Campus round-up

March 8, 2012

University of Roehampton

Blessed are the newsmakers

Journalism students honed their interview skills by grilling Occupy London protesters just hours after they had been evicted from outside St Paul's Cathedral. Martin Eiermann and Jamie Kelsey-Fry, two key figures in the demonstration, spoke to students at the University of Roehampton about their experiences after police and bailiffs removed the camp (EN-) which was set up in October (EN-) in the early hours of 28 February. Kate Wright, senior lecturer in journalism at Roehampton, said it was vital for students to get involved in covering such an important news story. "I'm very grateful to Jamie and Martin for coming along, unslept, unshaven and before they'd even eaten properly, to be part of that process," she said.

London Metropolitan University

Green house set to shine

Students will exhibit their design for an eco-friendly house at the world's biggest sustainable construction fair. Aspiring designers from London Metropolitan University will show off their low-cost, environmentally friendly plan at Ecobuild 2012, which takes place at London's ExCeL arena from 20 to 22 March. The HelioMet team, made up of students from London Met's Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Design, is also submitting the SunBloc design to this year's Solar Decathlon Europe competition in Madrid, where it is the only UK entry.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Can't see the Earth for the trees

Vast monkey puzzle forests covered most of the Earth when dinosaurs roamed the planet, researchers have shown. By compiling a database of every fossilised forest site ever discovered, scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London were able to create the first maps of what the world looked like 100 million years ago. Charts of this lost world also showed there were dry cypress woodlands near the equator, while land near the North Pole was mainly populated by pines. Emiliano Peralta-Medina, who led the study, said that the landscape changed just before dinosaurs became extinct, with flowering trees similar to magnolias bringing "colour and scent" to the world for the first time.

Staffordshire University

Screen dreams

A spin-off company that aims to harness the talents of independent film-makers has launched at a university. Founded by James Fair and Peter Rudge, film technology lecturers at Staffordshire University, Grand Independent will develop, produce and distribute films and documentaries. The enterprise aims to revolutionise Staffordshire's film production courses while also being available to independent film-makers outside the university. It follows the launch last year of Flux, the university's ceramic design company, which showcases the talents of students enrolled on its MA in ceramic design.

Edge Hill University

Starter's orders for game plans

A university will begin a £55 million project that includes community sports facilities and accommodation for students after getting the green light from planners. West Lancashire Borough Council's planning committee initially approved Edge Hill University's development proposals at a meeting in January. As central government has not overruled the decision, diggers will now be on site this month to start work. The institution will build a £15 million sports centre and an array of grass and all-weather sports facilities on the land, as well as a new entrance, access roads and extra parking.

University of Birmingham

Spreading big ideas around

A partnership aiming to develop new ways of transferring intellectual property to industry has attracted its first university partner from the Midlands. The University of Birmingham has joined the Easy Access Innovation Partnership, stating that it recognises the "significant role" the initiative will play "in supporting economic recovery". Via its technology transfer company, Alta Innovations, the university will provide some of its IP portfolio free of charge using simple standard agreements to speed up the exploitation process.

University of Aberdeen

Warm water's deadly downside

Bacteria could become more toxic to other life forms in the Arctic and Antarctic as climate change causes polar regions to warm up, scientists have warned. Cyanobacteria, a phylum of blue-green algae present in almost all water bodies, was found by researchers at the University of Aberdeen to produce more toxins under laboratory conditions as the temperature was increased. Frithjof Kuepper, chair in marine biodiversity at Aberdeen, said a shift to a summer temperature range of 8degC to 16degC at the poles "could lead to profound alteration of arctic freshwater polar ecosystems because toxic blooms are potentially harmful to other organisms".

Bangor/Oxford

Teenage blues are just the start

Almost half of all adults who develop clinical depression first experienced the condition before they were 18, according to research. A study conducted jointly by Bangor University and the University of Oxford found that the most common age at which signs of depression are first exhibited is 13 to 15 years old. Mark Williams, a clinical psychologist at Oxford and joint leader of the study, said that in recent decades researchers had found that patients were becoming depressed "at an increasingly young age".

University of Manchester

Words to walk by

A new "mural" poem by award-winning poet Lemn Sissay has been unveiled at a university. Let There Be Peace can now be seen in the University of Manchester's large atrium space in University Place on Oxford Road, which sees a constant flow of student traffic en route to the institution's accommodation office and support services. The letters are 15m high and were painted over five days by Gerard Brown, a local signwriter. The poem forms part of Mr Sissay's larger Poems As Landmarks project and is "a testament to the creativity and pride of a world-class city with a world-class university", he said.

University of Nottingham

Look north for sober solutions

England should take a leaf out of Scotland's book if it wants to tackle its drinking culture, a lecturer has argued. Jane McGregor of the University of Nottingham's School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy made the observation at the launch of her book, Drink and the City: Alcohol and Alcohol Problems in Urban UK since the 1950s. She said Scotland had managed to cast off its traditional hard-drinking image and was now "treating alcohol as a health risk rather than an issue of disorder", with policies based on "the abundant evidence that the most effective way of reducing consumption and harm is increasing the price of alcohol relative to disposable income".

University of Sheffield

Studies with the Commons touch

A university has announced the creation of the UK's first module in parliamentary studies formally accredited by, and run in association with, the House of Commons. The course, which will be offered to third-year undergraduates at the University of Sheffield from October, was unveiled during a visit by John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons. Matthew Flinders, professor of politics at Sheffield, said the module would include "seminars led by parliamentary clerks, MPs and members of the House of Lords", as well as "a trip to the Palace of Westminster for a behind-the-scenes look at how select committees operate".

University of Essex

A lot of help from its 'friends'

Two business school academics are leading an investigation into whether Facebook users should be paid for the role they play in the success of the social-networking site. Christopher Land and Steffen Boehm of the University of Essex Business School consider that updating one's status, "liking" a website or becoming someone's "friend" creates Facebook's basic product. They argue that activity on Facebook also creates marketing data about users, which the company can then leverage for market research purposes. Professor Boehm said the company's profits were "only possible because of the time and labour, we, as users, invest in Facebook. So, why don't we get paid for it?"

University Campus Suffolk

Jump up, jump up to cool down

Participating in dance workshops significantly reduces tension in young boys, research has found. The Go Dance project enrolled 250 children aged 10 to 12 in a 12-week programme to examine how dance might positively affect the lives of boys and girls. Boys' perceptions of tension were reduced by the activities, the research found. Elsa Urmston, lecturer in dance at University Campus Suffolk and principal investigator on the project, said Go Dance "allows us to demonstrate the significance of dance participation among hard-to-reach groups".

Dramatic shapes cut from old cloth

A university hall was temporarily transformed into a theatre to stage a play that follows the lives of characters in Victorian-era London. Durham University's Old Shire Hall - currently the institution's administrative headquarters - hosted the play Satin, which was performed by student members of the Castle Theatre Company, for a four-night run at the end of February. Satin, written and directed by Sam Kingston-Jones, a Durham student, follows the stories of several "eccentric, if somewhat morally questionable characters" from 19th-century London, with the piece "owing much to Moulin Rouge as well as nods to Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and even the odd bit of Downton Abbey". The production acted as a swansong for Durham's use of the Old Shire Hall: its administration is being relocated to the Palatine Centre.

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