Campus round-up

March 15, 2012

Birmingham City University

Hipsters can, and should, dig it

The relationship between urban areas and the countryside must be reconfigured, according to researchers at Birmingham City University. An interdisciplinary team that spent 18 months researching future policy and practice within the rural-urban fringe has unveiled a manifesto of recommendations, including connecting city centres to the countryside via green corridors and developing more urban community-based agriculture. "What we need to do is to radically rethink the way we manage the areas where the urban meets the countryside," said Alister Scott, professor of spatial planning and governance at Birmingham City, who led the research.

Liverpool Hope University

Messianic speech

An annual lecture in Jewish studies will explore different interpretations of messianic ideas from a historical perspective. Liverpool Hope University will host the second annual Makin Lecture on 22 March. It will be delivered by Philip Alexander, professor of post-Biblical Jewish literature at the University of Manchester. He said the lecture, "The Messianic Idea in Judaism Revisited", would discuss the view that Christianity cast Jesus in a role that "Judaism would simply not recognise as 'messianic'".

Plymouth University

Nigerian business opportunities

A university is offering its expertise to help train budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria as part of a national competition to promote business and economic sustainability. Plymouth University will provide training and quality assurance services for the Youth Enterprise with Innovation scheme - a collaboration between Nigeria's ministries of Finance, Communication Technology and Youth Development that has already attracted ideas from 24,000 people. The initiative will run again each of the next three years and will ultimately produce 1,200 candidates eligible for grants and mentoring. Plymouth was asked by the UK's Department for International Development to help with the competition, and its business school has sent teams to Abuja and Lagos to run workshops and assessments.

University of Worcester

Cash spark for park

The development of University Park in Worcester has received a £1 million boost from the government's Growing Places Fund. The University of Worcester secured the interest-free loan via the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership to help install infrastructure on the site, which will house a business, science, health and enterprise park alongside a mixture of private, not-for-profit and university buildings. David Green, Worcester's vice-chancellor, said the park would "create a high-quality working environment and help us to engage with companies working in science, enterprise, health and well-being, to share knowledge and expertise to mutual benefit".

University of Bath

A lesson in deep green

A scholar's research has led to the creation of England's first school that meets the zero-carbon "Passivhaus" energy-performance standard. Features such as triple-glazed windows, super-insulation and heat reclamation mean that the building requires almost no heating. David Coley, professor of low-carbon design at the University of Bath, developed plans for such a school more than 20 years ago, but it took support from Devon County Council and the Department for Education to bring them to fruition. Montgomery Primary School in Exeter opened in November and has now completed a rigorous certification process that marks a milestone for the UK's building industry.

University of Sheffield

The masses have spoken

More than 8,500 votes were cast in the UK's largest students' union election. The poll at the University of Sheffield was the first such to record a turnout of more than 8,000. The number of candidates was the highest at the institution since 2006, with 39 contesting the eight union roles, including nine seeking the presidency. Thom Arnold, the outgoing students' union president, who will be succeeded by Abdi Suleiman, said: "Students are becoming more interested in understanding the wider issues around higher education and the changes in policies, which is stimulating a (desire) to get more involved."

University of East London

Fields of dreams

A £21 million campus-based sports complex will be officially opened next week. The SportsDock at the University of East London in the city's Docklands area will be unveiled to local residents on 24 March with a series of free sports sessions. Team USA will use SportsDock as its training headquarters for the London 2012 Olympic Games. After the Olympics, the site will reopen to the local community and students.

King's College London

Wing takes off

The Queen has opened a restored architectural landmark that will now grace a London campus. The monarch visited King's College London on 29 February to unveil the refurbished east wing of Somerset House. Completion of the £16.7 million revamp fulfils a 180-year ambition of the college to acquire the building. It now forms a new entrance to the institution's Strand campus. The Grade I-listed building includes conference space and seminar rooms as well as new premises for the college's School of Law.

Highlands and Islands/Oxford/Cambridge/Nottingham

Viking raiding party

Academics from several universities will collaborate to deepen their knowledge of Viking culture. In a programme funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, 37 researchers and students in Old Norse-Icelandic and Viking studies from the universities of the Highlands and Islands, Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham will take part in joint workshops and go on a seven-day field trip to Orkney. The venture will conclude with a conference and feature a mobile exhibition intended to share knowledge with the public.

Queen Margaret University

Big C stays on the QT

Scottish men are reluctant to act on concerns about male cancers and are likely to ignore symptoms and delay seeking advice, a study has suggested. Focus groups were interviewed by researchers from Queen Margaret University on behalf of a male cancer charity, Cahonas Scotland. John Hughes, a lecturer in sociology at Queen Margaret, said that "participants felt that men in Scotland tended to take no action until their symptoms could no longer be easily ignored, rather than seeking information, talking to friends or family about their experiences, or seeking professional advice and treatment".

University of Brighton

Easy riders

A project to trial "smart e-bikes" on a city's streets this year and next as part of research into sustainable transport and mobile media is being led by the University of Brighton. Researchers will monitor usage of 35 bikes, which are electrically assisted to make cycling easier. Smartphones mounted on the handlebars will record data such as speed and distance covered, which researchers can study and which can also be shared with riders. Different groups of users will be offered the chance to try the e-bikes for six-week periods.

University of Hull

Poseidon's poet

A Leverhulme poet-in-residence hopes to help aquatic zoology students and academics learn to use language more effectively. John Wedgwood Clarke will spend the next year at the University of Hull's Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences. Among other activities, he plans to run creative writing workshops based on research projects and, every fortnight, write a poem about departmental life. Magnus Johnson, a lecturer in environmental marine biology, said: "Having a member of staff with a completely different take on our discipline will challenge us and help us to broaden our outputs."

Manchester Metropolitan University

The way-back app

Anyone with a smartphone can take a historical walking tour of Manchester thanks to a new app developed by Darren Dancey, a lecturer in computer science at Manchester Metropolitan University. The app employs GPS technology to determine a phone's whereabouts and offers historical video footage of that location. The 80 films available, drawn from the university's film archive, include VE Day celebrations, royal visits and Manchester City Football Club's homecoming after its victory in the 1934 FA Cup. Also featured are the effects of bombs during the Second World War and a fire at Paulden's department store in 1957.

Eighteen against two can be deadly

Trucks are the biggest threat to cyclists in London, research suggests. Medics at Queen Mary, University of London, examined the cases of all the 265 cyclists brought to the Royal London Hospital with serious injuries over the past six years to see which vehicles caused the worst injuries. Of those involved in collisions with HGVs, 21 per cent died, whereas only 6 per cent of those hit by a car were killed. Cyclists who survived crashes with HGVs spent 12 days in hospital on average, compared with one day for those in incidents involving cars. The study was led by Joanna Manson, trauma research fellow at Barts and The London Medical School, Queen Mary, who said: "Increasing cycling in our cities is beneficial both to the individual and to the city, but the risk of injury remains a major deterrent."

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