Campus round-up

August 4, 2011

Kingston University

Let's work this out

Students will become peacemakers when a university opens a community mediation unit. Kingston University has recruited and trained eight undergraduates to resolve disputes involving people living in southwest London. Staff and students have also been encouraged to bring their disagreements to the free sessions, which will supervised by a member of staff from the law school. "Mediation is an area that is growing very quickly, and it is important that all our students are given the opportunity to learn the skills," said Matthew Humphreys, head of Kingston Law School. "They will open up a number of career opportunities."

Sheffield Hallam University

Care in the community

A UK university has launched a partnership with a number of East European institutions to improve social care in the region. Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Health and Social Care Research has won EUR1.1 million (£962,000) in European Union funding to work with universities in Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovenia and Georgia. The project will include the development of PhD and master's programmes, regional social work education and the creation of a journal of social policy and social work.

University of Nottingham

Mindful performance

Social scientists have commissioned a play from a local theatre company based on their research into dementia care. The play, which follows seven dementia patients and their carers, has been based on field notes written by the University of Nottingham researchers, led by Justine Schneider, professor of mental health and social care. The academics hope the play, Inside Out of Mind, will make their research into the role of unqualified healthcare assistants in the care of people with dementia more accessible and allow it to influence future policy.

Nottingham Trent University

One person's rubbish...

More than two and a half tonnes of unwanted student possessions have been donated to charity. The Big Clear Out scheme, organised by Nottingham Trent University, encouraged students leaving university accommodation at the end of the academic year to donate kitchenware, bric-a-brac, unopened food and textiles such as clothing and duvets. The items were collected and sorted by a team of volunteers and then given to charities. The scheme is part of a range of environmental initiatives at Nottingham Trent, which was named the UK's most environmentally friendly university by the charity People and Planet earlier this year.

University of Edinburgh

Binding situation

Research into a drug used to treat sleeping sickness could help develop a treatment with fewer side-effects. Malcolm Walkinshaw, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, found that suramin binds to a particular protein in the parasite that causes the disease, preventing it from functioning and leading to its death. The research could be used to develop an alternative treatment that would not bind to the same protein in humans, a drawback that causes side-effects including adrenal gland failure and vomiting.

Queen Margaret University

Hospitable offering

Nepalese students will be able to complete a British degree in international hospitality and tourism management without having to leave Kathmandu. Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, is the first UK institution to offer a degree in Nepal. The Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management will give 120 diploma graduates the chance to study for an extra year to earn a BA in the subject. The first graduations from the partnership will happen in 2012.

Teesside University

Giver that keeps on giving

Eighty-one years after assisting in the foundation of Middlesbrough's Constantine Technical College, a charity has given £48,000 to its modern-day descendant. The Cleveland Scientific Institution, a charity that promotes education in the region, has given the money to fund industrial placements for undergraduates, scholarships and academic prizes at Teesside University. Simon Hodgson, dean of the School of Science and Engineering, said: "It will enable us to begin to offer a host of additional new opportunities for our students that otherwise would not have been possible."

University College London


Players of "rock-paper-scissors" subconsciously copy each other's hand shapes, new research has found. Scientists at University College London found those playing the children's game cannot help themselves from imitating their opponent's gestures - even when it is against their own interests. Forty-five participants were asked to play the game with and without a blindfold, with financial rewards for victories. However, when just one player was blindfolded, the number of games ending in draws was significantly higher than in blind-blind matches. This suggested that sighted players copied their opponents' actions even when it was not to their benefit.

Anglia Ruskin University

Down eyes are blue

People suffering from depression or a simple bout of the blues avoid eye contact, a psychologist has found. Peter Hills, a senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, carried out experiments to discover how mood affects the way individuals look at other people. The research - co-authored by Michael Lewis of Cardiff University - found that happy people are more likely to detect changes in eyes than participants who are unhappy. "Depressed people tend to avoid eye contact in social situations and in experimental settings, whereas happy people actively seek eye contact," said Dr Hills.

Staffordshire University

Natural reactions

Links between health and the natural environment will be the subject of a EUR3.5 million (£3.1 million) European Commission-funded research project. Staffordshire University is the UK lead for the project, coordinated by the University of Barcelona, looking into the potential preventive and therapeutic health benefits of natural environments. The Staffordshire team will coordinate experimental work on the psychological and physiological responses of people exposed to different urban and natural environments.

University of Warwick

Material world

Research into low-carbon materials technology is to benefit from £600,000 of joint industry-academy external funding. Tata Steel RD&T and the Royal Academy of Engineering are funding a chair at the University of Warwick's manufacturing group WMG. Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, WMG director, said the investment was in recognition of the "significant work WMG is already undertaking in low-carbon vehicle technology. This has already produced vital research for major manufacturers and has also helped many small and medium-sized enterprises in the West Midlands region."

University of Essex

Double honours

It was a case of family affairs at a university as two lots of parents and children graduated at the same time. University of Essex students Nick Tile and his daughter Danielle gained a master's degree in environmental governance and a BA in world performance, respectively. Meanwhile, Margarida Santos Silva graduated with a master's in politics while her mother Maria Manuela Simarro was awarded a BSc in psychology. Mother and daughter were watched by husband and father Joao Santos Silva, a professor of economics at the university. The students were among 2,300 who graduated from Essex this year, the university's largest cohort to date.

University of Surrey

A bit too familiar

A computer system has been developed that can check thousands of documents for plagiarism in minutes. Academics at the University of Surrey believe the system is "significantly quicker" than rivals and would be suited to the very large-scale plagiarism detection needed to identify the leakage of intellectual property on to the internet or into other organisations. The software was tested in an international plagiarism detection task competition and came fourth. Details are not being released while a patent application is pursued, but it is envisaged that the software could also be used to detect plagiarism by students.

University of the West of England

Working on the move

The number of rail travellers trying to make positive use of their time, often through the use of smartphones and computers, has risen by a quarter to 30 per cent of all passengers in the past six years. Work by the University of the West of England's Centre for Transport and Society found passengers in 2010 were 83 per cent more likely to be texting or phoning on work-related issues compared with 2004, while one in five commuters was now checking emails. The research, based on a national survey of more than 20,000 rail passengers, also found that newspapers were a declining travel accompaniment. In 2004, the majority (79 per cent) had a newspaper, but by 2010 this had become a minority (45 per cent).

One thing led to another

Pop star Jarvis Cocker has thanked his old art school for the success of his band Pulp. The Sheffield-born singer took a break from his music career in 1988 to study film and art at Central Saint Martins before finding Britpop success in the 1990s. Accepting an honorary fellowship at the University of the Arts London, which runs Saint Martins, Mr Cocker credited his art school, which is mentioned in the Pulp hit Common People, as an inspiration. "I spent three years at Saint Martins and still, 20-odd years after that, at least two or three times a week there'll be an idea or something that is linked back to that time," he said. He also argued that £9,000 a year tuition fees would deter many art school students from applying. "If I had been told in 1988 when I was thinking about going to college 'you're going to have to spend 30 grand on it', I wouldn't have gone."

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