Campus round-up

June 9, 2011

University of Warwick

See it, smell it, love it

A trip to the zoo can form a vital part of a child's education about science and conservation, according to a study. Research conducted at London Zoo by Eric Jensen, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, assessed more than 3,000 schoolchildren aged between seven and 14. It tested their knowledge of animals, habitat and conservation before and after their visit, and found that 53 per cent had undergone a "positive change" in terms of knowledge, personal concern for endangered species and interest in conservation. Professor Jensen said it is estimated that one in 10 of the world's population visit a zoo each year. "In recent years, zoos have come under criticism for failing to demonstrate educational impact," he said. "But zoos have been changing for years now."

Birkbeck, University of London

Internal memo

A London college has announced a partnership that it hopes will strengthen research into the liver. Birkbeck, University of London, formalised its links with the Institute of Hepatology, Foundation for Liver Research by signing a memorandum of understanding on 6 June. The institute will become affiliated to the college, which said the link-up would have a "positive impact on future research excellence framework submissions". David Latchman, master of Birkbeck, said: "We are delighted that this collaboration is going forward and particularly the establishment of two new PhD studentships, funded by the foundation, to promote collaboration on specific studies."

Bedfordshire/Northampton/Milton Keynes

Agreeable partners

Three higher education institutions in the South East of England have signed a joint partnership agreement with two Chinese universities. The University of Bedfordshire, University of Northampton and University Centre Milton Keynes will be organising a summer school, staff and student exchanges and joint degree programmes with their partners at Zhejiang Gongshang University and Zhejiang Normal University. The partnership follows a recent visit to Bedfordshire by Yang Ling, vice-president of Zhejiang Normal, and Zhang Renshou, president of Zhejiang Gongshang.

University of East Anglia

Carbon collaboration

An offshoot of a renowned centre for climate change research has opened in China. The University of East Anglia joined forces with Fudan University in Shanghai to launch the Chinese hub of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The topics under investigation at the centre include water security and nitrogen emissions from intensive agriculture. The centre is funded through a 15-year commitment by the Chinese central government and the Shanghai city government. It is an offshoot of the UK's Tyndall Centre, which was founded in 2000 and is led by UEA in partnership with the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton and Sussex.

University of Glamorgan

Wales gets its wings

Aircraft engineers at a Welsh university will be able to practise their skills on a real airliner after the opening of a £1.5 million aerospace centre. The University of Glamorgan opened the building, the only one of its kind at a Welsh institution, last week. The facility sports a full-size airliner, flight simulator, wind tunnel and engine. It was opened by Leighton Andrews, the Welsh government's education and skills minister.

Anglia Ruskin University

Indoor pursuit

A university is helping employees of outdoor clothing manufacturer Timberland to put their best foot forward. The firm has contracted Anglia Ruskin University to provide online training, with an initial cohort of 10 Timberland staff studying for a two-year degree course. The programme will be both practical and work-based, allowing students to transfer what they learn directly to their workplace. It will include a range of applied management topics such as marketing, leadership, and change and project management.

London Metropolitan University

Arab Springwatch

The pro-democracy movement in the Arab world has already brought down regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and Libya, Syria and Yemen may be next in line. In an attempt to get a grip on this volatile situation, London Metropolitan University's Global Policy Institute, in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in London, has launched a six-month project titled Out of the Turmoil: A New Middle East? The programme kicked off last week with a panel discussion on "The Arab Spring and the West: The Future of Democracy in the Middle East and Partnership with the EU". Other public debates will explore "The New Geopolitics of the Middle East: Iran, Israel and Turkey" ( June) and "Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: A House Built on Sand?" (18 July).

University of West London

Brand together

A London university has welcomed students of corporate communication from two US universities for a two-day cultural exchange programme. Students from Fairleigh Dickinson and Rutgers universities, both in New Jersey, took part in the visit to the University of West London as part of a module in global public relations. The programme included lectures, workshops, seminars and group presentations on topics such as intercultural issues in corporate brands, approaches to ethics and knowledge management, and strategic management during a global crisis.

University College London

Seeing reindeer in a new light

During Arctic winters, the sun barely rises in the middle of the day and most of the light that reaches objects is blue or in the ultraviolet region, which is invisible to most mammals. Animals with normal mammalian vision would be vulnerable to starvation, predation or territorial conflict. But a team of researchers at University College London has discovered that reindeer do not suffer from "snow blindness", a fact that is crucial to their survival. "When we used cameras that could pick up UV, we noticed that there are some very important things that absorb UV light and therefore appear black," said Glen Jeffery, professor of neuroscience at UCL. These include urine (a sign of predators or competitors), lichens (a major food source in winter) and fur (which makes predators such as wolves easy to see).

The Open University

Chartered status for engineers

Engineering degrees taken by students at a specialist university for distance learning are to receive accreditation from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The organisation - a licensed body of the Engineering Council - will accredit courses at The Open University, with its MEng and MSc qualifications meeting the requirements for "chartered engineer" status and its BEng (Hons) meeting "incorporated engineer" status. Michael Hush, design and engineering programme director at the university, which has about 7,000 engineering students, said: "Professional membership has over recent years become a requirement for senior posts in many engineering companies, and this will be an additional benefit."

University of Brighton

Research in the pipeline

A university has won a £150,000 contract from a major US oil company to support work investigating how sediments are deposited in tidal river estuaries. Phil Ashworth, professor of physical geography at the University of Brighton, said the purpose of the research was to improve oil extraction strategies through better understanding of how river-tidal sediments are deposited, their geometry and spatial arrangement. The contract with the company, which has not been named, is worth a total of £290,000, with the remainder awarded to the University of Illinois.

University of Abertay Dundee

Beware false confessions

A US academic specialising in criminal testimony has warned police in the UK about the danger of being duped into accepting false confessions. Reflecting on the recent row over plans to reduce sentences for guilty pleas, Saul Kassin, professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told an audience at the University of Abertay Dundee: "It's important to realise that confessions always sound good, even when they're false. Don't let these confessions corrupt other evidence. People have a very strong belief in truth and justice and they will set them free."

University of Bristol

Million-dollar boost for MS

A major donation from a US benefactor is to boost research that could lead to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis. The $1.1 million (£671,000) donation from the Kenneth and Claudia Silverman Family Foundation to the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust will fund the second phase of a pioneering bone marrow stem cell trial. The stem cells have been shown in several laboratory studies to have potential applications in the treatment of MS, according to Bristol. The study will be led by Neil Scolding, Burden professor of clinical neurosciences, who thanked the US foundation for its "generous" support.

Ice and slice

Polar explorers mapping Antarctica have uncovered a landscape of deep fjords, carved over millions of years by the advance and retreat of ice. The discovery - in a part of east Antarctica roughly the size of France - gives valuable insight into how the ice sheet formed. The team of researchers, led by the University of Edinburgh, believe that between 34 and 14 million years ago, as temperatures dropped, ice formed inland and moved slowly towards the sea before retreating again. The process was repeated, carving fjords and causing sea level changes of up to 20m. Martin Siegert, from Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said: "Antarctica is one of the few remaining unexplored places on Earth, and there is a great deal we can learn from it."

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