Campus round-up

March 22, 2012

Manchester/Manchester School of Architecture

Lost underground

Excavations for a long-forgotten underground railway in Manchester have been rediscovered. Martin Dodge, senior lecturer in human geography at the University of Manchester, and Richard Brook, senior lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture, found a "void" underneath the city's Arndale shopping centre. Consulting old plans, they concluded it was the beginning of a two-mile railway linking Manchester's Piccadilly and Victoria stations that had been approved by planners in the early 1970s but which the government had refused to fund. The architects' drawings for the scheme, unearthed by the academics, form part of an exhibition titled Infra_MANC put together by the researchers.

Newcastle University

Coast through the year

A book capturing the beauty of the North East of England's coastline through the eyes of local inhabitants has been launched by a university. Sea Change NE, a project led by academics from Newcastle University, encourages local people to record how the coast is used and enjoyed. The book, A Year in the Life of Our North East Coast by the People who Live Here, draws on participants' contributions to show seasonal changes and key events via drawings, paintings and poems. "This book is not just about the pictures - it's about getting us all to think about the sea and what we are doing to it," said Susan Gebbels, the project's leader.

University of Aberdeen

Blind to the opportunity

Eye care in Scotland has improved but the poor are not benefiting as they should, a study has found. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen investigated the effect of free eye tests on services and found that poorer households were not taking advantage of the policy. Free examinations funded under the NHS were introduced by the Scottish government in April 2006. "The figures...indicate a rise in the number of people in Scotland having their eyes examined," said Alexandros Zangelidis, a lecturer in economics who led the study. "People...from poorer households not only have overall lower levels of eye examinations, but [also] had a weaker response to the policy compared [with]...wealthier households."

University of Ulster

Downturn's upside

The recession is a "welcome mat" for entrepreneurs, not a barrier, a US university president has told UK business students. Stephen Spinelli, an entrepreneur and president of Philadelphia University, made the comments in a speech to University of Ulster business school students last week. "As long as there are problems in the world then there are solutions, and once you think of the solution, that can be turned into a good business idea," said Dr Spinelli. "During a recession people are paralysed with fear, but an economic downturn presents new problems and therefore new solutions - it's a welcome mat."

University of Hertfordshire

Relieving the pressure

The chemical element magnesium may offer small but clinically significant reductions in blood pressure, researchers have discovered. In a paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scholars from the University of Hertfordshire say that the size of the effect increases in line with the dosage (with the study investigating doses from 120mg to 973mg). The data from the study indicate that magnesium reduces both systolic and diastolic pressure.

University of Salford

Return of the Duke

The Duke of Edinburgh will officially open the University of Salford building at the MediaCityUK development this week. Prince Philip will also unveil a specially commissioned holographic animation of Salford's state-of-the-art facility during a tour of the area. The Queen and the Duke will be visiting Salford as part of the former's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, with the Queen touring the new BBC studios at MediaCityUK. The Duke has a long association with the university: he was its first chancellor when it received its Royal Charter in 1967.

University of Northampton

Good place to start up

A university business school has been awarded £875,000 by the European Regional Development Fund to help run a scheme supporting local firms. The funding for Northampton Business School will help to deliver the Corby Enterprise Support Programme, which will set up and improve businesses in the area, until December 2014. Kate Broadhurst, head of enterprise development at the school and leader of the successful bid, said: "This project will take our previous 'enterprise coaching' project in Corby to the next level." Over the past two years the institution has helped to start up 15 local businesses, she said.

University of Warwick

Suicidal tendencies

Research has suggested that a large number of Protestants in a population may be a factor in higher suicide rates. The study - co-authored by an academic from the University of Warwick - investigates whether religion influences the decision to commit suicide, above and beyond factors such as literacy, mental health or poverty. Sascha Becker, deputy director of Warwick's Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, and co-author Ludger Woessmann, a scholar at Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, used data from Prussia in the 19th century and 21st-century figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to reach their conclusion. Professor Becker said the structures of the religions explain the differences, with Protestantism being more individualistic while Catholicism has a stronger community structure.


Right-wing paranoia

Many far-right supporters believe violence between religious and ethnic groups is inevitable. Academics from the universities of Nottingham and Salford analysed a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 members of the British National Party, the English Defence League and the UK Independence Party. They found that BNP members were particularly likely to regard sectarian and interracial violence as inevitable. They were also "overwhelmingly concerned" about immigration and Muslims, according to Matthew Goodwin, a lecturer in Nottingham's School of Politics and International Relations.

University for the Creative Arts

One ring to rule them all

A student has won the "first-ever" bespoke jewellery competition set via YouTube. Lindy Neave, a second-year student at the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester, won the contest, which was organised by design company Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery. Students were shown a video clip of a "customer's" demands for an engagement ring and were asked to bring the ideas to life. They were told they had a budget of about £1,000 and were also given "design clues", such as the client's likes and dislikes in terms of shapes, colours and metals. Ms Neave's design concept was a 9ct yellow gold ring with three pink-red ruby cabochons. As part of the prize, her design will be hand-made by Harriet Kelsall artisans and she will be presented with the finished ring.

University of York

Academy of motion pictures

A university has teamed up with a production company to make five feature films over the next year. Heslington Studios, the commercial arm of the University of York's department of theatre, film and television, will provide post-production facilities to Green Screen Productions, a specialist in computer-generated imagery that opened a studio near York last month. The company will employ York postgraduates and recent graduates to work on the films. John Mateer, the university's head of film and television production, said that the collaboration would generate revenue, raise York's profile and keep its teaching and research up to date.

University of Cambridge

Rip it up, start again? No need

Hand-held lasers that can remove ink from scrap paper so that it can be used again may soon be available. Researchers at the University of Cambridge showed that toner ink from printers can be removed with lasers without causing significant damage. Julian Allwood, leader of the Low Carbon Materials Processing Group at Cambridge, said the potential for reusing paper in such a way was substantial. The method could also have environmental implications: "Material recovery through reusing eliminates the forestry step from the life cycle of paper and eradicates emissions arising from incineration and landfill dumping," Dr Allwood said.

Jean therapy

A "field" of about 30 pairs of denim jeans was "planted" outside a city's cathedral to demonstrate how everyday clothing can be used to purify the air we breathe. The jeans - installed in front of Durham Cathedral with help from Durham University's science outreach programme and the Science Learning Centre North East - contain "photocatalysts" within the denim that react with sunlight to break down pollutants in the atmosphere. The jeans are the work of Helen Storey, professor of fashion and science at the London College of Fashion, and Tony Ryan, professor of physical chemistry and pro vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield.

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