Campus round-up

October 13, 2011

Keele University

Collaboration bears fruit

A British university has awarded its first degrees to students in Malaysia. Keele University made the awards to more than 100 students in two ceremonies following the launch of a collaborative programme three years ago with KDU University College. The degrees at KDU follow the same curriculum as at Keele, with academics from Keele Management School visiting twice a year to meet with staff and students. David Shepherd, Keele's pro vice-chancellor and dean of humanities and social sciences, said that the ceremonies were a "major milestone" in the transnational partnership.

Lancaster University

Bank on cultural exchange

A scheme run by a global bank is to provide funding of £168,000 over the next three years for a university's scholarships. The agreement between Santander Universities Global Division and Lancaster University includes awards that fund students and staff to study within the UK and abroad, as well as the recruitment of students from Lancaster's partner, the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil, on to master's programmes offered by the Lancaster Environment Centre. The money will also fund joint master's programmes between Lancaster University Management School and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Bangor University

Thorny issue

There is little evidence that putting the world's forests in the hands of local communities benefits indigenous people, according to a major literature review. Community forest management has been given billions of dollars in developing countries, but a team at the Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation at Bangor University found that "very few" studies had information on its performance. They stressed that this did not mean the technique did not work, and they noted some biodiversity benefits, but argued that a stronger evidence base was needed.

University of Stirling

Beans means sustainability

One of fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter's favourite foods could help feed the world's livestock in a more sustainable way. Fava beans, which the cannibalistic psychiatrist famously ate with a nice Chianti and his victim's liver in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs, have fewer problems with supply and do not need as many artificial fertilisers as soy products, said Gordon Bell, head of the nutrition analytical service of the University of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture. A consortium of UK scientists has won almost £2.6 million from the Technology Strategy Board to investigate new uses for the beans.

Queen Mary/City University London

Tackle rugby risks

Schoolboy rugby regulations should be changed to prevent injuries, an academic has said. Allyson Pollock, professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary, University of London, said new rules were needed to stop injuries in scrums and tackles after a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted the injury risks. Researchers from Queen Mary and the Cass Business School, City University London, found that the chance of sustaining an injury in a season might be as high as 90 per cent. "In some schools rugby is compulsory, yet playing can often result in serious injury, significant amounts of time off school and chronic disability," Professor Pollock said.

University of London

Height of learning

An iconic university building has marked its 75th anniversary. Opened in 1936, the University of London's Senate House was the capital's first skyscraper and its tallest secular building at 209ft. Towering above the Georgian squares of Bloomsbury, the administrative centre was the inspiration for George Orwell's description of the Ministry of Truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and was later used in the film adaptation starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. Designed by architect Charles Holden with a planned lifespan of 500 years, the Art Deco Senate House is home to one of the largest humanities libraries in the world.

The Open University

It's for U

Downloads of a university's learning material by users of Apple's iTunes education portal have almost doubled in the past year to reach 40 million. The Open University, which is one of the biggest contributors to the iTunes U service, said downloads of its content were averaging 5,000 a week. A spokesman for the distance-learning specialist said an increasing number of users were accessing material via portable devices. In July 2011, iPad users alone constituted 18.3 per cent of visits to the OU on iTunes U.

University of Brighton

Green crime scenes

A new university course that considers whether some environmental disasters should be specifically treated as crimes has been backed by the UK's first Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas. The course, developed at the University of Brighton, covers the regulation of environmental harms including food safety, animal rights and pollution control. Matt Follett, who designed the course and is a lecturer in criminology at the university, said there was a "growing body of research" that sought to apply criminological approaches to activities previously not regarded as criminal.

University of Nottingham

Seal of approval

A milestone has been reached in the development of a university's overseas campus with the opening of a 14,000 sq m science and engineering building. The three-storey building at the University of Nottingham's Ningbo campus in China contains seminar and lecture rooms, teaching laboratories and a laboratory for sustainable manufacturing that has been given official recognition by Chinese authorities, allowing it to apply for local funding. At the building's opening, Nottingham vice-chancellor David Greenaway described it as the most important infrastructure development at the Ningbo campus since it was opened in 2006.

University of Salford

Visual treats

A software company has struck a partnership with a university that will open up highly coveted work placements to students. Adobe will sponsor a state-of-the-art VFX studio at the University of Salford's new £30 million facility at MediaCityUK, and provide students with the chance to gain placements with the firm's video team. The new building has also received the stamp of approval from Matt Brittin, managing director of Google UK and Ireland. After taking a tour of the facility, he said: "Culturally, mixing students and lecturers from the arts and science faculties is the right way to go. The traditional education system is 150 years out of date and we need to bring the 'geek' and the 'luvvie' together."

University of Hull

Hares make unlikely leap

Efforts to protect endangered species could be compromised by flawed estimates of their existing numbers, academics have warned. Ecologists at the University of Hull found that night-time surveys of brown hares - a priority species under governmental conservation targets - led to estimates of their overall numbers greatly in excess of official figures. Phil Wheeler, head of Hull's Centre for Environmental and Marine Science, said: "Hares are mainly nocturnal animals, so it's not surprising that they are easier to see at night time. If we are to use the limited resources we have for conservation wisely, we need to ensure our basic data are as good as they can be."

University of Leicester

Stress buster

New treatments for anxiety disorders and depression could be on the horizon thanks to a breakthrough in understanding how the brain copes with stress. Neuroscientists at the University of Leicester have discovered a protein that allows the brain to adapt to stress by reducing how much of the stressful event is remembered. Mice without the protein were shown to be more anxious than normal mice. The researchers, led by Robert Pawlak, now intend to investigate whether a lack of the protein could contribute to stress-related psychiatric diseases in humans.

University of Dundee

Designs on ID

Resistance to new identity-check technologies such as odour scans and microchip implants is to be studied by academics specialising in the field of art and design. The three-year, £1.36 million study funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will assess how the public in the UK and the US will engage with the identification mechanisms of the future. It will involve experts from the University of Dundee, the University of Essex, Loughborough University and Northumbria University. Sandra Wilson, a jewellery design expert at Dundee, said: "It is in art and design that we often find examples of resistance to new technologies."

Plymouth University

Soft focus

A university is to provide improved business-skills training for those working in social enterprises thanks to a cash injection of €265,000 (£230,763) from the European Union. Plymouth University will act as lead partner in an international project that includes experts from overseas institutions such as the University of Naples in Italy and the Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland. The money will be used to develop online tools that help people to enhance their "soft skills", including team working, negotiation and communication.

Safety drive

Work to preserve historic tanks could be used to save lives in modern warfare. Bournemouth University has teamed up with the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, to fund a PhD post investigating how the engines of tanks run after extensive periods of non-use. Postgraduate researcher Adil Saeed will look into strategies for maintaining the museum's 300 tanks, including the world's only working 1943 German Tiger tank. Zulfiqar Khan, from the university's Sustainable Design Research Centre and the project's supervisor, said findings could be used to identify design improvements. "We are trying to develop a framework so the museum can continue to run its exhibits for many years," he said. "This will engage young people who visit the museum and help them develop their interest in history and engineering."

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