Campus round-up

October 11, 2012

Coventry University

CSI: West Midlands

A university celebrated 10 years of forensic psychology research and learning with a one-day conference. Coventry University's department of psychology and behavioural sciences organised a free-to-attend conference, Forensic 10, to mark the occasion. The conference featured speeches by the eminent psychologists Graham Davies and Anthony Beech, who discussed the increasing, and sometimes controversial, role of information technology in forensic activity. The celebrations centred on Coventry's forensic psychology MSc and its forensic psychology and crime MSc. The event highlighted how the institution's psychology research profile has grown considerably over the past few years, in particular with the opening of the Centre for Applied Research in Psychology in October 2011.

University of Birmingham

Earn while you learn

A new cohort of accountancy students has started at a business school via a prestigious partnership with KPMG that offers them a complete package of university degree course, professional accountancy qualification and relevant work experience. Under the scheme at the University of Birmingham's Business School, students will enter on to a six-year programme in which they will gain work experience at KPMG, take a BSc honours degree in accounting and finance and study for a professional accountancy qualification - while also receiving a salary of about £20,000 (if they work in London) and having all their tuition fees and student accommodation costs paid for by KPMG.

The Open University

Stream of mass consciousness

An institution's YouTube channel has hit 10 million views, making it the most watched European university channel. The Open University's Learning channel, which includes course content and videos generated specifically for the site, beat the equivalent University of Cambridge resource into second place by about 6 million views. The OU said that its video viewing figures had risen by 100 per cent in the past year. Particularly successful have been animated videos narrated by David Mitchell and Clive Anderson and covering subjects such as English, philosophy and economics in 60 seconds. The Learning channel is part of a broader online presence for the institution, aiming to provide free educational material worldwide.

University of Bath

Cosmetically challenged

Researchers are contesting cosmetic companies' claims that nanoparticles can deliver active ingredients deep inside the skin. A study carried out at the University of Bath fluorescently tagged particles of less than 100th of the thickness of a human hair and, using a powerful microscope, observed that even the tiniest particle did not penetrate the skin's surface. "The skin's role is to act as a barrier to potentially dangerous chemicals and to reduce water loss from the body. Our study shows that it is doing a good job of this," said Richard Guy, the professor of pharmaceutical sciences who led the study. The team hopes the findings will also allay safety concerns that potentially harmful nanoparticles, such as those used in sunscreens, can be absorbed into the body.

University of Essex

Downstairs, downstairs

A BBC series looking at the social history of Britain's servants is currently being presented by a sociology scholar. Pamela Cox, from the department of sociology at the University of Essex, is presenting Servants: The True Story of Life below Stairs, a series that coincides with the latest series of Downton Abbey on ITV1. In the programme, Dr Cox - herself the great-granddaughter of servants - has been examining the reality of life in service from the Victorian era through to the Second World War. She said: "Several years ago I wrote a book called Bad Girls, which explored the history of girls in the criminal justice system. One of the things that emerged was that many of the girls sent to reform institutions of various kinds were 'reformed' by being trained as servants." The final episode of the three-part series will air on 12 October.

University of Bedfordshire

Follow the leader

Leaders from diverse walks of life will be sharing the secrets of their personal and professional success as part of an initiative to encourage "practice-led learning" at a university. The University of Bedfordshire is inviting high-profile guest speakers to address its business school students in a bid to boost corporate, industry and community engagement. The Leadership Futures programme got under way at the House of Commons last week, with speeches from Keith Vaz MP and Naman Ajitsaria, executive director of Prithvi Group of Industries. Bill Rammell, vice-chancellor of the university, said the programme would give students the opportunity to engage with "inspirational leaders from diverse backgrounds".

Royal Holloway, University of London

For a meaningful relationship

Actors from an award-winning theatre company are returning to their alma mater to teach students. The cast of non zero one, which won an Off West End Theatre Award for best entertainment last year, will teach on three undergraduate theatre courses at Royal Holloway, University of London this year. Their return to the Surrey institution three years after graduation follows the success of their final-year production, Would Like to Meet, which has been performed at the Southwark Playhouse and the Barbican. Dan Rebellato, head of the department of drama and theatre, said: "I couldn't be more pleased that they've agreed to come back and inspire a new generation of students."

University of Manchester

Now there's no excuse

A £24 million 24-hour study centre has opened at the University of Manchester. The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons building - named after the institution's former vice-chancellor, who first proposed the idea - contains more than 1,000 flexible study spaces, including 30 bookable group-study rooms. The library-managed facility contains 400 computers, laptop charging lockers, a Skype area, media screens for presentations and wi-fithroughout. It also has a cafe that is open to the public as well as to students. University librarian Jan Wilkinson said: "This new building is an extension of existing facilities, catering very much for students of the 21st century, who are looking for the best possible learning environment."


A pot to share

Two universities are starting a £400,000 fund to support joint projects in research, teaching and innovation. It marks the latest phase of a formal partnership signed last year between the universities of Nottingham and Birmingham. The Birmingham-Nottingham Strategic Collaboration Fund follows the announcement of a £5 million joint research centre in arthritis research and a £2 million joint investment in strengthening academic links with Brazil. David Eastwood, Birmingham's vice-chancellor, said: "This new fund will allow us to capitalise on our combined academic strengths and range, and greatly expand our joint activity."

Sheffield/London College of Fashion

Breath of fresh air

A laundry additive that allows clothes to help purify the air looks set to be commercialised. The odourless liquid, known as CatClo, was developed during a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion. The nanoparticles it contains are stimulated by sunlight to react with nitrogen oxides, which are know to aggravate asthma. The researchers estimate that someone wearing clothes treated with CatClo could remove roughly the same amount of nitrogen oxides as a family car produces, for example. The researchers are working with an environmental cleaning products company to put the laundry additive on supermarket shelves.

Durham University

Tender is the night (and day)

A series of free public lectures will examine the global issue of chronic pain. The "It's a pain" events are being organised by Durham University and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. They will look at the anatomy of pain, the discomfort caused by anxiety and depression, analgesic drugs and their limitations, the effectiveness or otherwise of complementary medicine, and the role of exercise. The first lecture, on 18 October, is titled "How the Brain Is Wired for Pain".

There will be blood

A double bill of vampire-themed lectures taking place on Halloween will herald the 1 November start of Blood Month, which forms part of the Royal College of Pathologists' National Pathology Year. The ghoulish evening at St Bartholomew's Pathology Museum at Queen Mary, University of London, takes place on 31 October and features Stacey Abbott, reader in film and television studies at the University of Roehampton, who will talk about the link between the vampire myth and 19th-century science. Nancy Schumann, editor of the London Vampyre Group's Chronicles magazine, will then speak on "Women with Bite: The Vampire in Folklore", assessing why vampires continue to capture the public's imagination, from Bram Stoker's Dracula to Twilight's Edward Cullen. Tickets cost £5 and can be booked at

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