Campus round-up

January 26, 2012

University of Hull

Slavery isn't history

A project will address one of the contemporary world's most pressing - yet often overlooked - human rights concerns. In 2007, many UK schools marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade. Yet today, up to million people across the globe - many of them children - are still subject to what amounts to slavery. Now an education pack and a website have been launched to cover the issue on the back of research conducted by the University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation. The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool is collaborating with the project, with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Loughborough University

Power dressing

With interest in Margaret Thatcher revived by the release of the film The Iron Lady, a researcher has explored the crucial role of "power dressing" in the former prime minister's career. Baroness Thatcher's mother was a dressmaker, and in the initial stages of her political career the Conservative premier abandoned the pussycat bows favoured in her early days for carefully chosen outfits tailored to the political occasion, notes Daniel Conway, lecturer in politics at Loughborough University. She enlisted the help of Margaret King, former director of UK label Aquascutum, as her personal fashion adviser and kept detailed files on what she wore and when, labelling particular outfits "Reagan Navy" or "Election '87". She also stopped wearing hats (the badge of the middle classes) when out and about in the UK, although she was greatly admired for her fur hats in the Soviet Union and often made a point of choosing clothes in the colours of the national flags of the countries she was visiting.

University of Bradford

Get back in the driving seat

Eighty per cent of the cost of making cars is spent on subcontractors, so manufacturers are always looking for suppliers that can combine design quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In theory, they can come from anywhere in the world. Experts from the University of Bradford and Ford Motor Company have called for small and medium-sized enterprises in West Yorkshire to seize back some of the £7 billion of motor manufacturing revenue the UK had lost to "low-cost" economies during the recession. Andrew Day, Ford professor of quality engineering at Bradford, and Ford's purchasing director John Smith said that major companies were looking to develop their supply chains closer to home, meaning "hundreds" of opportunities for local businesses.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Palestinian questions answered

Funding has been awarded by the World Bank to improve education in Palestine. Academics from the Faculty of Education and Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University will lead two projects aimed at upgrading Palestinian teaching practice. The first is supported by the bank's Quality Improvement Fund in partnership with three Palestinian universities. It will focus on upgrading teacher education programmes, particularly teaching English. The second is funded under the Teacher Education Improvement Project and will involve Canterbury academics working directly with Palestine's Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

University of Liverpool

On the ball

A new partnership between a higher education institution and the Football Association will deliver football-related education programmes. The link-up will deliver additional backing for the University of Liverpool's courses, including the Football Industries MBA it established in 1997. The partnership with FA Learning will enable students to benefit from the expertise of one of sport's biggest governing bodies through guest speakers and practical learning opportunities. It will also offer pathways from education into employment. The university will work with FA Learning at its home at St George's Park, the association's £100 million development in Burton-upon-Trent.

University of Wolverhampton

Beat generation

Policing students will be offered work placements after a university signed a memorandum of understanding with the chief constable of Warwickshire Police. Students on the University of Wolverhampton's BSc course in policing will be able to work as special constables under the terms of the deal. Andy Parker, Warwickshire's chief constable, said: "This is a very forward-thinking idea, offering students first-hand experience of policing, while also benefiting the community through their work as volunteer police officers."

University of Warwick

Aid amid the aftershocks

A UK university has strengthened its support for Japanese researchers affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The University of Warwick, which established a "Japan Researcher Support Programme" last summer, has now announced a link with the Riken Institute, which has seven sites across Japan and some 3,000 researchers who are focused mainly on the natural sciences. Up to two researchers and two graduate students from Riken will visit Warwick to collaborate on research projects as part of the deal.

Institute of Cancer Research

Hidden dangers made flesh

Scientists have discovered how to prevent the new cancers that often occur when patients with malignant melanomas are treated. About 15 to 30 per cent of melanoma patients treated with a drug called Braf inhibitors develop another type of skin cancer, which has to be removed surgically. But investigators at the Institute of Cancer Research, part of the University of London, have found how to stop this harmful side-effect. They learned that the inhibitors do not directly trigger tumours, but accelerate the growth of undetected skin cancer. By conducting tests on mice, they have found another drug that can block the development of these tumours.

Newcastle University

Cultural ark

A team of researchers is to embark on a project to create a database of culture from societies in England, Guyana, Kenya and China. The group from the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University will focus on culture deemed "at risk" and will record art, craft, traditional skills, languages, poems, stories, traditions, ceremonies, rituals, music, song and dance. The results will be shown in an international travelling exhibition, with workshops bringing the featured communities together.

Swansea University

It's more important than that

The 100th anniversary of Swansea City Football Club will be marked this year by the creation of an online archive of taped interviews, photographs and memorabilia recording the experiences of fans of "the Swans". The project is being led by Martin Johnes, a historian at Swansea University, who said that the club "made supporters laugh and cry" and for some was the reason "why they live". "Football plays an important role in the lives of communities and the people who live in them," he added.

University of Dundee

Alchemy mushrooms

Fungi have been found to convert lead into more stable forms, raising the possibility that they could be used to treat sites contaminated by the poisonous metal. Researchers at the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee found that lead shot incubated with fungi began to convert into a more stable pyromorphite mineral after a month. "Lead is usually regarded as a pretty stable substance," said Geoffrey Gadd, Boyd Baxter professor of biology at Dundee. "The idea that fungi and microbes may attack it and change its form is quite unexpected."

Queen Mary, University of London

Full-throated disease

A faulty gene has been identified as a key cause of an aggressive type of cancer. Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London studied three families with a rare inherited condition that made them highly susceptible to oesophageal cancer. They found that the families, whose members have a 95 per cent chance of developing the disease, carry a faulty version of a gene that dictates how cells in the throat grow and divide. When the gene functions normally, the cell divisions help to heal wounds. However, the genetic fault means that the cells divide uncontrollably. Isolating this gene paves the way for future research into possible treatments for the cancer, scientists believe.

The Open University

Virtual lab bench

A university has been awarded a £1 million grant for a centre to transform its science teaching. The Wolfson Foundation grant will help The Open University to establish the Wolfson OpenScience laboratory. The lab will be operated entirely online, and will provide a gateway to a range of scientific experiments and observations. Students will be able to access data from real instruments and equipment, and the lab will be available to lecturers worldwide to use in their teaching.

Cycle of inspiration



Credit: Society of Wood Engravers Archive


This engraving by Anne Desmet of the Olympic Velodrome under construction forms part of an exhibition at Manchester Metropolitan University celebrating the arrival of the Society of Wood Engravers Archive at the institution. The society was established in 1920 as the Bewick Club. Items on display include the minute book from the club's first meeting, letters from early members such as Eric Gill, engraving tools, equipment and engraved blocks. Ms Desmet is one of 20 current members asked to select a "hero" or "sage" who inspired them to turn to the medium. Prints from the portfolios of the inspirations are shown alongside those by the inspired. In this case, the Olympic scene is juxtaposed with John Farleigh's cover for George Bernard Shaw's The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (1932) - an illustration, in Ms Desmet's view, of the engraver's principle that "less is more". The exhibition runs until 23 March.

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