations, who addressed students on the BA (Hons) animation course. Mr Crossingham spoke of working with Wallace and Gromit's creator Nick Park and outlined how animators at Aardman develop an idea from the storyboard to the screen.

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