Campus round-up

June 23, 2011

University of London

Small screen, big impact

Lectures from across the constituent colleges of the University of London are now available on iTunes U, following an initiative led by the School of Advanced Study. Early highlights on offer include Adam Gearey, reader in law at Birkbeck, University of London, speaking on "The Egyptian revolution and the law"; Paul Archbold, reader in music at Kingston University, examining the working relationship between the Arditti Quartet and the composer Brian Ferneyhough; and Peter Hain, the Labour MP for Neath, discussing his biography of Nelson Mandela. The university has also debuted on YouTube's education channel, YouTube EDU, one of only eight UK universities to have done so to date.

University College London

How to mend a broken heart

The damage caused by a heart attack is currently permanent. But a research project led by scientists at University College London has now demonstrated that dormant repair cells in the outer layer of the heart can be reactivated by a peptide molecule called thymosin beta-4. "To repair a damaged heart is one of the holy grails of heart research," said Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research. "This groundbreaking study shows that adult hearts contain cells that, given the right stimulus, can mobilise and turn into new heart cells that might repair a damaged heart. The team has identified the crucial molecular signals needed to make this happen."

Roehampton University

Rehabilitative rhythms

A pioneering study carried out in partnership with the English National Ballet has demonstrated that dance can benefit people with Parkinson's disease in a number of ways. The study by Roehampton University found that it could relieve debilitating symptoms, aid short-term mobility and significantly improve stability, as well as contributing to social inclusion and artistic expression. The Dance for Parkinson's project lasted 12 weeks and involved 24 active participants, who took dance classes inspired by Rudolph Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet, and shadowed the programme being developed by the main company. Besides following exercises demonstrating the basic principles of ballet, participants were given individual characters to dance and learned sequences from the ballet's famous Dance of the Knights.

University of Wolverhampton

Forest guardians gather

Illegal timber trading is to be tackled by a course for international forestry experts. The University of Wolverhampton is currently hosting a four-week Improving Forest Governance programme, which will have participants from 13 countries including Ecuador, Cameroon and Cambodia. The institution received a £1.5 million grant earlier this year from the European Commission for a four-year project aimed at reducing illegal logging in Africa.


Bank bestows golden opportunity

Two universities are to pilot a scholarship scheme financed by Lloyds Banking Group that is aimed at encouraging students from deprived backgrounds to study at leading research institutions. The universities of Sheffield and Bristol will each welcome 15 Lloyds Scholars in September, with more institutions expected to join the scheme next year. The scholars will be expected to promote the programme in schools and to complete at least 100 hours of community work. In return, they will be offered mentoring and paid internships by the bank, as well as the chance to receive extra money on top of their basic bursaries for achieving high grades.

University of Warwick

Post-quake posts on offer

Japanese researchers whose work continues to be affected after the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year have been offered a helping hand by a UK institution. Staff at the University of Warwick will nominate Japanese scholars they wish to host within their departments. The university will then offer accommodation and access to academic resources to a dozen of those nominated. Those invited are likely to include a mix of full-time, PhD and postdoctoral researchers. The university will also offer subsidised places to two senior Japanese university managers on the Warwick International Programme in the Leadership and Management of Higher Education.

Sheffield Hallam University

Vest practice

Researchers have won a prize that will help them develop improved body armour for soldiers and police. Hywel Jones, consultancy manager at Sheffield Hallam University, and local ceramics consultant Anthony Pick have won the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers' £25,000 Venture Prize to further develop a new form of armour using ceramics. They envisage that the protection will be lighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the armour currently in use. The team will use the prize to set up a pilot factory ahead of going into full production. A prototype of the armour is currently undergoing ballistic tests at the Ministry of Defence, which funded its early development.

Bath/Bath Spa

Collaboration bears fruit and veg

A community scheme that enables residents in a university city to grow fruit and vegetables in unused student gardens will produce its first crops this summer. The Growing Together project, which is supported by the student unions at the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, allows students to work with green-fingered locals and turn unloved garden space into productive allotments. Carly Whittaker, a postgraduate researcher at Bath's department of mechanical engineering, worked with resident Pat Wallis on the first garden to flourish in the scheme, which is now producing runner beans, onions, carrots and potatoes.

Southampton Solent University

The importance of having Ernie

The coordinator of a university-led project to promote recycling in the local community has won a funding council award for social entrepreneurship. Louise Drake of Southampton Solent University was the winner of the Higher Education Funding Council for England/UnLtd Award for Outstanding Staff Social Entrepreneur for leading the Eco Ernie project. Eco Ernie, a converted milk float, helped to clean up a large student area of Southampton, earned income for charities and transformed relations between students and locals. The scheme received its first major accolade when it triumphed in the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category at the 2010 Times Higher Education Awards.

UCFB College of Football Business/Bucks New University

Back of the education net

The world's first higher education institution dedicated to the study of the football industry has been set up in Lancashire in partnership with a university. The UCFB College of Football Business, based at Burnley Football Club, will deliver undergraduate degree courses in the operational and business facets of the sport in conjunction with Bucks New University. Brian Barwick, former chief executive of the Football Association, is to chair the college's advisory board. Other board members will include former government communications chief Alastair Campbell, a lifelong Burnley fan.


How green is our biofuel?

Several UK higher education institutions are joining forces for a multimillion-pound project to examine the sustainability of bioenergy crops. The study, commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute, has received £3.3 million to investigate the impact of bioenergy crops on soil carbon stocks and greenhouse emissions. Participants include the universities of Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Southampton and York. The aim is to provide a framework for predicting the sustainability of bioenergy use across the UK.

Teesside University

Big bang theory

A master's student is examining the possibility that particles from exploded fireworks could contaminate evidence at crime scenes. Matthew Grima, a Maltese student at Teesside University, is looking at similarities between the particles and gunshot residue. "This research is particularly significant in Malta, as it has one of the highest numbers of firework displays in the world," he said. "If characteristics of firework residue particles are similar (to gunshot residue) then these could be mistakenly identified. This can then contaminate evidence at a crime scene or on a suspect."

Newcastle University

Bin caught in the act

Computer scientists have devised a novel way to encourage students to recycle. Armed with camera phones and a Facebook page, researchers from Newcastle University are monitoring what residents of five student houses throw away, with the aim of improving waste disposal. The team has placed a small sensor attached to a camera phone in each kitchen bin, and a photo is taken every time the lid is shut. Images are then sent directly to the Facebook page, where house members as well as other participants in the study can see what has been discarded.

University of Essex

Shades of relief

Scientists think they may have discovered the reason why tinted lenses can help migraine sufferers. An international study involving University of Essex researchers shows how coloured glasses calibrated to the needs of migraine sufferers work by normalising activity in the brain. The scientists identified abnormal brain activity when migraine sufferers saw intense patterns. The results, published in the journal Cephalalgia, show that tinted lenses can considerably reduce the intensity of migraine pain.

To the victors, the spoils

Birkbeck, University of London took the top prize at the annual Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards. The awards were presented last week at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London in a ceremony hosted by comedian Julian Clary. There was also an address by David Willetts, the universities and science minister. Birkbeck was awarded the main prize of the night, the Outstanding Leadership and Management Team accolade. Other winners included Aston University and Newcastle University.

Clockwise from top left: Denise Benmosche, woman's chair of the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund, the event's official charity; the winners; Ann Mroz, editor, Times Higher Education; our host, Julian Clary; and David Willetts.

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