Campus round-up

December 15, 2011

University of Gloucestershire

Save the planet (and some cash)

Plans for young people to help with projects promoting environmental sustainability in exchange for a discount on tuition fees will be presented to a government minister. The Big Green Gap Year, the brainchild of James Derounian, principal lecturer in community development and local governance at the University of Gloucestershire, would see prospective students spend six months working on community initiatives to combat climate change and receive an "educational credit" in return. Next month Mr Derounian will join others including Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, in pitching the idea to David Willetts, the universities and science minister. It is hoped that the government will agree to a pilot scheme with Gloucestershire taking the lead.

Middlesex University

Building tomorrow's builders

A university has received almost £1.5 million from a government fund to develop higher-level apprenticeships in the construction industry. Middlesex University has worked with industry training board CITB-ConstructionSkills, the University Vocational Awards Council and employers to develop a higher apprenticeship framework and foundation degree for construction managers. The funding will aid the creation of networks of employers, colleges and training providers that will deliver the qualification, which will be awarded by Middlesex.

University of Reading

Which manager is a keeper?

Researchers at a university business school have developed a model that could furnish directors of football clubs with key data when deciding on their manager's future. The model, conceived by a team from Henley Business School's International Capital Market Association Centre, part of the University of Reading, evaluated Premier League managers' performance by eliminating factors beyond their control such as transfer spending, wages and injuries to players. Using a statistical technique called "bootstrapping", used in the world of finance to evaluate the performance of mutual fund managers, they analysed data from seasons 2004-05 to 2008-09 and found that Everton manager David Moyes was among those over-performing in his role, given the resources at his disposal.

London Metropolitan University

Screen test wins council applause

A group of undergraduates has made an animated video for the use of Camden Council in promoting its family group conference counselling service. The students, studying for a BSc in computer animation at London Metropolitan University, designed and animated characters to fit the voices of young people who have attended counselling sessions. Lecturer Suzanne Cohen, who commissioned the film on the council's behalf, said: "All the students were really talented. I was very impressed with their commitment to the project and couldn't be more pleased with the results." Watch the film online at www.camden.gov.uk/fgc.

King's College London

Search-and-destroy mission

Scientists have found a link between the body's surveillance for cancer-causing damage and its response to allergies. This could lead to more effective treatments that use the body's immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. In experiments on mouse skin cells, researchers at King's College London found that once the body destroys cells damaged by cancer, it produces antibodies usually linked to an allergic response. Adrian Hayday, professor of immunobiology, said: "Our study suggests new and simple ways for monitoring a patient's anti-tumour responses during treatment allowing us to see if chemotherapy, for example, is helping or hindering the body's own response to tumours."

Imperial College London

Leaders of the data pack

Researchers hope to predict how climate change could affect animal numbers and cause physical changes in different species. Scientists from Imperial College London, the US Department of the Interior, Utah State University and the University of California analysed 15 years of data on the wolf population of Yellowstone National Park. Tim Coulson, professor of population biology at Imperial, said the work "provides a relatively easy way for biologists to investigate how, and why, environmental change impacts both the ecology and near-term evolutionary future of species".

University College London

On the front lines of family strife

Children exposed to domestic violence show the same pattern of brain activity as combat soldiers, according to research. Scientists found that children who experienced domestic violence had increased activity in parts of the brain associated with threat detection. Lead author Eamon McCrory, senior lecturer in University College London's division of psychology and language sciences and head of postgraduate studies at the Anna Freud Centre, said: "We are only now beginning to understand how child abuse influences functioning of the brain's emotional systems."

Birmingham City University

Fresh crop of winners and losers

Academics have created an interactive game intended to help students, communities and agencies understand planning and development issues affecting green-belt land. Rufopoly, developed by Birmingham City University researchers, challenges players to balance competing economic, community and environmental needs in the fictional county of Rufshire. It is part of a wider project aiming to help improve management of the rural-urban fringe.

University of Leicester

Weather forecast: hot and wormy

A study has found evidence that parasitic worms infecting fish grow four times more quickly in higher temperatures, offering evidence that global warming affects interactions between parasites and their hosts. Researchers from the University of Leicester have warned that an increase in temperature could have a devastating impact on fish populations. Iain Barber, head of the department of biology at the University of Leicester, said the parasites "also manipulate the behaviour of host fish in ways that benefit the parasites by maximizing their growth rates".

Harper Adams University College

A place at the career table

Rabobank Group, a leading global food and agribusiness bank, will sponsor a new £9,000-a-year full scholarship at a university college, working in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural Society of England. The initiative at Harper Adams University College starts in September 2012 and will support undergraduate study in agriculture, agri-food or agri-business subjects. It is intended to help increase the number of young people who choose a career in the food and agribusiness industry.

University of Birmingham

It's all go in here

A team of astronomers has looked deep inside some older stars and discovered that their cores spin at least 10 times as fast as their surfaces. The work of the research group, which included University of Birmingham scientists and was led by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, was published in the journal Nature. Yvonne Elsworth, a professor of helioseismology and physics at Birmingham, said: "Understanding how stars age is a key problem in modern astronomy. It is a great step forward that we are now able to measure the rotation rate at the centre of old stars. It will also help us to predict how our own Sun will evolve."

University of Salford

Middle-aged and very attractive

In a harsh economic climate, small and medium-sized enterprises can boost their business by exploiting their history and traditions, a European research study has found. The Mnemos project, led by the University of Salford in partnership with scholars from four other European countries, looked at craft-sector SMEs of more than 40 years old. Aleksej Heinze, senior lecturer at Salford Business School, said: "Plenty of companies are steeped in history and have a rich knowledge of traditional production methods, links with their local area and many more unrealised assets."

University Campus Suffolk

North-south gap artfully bridged

A new artwork aims to provide "a visual, geographical and experiential connection" between the northern and southern sites of a campus. University Campus Suffolk unveiled Question?, designed by artists Langlands & Bell, in two locations at the Ipswich campus. Chrissie Harrington, head of the institution's School of Arts and Humanities, said: "We believe that the end result will engage the expert and the curious, and will enable communities to share in and experience world-class art that inspires and provokes."

University of Essex

Painting a picture of hope

Primary-school pupils have been learning about human rights issues through art as part of a unique education initiative led by academics. The Arts and Human Rights in Education project was developed by Aoife Daly of the University of Essex's Human Rights Centre and School of Law and Lisa Wade from Essex's School of Philosophy and Art History, with the support of Lucy Murray from the university's outreach team. Dr Daly said: "By using the medium of art we encouraged children to think about human rights such as the right to be heard (Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the right to life, survival and development (Article 2 of the convention). They responded with wonderful ideas and enthusiasm."

Who's calling, please?

The help of "citizen scientists" is being sought by researchers investigating the calls of killer whales and pilot whales. The research project, led by the University of St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit, is aiming to use human judgement to classify different types of call. It is hoped that the worldwide "crowdsourcing" project will provide important insights into the call repertoires of the two varieties of whale, helping scientists to understand how vocal traditions vary among different groups. The project has been launched in a partnership with Scientific American. For more information, see: http://whale.fm.

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