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Campus round-up - 24 October 2013

Elephants submerged in water

Source: Nature Picture Library

Pachyderms get straight to the point

Elephants are the only animals that understand human pointing without needing any training, a study has found. Researchers from the University of St Andrews worked with a group of the animals in Zimbabwe and found that they understood the gesture immediately, even though other animals that are more closely related to humans – such as the great apes – are unable to use pointing. Anna Smet, a researcher at St Andrews’ School of Psychology and Neuroscience, said: “What really surprised us is that they did not apparently need to learn anything. Their understanding was as good on the first trial as the last.”

De Montfort University
Santa Maria students welcomed

Eleven students from Santa Maria, the Brazilian city where more than 240 people died in a nightclub fire earlier this year, have spent a week learning about British culture at a Midlands university. De Montfort University in Leicester extended an invitation to students at the Federal University of Santa Maria after the fire on 27 January. About 150 of the dead were students from the university. De Montfort’s vice-chancellor, Dominic Shellard, who issued the invitation, said that the disaster had “resonated strongly” with staff and students. More than 50 Brazilian students currently study at De Montfort as part of the Brazilian government’s scholarship programme Science without Borders, and another 60 are due to start in January.

Soas, University of London
Global rhythms add local colour

International artists from Eastern Europe, Africa and central America entertained crowds during a weekend of world music on a London campus. Mediterranean-Balkans fusion outfit Delicatessen, Zambian Afro-folk artist Namvula, English-Siberian folk group the Goshawk Project and Cuban salsa band Sarabanda were among those performing on the World Music Stage at Soas, University of London, on 19 and 20 October. The line-up was part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival, which attracted some 50,000 people to a series of cultural events in central London.

Coventry University
Catalytic convergence

A company and a university have joined forces to develop a new Engineering and Manufacturing Institute. The £32 million partnership between Coventry University and Unipart will be based at the firm’s site in the city. Unipart is contributing £17.9 million towards the creation of the new facility with a further £5.6 million towards student scholarships and product research and development. The project has been awarded £7.9 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Catalyst Fund, an initiative supporting innovative programmes designed to enhance efficiency in the sector.

University of Dundee
Constant craving considered

A Scottish university devoted an afternoon to exploring appetite and desire from artistic, biological, historical, musical and philosophical perspectives. The University of Dundee’s ninth annual Culture Day, held on 16 October, was entitled Forbidden Fruit: Appetite and Desire, and featured talks and performances on the topic. Coordinator Matthew Jarron said before the event: “Our cravings inspire the arts but we will look at how the resulting literature, arts, music, design and advertising then goes on to influence cravings that should by rights be fixed by our biology.”

University of Essex
Scholars’ introductory remarks

A university in the South East of England launched a series of free lectures giving members of the public the chance to hear from its academics. The University of Essex’s year-long Professorial Inaugural Lecture series, which began on 21 October and will run until June next year, features academics who have recently been appointed as professors. In the first lecture, Andrew Canessa from the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies spoke about what “indigenous” means in the modern world, using Bolivia as a case study. Other topics will include the laws of war and the transformation of advertising in the 1950s and 1960s.

University of Bedfordshire
‘Dr Inventors’ invited to interact

A UK university is to lead a European Commission-funded project to launch a social networking site specifically for academics. The University of Bedfordshire will head the development of “Dr Inventor”, which has been described as a cross between Facebook and LinkedIn, but for academics. Professor of visual computing Feng Dong, who is leading the €2.6 million (£2.2 million) project, said the innovative site would “provide academics with a platform to exchange research experience, transfer knowledge and explore research information. Users will be able to interact with one another and display information on their profiles such as research interests and previous places of work.”

Lancaster University
In Flux and aiming high

Hundreds of the UK’s most talented young entrepreneurs will visit a university over the next three years to take part in the country’s largest student business competition. Lancaster University has won the licence to run the Flux event, the higher education sector’s largest annual competition to encourage entrepreneurship and bridge the gap between education and work. The competition, which is run by the social enterprise Working Knowledge, in conjunction with the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs, attracts teams of six students from universities across the country each year to compete on tasks using the specialist business tool Xing.

Regent’s University London
Kicking the year off in style

The first week of the academic year at a London university presented some of its students with unexpected opportunities, from working backstage with models such as Cara Delevingne to quizzing Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council and former prime minister of Belgium, on graduate unemployment. Last week, Regent’s University London played host to Topshop Unique’s showcase at London Fashion Week, with model Kate Moss and Sir Philip Green, head of the Arcadia Group, in attendance. Also last week, Mr Van Rompuy visited the the institution to deliver its annual Europe in the World lecture. Aldwyn Cooper, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “Such events have enabled students to rub shoulders and engage with leaders in their fields, gaining valuable insight and experience.” 

Kingston University
Tabloid tales take stage by storm

Two recent graduates of Kingston University are in talks to take a musical inspired by the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking to the West End. The Daily Fail: The Musical, which features the songs Hugh Grant Is My Ideal Man, We Could Be Famous and Making A Sex Tape, has just finished a run at the Waterloo East Theatre in London. It was written and produced by Fiona O’Malley, a graduate of Kingston’s journalism programme, directed by classical theatre graduate Adam Wollerton, and starred second-year drama student Charlotte Mitchell. “The show is about two people who are trying to become famous, but the sub-plot focuses on the hacking inquiry,” said Ms O’Malley, who premiered the Untold Theatre Company production at Kingston’s Arthur Cotterell Theatre in July.

Royal Veterinary College, University of London
Casting light on equine heroics

A life-sized bronze statue of a horse that was critically injured by an IRA bomb has been unveiled outside a veterinary school. The statue of Sefton, a Household Cavalry horse hurt in the 1982 bombing of Hyde Park in London, was unveiled in a ceremony outside the Royal Veterinary College’s North Mymms campus, in Hertfordshire, on 16 October. Four soldiers and seven horses from the Blues and Royals en route to the Changing the Guard ceremony were killed by the nail bomb blast, but Sefton recovered from shrapnel injuries to live for another 11 years. The sculpture, which is the work of Camilla Le May, was unveiled by its funder, Lord Ballyedmond. It honours the college’s retired veterinary pharmacology professor Peter Lees, whose research helped to improve pain-killing drugs for animals.

University of Abertay Dundee
Spinning a web of opportunities

A Scottish university has celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation as the Dundee Technical Institute. The institute, which became the University of Abertay Dundee, was opened on 15 October 1888 by Swire Smith, a wool manufacturer from Yorkshire. Its first cohort of 238 students took classes in jute spinning and applied art, and many went on to manage textile companies in Dundee and overseas, according to the university. Nigel Seaton, Abertay’s vice-chancellor, said that the university’s mission still focuses on offering higher education “to anyone who would benefit, no matter their background”.

Bucks New University
Rugby match enters seventh year

A university has renewed an official partnership with an Aviva Premiership rugby club. The agreement between Bucks New University and London Wasps, which began in 2007, sees coaches from the club working with the institution’s rugby squad. Members of Wasps’ commercial and community teams deliver guest lectures at the university, and the club has also provided work experience and internship opportunities for students. Paul Morgan, head of the department of sport management at Bucks New University, said that several of the university’s graduates are now employed in the rugby industry thanks to the“successful partnership” with the team.

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