Catch-up with the latest news and insights on education in the UK.


University of Hertfordshire ranked 16th in England for social mobility
Nov 2021

The University of Hertfordshire has been ranked 16th in England for social mobility impact, in a new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in partnership with the Sutton Trust and Department for Education.

The report, released today, ranks all English universities by mobility rate, which considers the proportion of students from low-income backgrounds and whether those students make it to the top 20% of earners by the age of 30.

The study is the first of its kind to list universities by social mobility outcomes, and focuses on students who attended in the mid-2000s and are now established in their careers. It comes as the Department for Education announce new plans for universities to broaden their access and participation work in their local community, and improve student outcomes.

The University of Hertfordshire is proud to be home to a diverse community of students, and has a strong record in increasing access and participation.

50% of the University's students are the first generation in their families to attend university, while 70% of UK and EU undergraduates are from groups under-represented in higher education: including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students, those from parts of UK with low rates of progression to HE, students from low-income households, and disabled students.

To ensure all students can reach their full potential, the University runs a programme of targeted support and has ambitious strategies to reduce inequality, with recent successes including the significant reduction of the BAME awarding gap, and an award-winning support programme for estranged students.

Partnerships are also a key part of the success story. Working with primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across Hertfordshire enables the University to support a broad group of students throughout their education and their journey to higher education, while strong links with industry enhance graduates’ skills and employability.

Dr Mairi Watson, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience, said today: “The findings of the new report are testament to our commitment to making sure the University of Hertfordshire is a place where everyone can succeed.

“We put the student experience at the heart of everything we do, from our curriculum, learning and teaching, to wellbeing services and life on campus. It’s not enough to just welcome a broad range of people through the door – it’s vital that all students, especially those from groups who face greater social barriers, are given the support, encouragement and skills to thrive at university and beyond.”

Double award win for University of Derby nature research
Nov 2021

Game changing research that has transformed the way people interact with nature to improve wellbeing and promote pro-nature behaviour has received national recognition at the prestigious Green Gown Awards 2021, which recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the world.

The University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group was awarded the top gong in the ‘Research with Impact – Institution’ category, beating off stiff competition from Lancaster, Loughborough, Portsmouth and Aston universities, as well as the London College of Fashion.

The ‘Pathways to Nature Connectedness’ provide a behaviour change framework for improving the human-nature relationship, which has been adopted by The National Trust, Wildlife Trust, and many others. The pathways inform the Connecting People with Nature stream of the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and the Green Influencers scheme.

Judges thought the submission, linking the natural world and wellbeing, was a “fascinating, holistic, and timely project, combining social and environmental benefits. The impact has benefitted hundreds of thousands of people and is underpinned by strong research.”

Professor Miles Richardson, who leads the Nature Connectedness Group at the University, said:

I’m thrilled that our research into people’s relationship with nature won this award. A new relationship with nature is essential for a sustainable future, and I’m pleased we’ve been able to produce the new knowledge and tools that others can apply at scale. It is their openness to new ideas and creative application that has made this recognition of our research possible.

The celebrations didn’t stop there, as Lea Barbett, a current Environmental Psychology PhD student at Derby, who is also part of the Nature Connectedness Research Group, won the ‘Research with Impact – Student’ category. This was in recognition of a tool she developed – a Pro-nature Conversation Behaviour Scale - for measuring behaviours that specifically aim to support nature conversation and biodiversity, which has been rapidly adopted by researchers, conservation organisations and government.

The judging panel was clearly impressed, commenting that the submission showed “terrific research impact through influencing public policy and NGOs in their strategic approaches to the complex issue of public engagement in conservation projects, weaving through natural, societal and policy-making fields. An absolutely outstanding project by Lea.”

Commenting on the awards success, Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Derby, said:

The research into Nature Connectedness being undertaken is having a wide-reaching impact on pro-nature behaviours both nationally and internationally. We are therefore delighted that this important work has been recognised with these Green Gown awards.

Hertfordshire Law Clinic launches two new projects to support vulnerable people in the east of England
Nov 2021

In the 20th anniversary of pro bono week, the Hertfordshire Law Clinic based at the University of Hertfordshire is launching two new programmes to support vulnerable people and provide wider access to justice for people in the east of England.

Mobile advice service to visit local communities

In partnership with CDA Herts and Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline, the Hertfordshire Community Mobile Advice Clinic (HCMAC), known as the ‘Justice Bus’, will visit village halls and other rural locations across the county to host drop-in legal advice clinics, give presentations on community-based topics, and signpost helpful resources for those in need. This project is particularly aimed at vulnerable people who cannot easily travel outside of their locality to access support and advice.

The ‘Justice Bus’ will make its first stop at Cottered Village Hall on Thursday 18 November 2021, open from 10am – 5pm, with the drop-in clinic and presentations starting at 1pm.

Amanda Thurston, Director of the Hertfordshire Law Clinic, said today: “Improving access to justice is a founding principle of the Law Clinic, and I am delighted that we’re launching a mobile service that will enable us to reach many more people across the county.

“I am especially proud that we’re working with CDA Herts and the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline. Those in rural communities can more easily become isolated, and domestic abuse is known to be more prevalent in villages than in cities1. We hope that by travelling to these communities, vulnerable people can more easily access the support they need”.

Immigration clinic for young people

Also launching this week, the immigration clinic follows the Law Clinic’s previous specialist clinics for family law and the LGBTQ+ community. The clinic seeks to support young people needing assistance with asylum law, and will be run in partnership with youth homeless charity Centrepoint and Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

The monthly clinic is aimed primarily at young people in the east of England, and will offer free advice on all aspects of immigration and asylum law.

Nina Calder, Senior Co-ordinator for Centrepoint’s Legal Clinics, said: “Each month, some of the young people we support need help navigating what is a highly regulated and specialised area of law. Now, thanks to the generosity and expertise of Duncan Lewis and Herts Law students, we can ensure they are able to access it.

“We are exceptionally grateful for this and know the young people we support, many of whom are incredibly vulnerable and suffered unspeakable trauma will benefit hugely”.

Duncan Lewis are experts in this area of law and with the assistance of University of Hertfordshire law students, will be ensuring these vulnerable young people get the advice they need. Visit the Law Clinic website pages to  find out more and get in touch.

About Hertfordshire Law Clinic

Based on campus at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, Hertfordshire Law Clinic is a pro bono clinic providing free legal advice to anyone in the community. University law students are supported by qualified solicitors, giving students additional experience in the skills they will use when practising professionally.

The clinic has expertise in a number of areas, including family law, housing law,  intellectual property and commercial law, powers of attorney and employment law.

The Law Clinic’s Streetlaw project also sends students out to local schools and community groups to provide useful information about relevant areas of law and empower the public to seek access to justice when needed.

Oct 2021

In addition, NNL’s senior technical lead, Dave Goddard, is to be a visiting professor of nuclear fuels at the University.
The NNL is also increasing funding for nuclear research and development at Bangor University under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Advanced Fuel Cycle Project. 

Nuclear Futures Institute

These developments extend the University’s capacity in nuclear research and development at the University’s Nuclear Futures Institute.

The latest developments were announced alongside the announcement of a skills partnership with Coleg Menai-Llandrillo, Wales's largest further-education (FE) institution.

Bill Lee, Sêr Cymru Professor at the Nuclear Futures Institute at Bangor University, said: 

“This is just the beginning of a close relationship between NNL and Bangor University to support development of all low carbon forms of energy for North Wales. We are excited by the research and training opportunities it will enable us to work on with NNL and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai colleagues.”

In recognition of the impact and value of Wales as a centre of nuclear science and innovation, NNL opened its first formal base in Wales at the University’s M-SParc Science Park on Ynys Môn this summer.

Together, these moves will help nurture the next generation of highly skilled individuals and bridge the nuclear industry’s skills gap. With an average engineer age of 54, the nuclear sector faces the challenge of an ageing workforce, leaving the industry with a skills gap. This makes recruitment and training of highly skilled individuals a key industry priority.

Oct 2021

Bangor’s Enterprise by Design programme has been named the winner of the enterprise catalyst award at the 2021 National Enterprise Educator Awards. 

The prize was awarded on the strength of the programme’s impact on both students and regional development since its inception in 2010, with 72 per cent of all students who have taken part in the programme identifying an increase in their entrepreneurial skills.

The awards, which have run since 2009, focus on excellence within entrepreneurial and enterprise education within higher and further education in the UK.

Enterprise by Design - what's it all about? The 2021 project saw Bangor University working alongside social enterprise Growing for Change, entrepreneur Emlyn Williams, and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

Students were challenged to develop proposals for food enterprises which addressed food poverty in a manner that is financially viable, can provide positive health benefits and help with the economic regeneration of the region.

Undergraduates from the business, computer science and electronic engineering, psychology, music and media, and natural science courses took part in the programme this year. 

The winning team not only secured a £2,500 prize to further develop their enterprise idea alongside other Gwynedd businesses, but also took part in a virtual idea ‘boot-camp’ with members of Vietnam’s Hanoi University of Science and Technology.

The meeting was the first stage in a wider expansion of the initiative, with international pathways established to allow students to gain experience of collaboration with partners on a global stage.

Enterprise by Design will also be extended to younger entrepreneurs, with the programme to be delivered to pupils in secondary schools across north-west Wales for the first time later this year.

“Enterprise by Design fixes that; the programme works to create students who not only have a deep well of knowledge in their specific field but also gather a broader understanding of other disciplines and the skills needed to collaborate across industries.

“For example, an engineering student will be able to pick up the vital creative media and entrepreneurial skills required to begin operating a business or approach a problem from a media-focused angle.”

Bringing together students from the business, arts, science, and engineering faculties and placing them into interdisciplinary teams, Enterprise by Design is a 10-week programme focused on developing student’s employability and enterprise skills.

Students can currently register their interest internally with the programme to take part, however there are plans to further integrate the scheme with university courses going forward, with Enterprise by Design already installed within the curriculum of two of the university’s schools.

Teams are provided with a design brief created in collaboration with local industry and challenged to research and create a new product, service, or experience which will enhance the local economy and address the request.

Students are supported not only by academic staff, but also expert business consultants in areas surrounding the industry sector being focused on by each year’s brief, furthering the creation of a vibrant innovation ecosystem between the university and the local economy.

Postgraduates and alumni entrepreneurs also facilitate the students’ work during the programme, helping to further emulate the collaborative experience found in today’s workforce.

Dr Goodman added: “Being awarded as a nationally-leading scheme shows the work we are doing to prepare students for the workforce is making an impact, not just in terms of their professional development but also their personal confidence and talents as well.

“By working alongside local businesses and organisations, students not only benefit from the practical experience of a simulated workplace, but these companies also get an insight into new and innovative ways to better the region and the local economy.”

People with negative feelings towards the hijab see women's happiness as sadness
Oct 2021

People who have negative feelings toward the hijab are more likely to misread the emotions of women wearing them and see happiness as sadness, research by the University of Essex has shown.

A cross-cultural study has shown that our opinions shape how quickly and accurately we read facial expressions.

It revealed that in split-second decisions, pre-existing attitudes affected perceptions of women in a headscarf – with a negative view resulting in happiness being misread in up to 38 per cent of cases.

A hijab is a religious veil worn by many Muslim women in the presence of men outside of their immediate family which covers the head, hair, and chest.

Research-led by Dr Sebastian Korb, from the Department of Psychology at Essex, revealed pictures of women wearing it activated implicit biases linked to negative emotions for some people.

Dr Korb said: “These results highlight how our own opinions can have effects that trickle down to such basic skills as our ability to recognise other people’s emotions. 

“I hope that making the public aware of these biases will allow people to fight against them, and to be less influenced by their misperceptions.”

The study found that perceptions towards the hijab led to misidentifying happy faces as sad – particularly on less intense expressions.

The research studied 141 people in Austria and Turkey monitoring by computer programme their speed, accuracy, and hesitation of responses.

In total 18 per cent of both groups had a slightly negative to very negative view of the hijab.

They were shown images of eight different women wearing it whose facial expressions of happiness and sadness had been morphed into five levels of emotional intensity.

A prompt forced them to decide in under a second, moving a cursor to the labels happy or sad – the trajectory of the mouse cursor also tracked any hesitation.

After finishing they were then asked about their feelings on the head covering, measuring factors such as levels of acceptance, admiration, and hostility.

People tested in Austria and Turkey overall shared overwhelmingly positive views of the hijab and were similar in age, education level and gender.

However, Austrians with more negative opinions about the hijab made more misidentification errors and attributed sadness to happy faces.

Turkish participants with negative views were also biased and saw more sadness in mildly happy faces of women wearing the hijab.

Dr Korb added: “This is one of the really interesting and somewhat surprising aspects of the study.

“Not only did some Westerners have an emotion recognition bias when seeing women wearing the hijab, but a similar effect was also found in the Turkish sample.”

Dr Korb worked with academics Dr Giorgia Silani at the University of Vienna, Tugba Ceren Deniz, and Dr Bengi Ünal at TED University in Turkey, as well as Dr Alasdair Clarke at the University of Essex.

A discussion about the effects of PPE on menopausal women is long overdue
Oct 2021
Writing for The Press & Journal, Angela Kydd, clinical professor in Nursing shares that having a discussion about menopause, PPE and the Covid-19 pandemic is long overdue.

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce. Menopause is a normal stage of life that has until recently remained a taboo subject. It is the stopping of menstrual periods and, on average, naturally occurs at the age of 51, though it can happen much earlier. It can also be induced by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy for cancer.

Every woman has different experiences of their menopausal time, with some having few problems and others experiencing life-changing symptoms. Many women have suffered throughout their menopause, and the years leading up to it, in silence for fear of being treated with derision. The British Menopause Society has listed over 30 associated symptoms, including hot flushes, stress and anxiety, night sweats, joint aches, low mood, fatigue, mood swings, and headaches.

This makes hospitals and care homes care sectors challenging workplaces for women undergoing menopause. The environments need to be warm, the staff usually wear uniforms, and access to cold drinking water and toilet facilities can be difficult. There are nearly 150,000 people employed in the NHS in Scotland, with a median age of 46, of whom 77.4% are women. Similar figures can be seen in the demographics of the care sector, ultimately showing that addressing this scenario and guaranteeing staff well-being should be a top priority for health and social care organisations.

The NHS employer’s website has guidance for HR departments to produce policies on menopause in the workplace. However, despite the added pressure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, little attention appears to have been paid to the impact of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on menopausal women. Wearing protective clothing can exacerbate heat stress which can worsen several of the symptoms, including hot flushes. The use of PPE has increased dramatically since March 2020. Yet, nearly two years into the pandemic, there appears to be little done to address this issue.  The Royal College of Nursing has recommended that managers limit the time that menopausal women must wear PPE, but this is a guide and not yet an employer requirement.

Several other roles—including, firefighters, police, and coastguards, to name a few—wear PPE to minimise the exposure to hazards, and their adverse effects for menopausal women can no longer be ignored. Of further concern, many women perceive menopausal symptoms to have a negative impact on their ability to work effectively. A UK study found that women with severe symptoms had a higher chance of reducing their working hours or leaving employment. This not only has an impact on immediate income but pensions and security in later life. Employers are also losing a skilled workforce.

Menopause is also now considered a crucial gender and age-equality issue, with symptoms often included within equalities legislation. Dealing with its consequences should be part of maintaining an inclusive work environment so that a skilled workforce is not lost.  The NHS and care providers need to create an open, inclusive and supportive culture regarding menopause. This includes improving the workplace environment and with special consideration for staff who must wear PPE.

There have been, however, great moves forward in menopause awareness.  Most recently, the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS), a key international society that promotes and disseminates evidence-based care guidelines on menopause, launched a menopause and work charter. Menopause is now being discussed more openly, with many workplaces acknowledging the need for staff to have organisational support. The creation of World Menopause Day by the International Menopause Society, a global leader on women’s health and well-being in midlife, has also been a definitive step in the right direction. But the date, which takes place annually on October 18th, needs to be advertised widely and celebrated. Increasing population awareness of pertinent issues concerning perimenopausal and menopausal women is long overdue.

Just two minutes of doom and gloom on social media can drag us down
Oct 2021

ust a few minutes of scrolling through doom and gloom stories about COVID on Twitter or YouTube is enough to cause our positive mood to plummet, research has revealed.

The impact is both immediate and significant but researchers from the University of Essex believe we could all improve our mental well-being if the never-ending torrent of bad news was counteracted with some more positive stories

Since early 2020, when the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, stories about COVID-19 have dominated the news and social media. Much of the coverage has been negative – from government regulations and lifestyle restrictions, through protests and rule breaking, to food and equipment shortages and new variants emerging.

A number of scientific studies have found that over the same period levels of anxiety and depression have increased, with those spending more time consulting COVID-related news each day, also reporting higher levels of anxiety.

Psychologists from Essex and Canada, set out to discover whether it was COVID news that was causing poorer mental health and if so, how much exposure to the news, was damaging.

As Dr Kathryn Buchanan, who led the study, explained: “We wanted to find out whether it was exposure to information about COVID that was harmful to one’s well-being, or whether it was in fact that people who were already feeling unhappy and anxious were more likely to seek out more bad news about the pandemic. We also wanted to test how quickly the negative impact was felt.”

In two studies, people were randomly assigned to spend a few minutes consuming COVID-related information, either by reading a real-time Twitter feed or watching a You Tube video of someone commenting on bad COVID news. In both studies participants reported lower well-being compared to a control group, who had not been exposed to any COVID news.

They found as little as two minutes of bad news about COVID-19 was enough to have a powerful effect on people’s emotions, but positive COVID stories, about random acts of kindness, did not have the same negative consequences, suggesting that it is not simply time spent on social media that is problematic, but rather that consumption of bad news is the concern.

“If even a mere few minutes of exposure to bad COVID-related news can result in immediate reductions to well-being, then extended and repeated exposure may over time add up to significant mental health consequences. Our findings suggest the importance of being mindful of one’s own news consumption, especially on social media.

“In some countries, news consumption via social media is on the rise, even though people acknowledge that news on these platforms has lower quality, accuracy, trustworthiness and impartiality. Half of adults in the UK now use social media to keep up with the news, including 16% who use Twitter, and 35% who use Facebook.

People seek out social media for many reasons, other than news consumption, and may not realise that minimal exposure to bad news on these platforms can have such negative consequences.

“One strategy that individuals could employ would be to attempt to undo the negative by balancing it out with positive information. Such an approach would be consistent with recent calls for traditional news media to report one positive story for every three negative stories,” said Dr Buchanan.

The study, carried out with Lara Aknin from Simon Fraser University in Canada, has been published in PLOS ONE.

Cranfield joins state-of-the-art R&D centre for next-generation aerostructures
Oct 2021

Cranfield University has joined Spirit Europe’s Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) as an academic partner at the newly opened research and development facility in Prestwick, Scotland.


The AIC was officially opened by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and has been established as a centre of excellence in advanced materials, digital technologies and processes where Spirit will collaborate with industry and academic partners.


The circa £30 million centre will explore innovative design techniques for products such as aircraft wings, using lightweight composite material technology to reduce flight emissions and lower costs, and is already facilitating more than 20 industry and academic collaborations.


Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, said: “Congratulations to Spirit AeroSystems on the opening of this very impressive facility which will help to advance technologies and capabilities to develop next-generation aerospace components and assembly processes. Cranfield is honoured to be a partner with Spirit and we look forward to working together in the AIC to innovate, train and develop skills for the design and digital manufacturing of current and future aircraft.”


First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “As well as improving the efficiency of aircraft parts, and the way they are manufactured, this facility has the potential to enable growth for industry-leading aerospace innovations and create more high-value manufacturing jobs over the next decade.”


Scott McLarty, Senior Vice-President and General Manager - Airbus Programs and Business Jets, Spirit AeroSystems, and alumnus of Cranfield University, said: “For true innovation to occur, we need a diverse range of ideas and collaboration from a number of areas across the spectrum of research and development. As one of the UK’s leading Aerospace companies, Spirit Europe is proud to establish a collaborative space where we, with our partners in industry and education, will work together to develop new technologies that are competitive and sustainable for aerospace platforms of the future.”


The 90,000 square foot innovation centre on the Spirit Europe campus in Prestwick is capable of manufacturing components of up to 20 metres in length. It features 55,000 square feet of

manufacturing space, a materials lab, and office and conference space to accommodate over 200 people.


The AIC has been opened with investment from Spirit Europe of circa £25 million together with almost £5 million grant funding from Scottish Enterprise.

Tackling loneliness with mixed reality technology
Sep 2021

Scientists are exploring whether off-the-shelf technology that brings together the virtual and physical world can be used to tackle the growing problem of loneliness in the UK.

The team are assessing the suitability and feasibility of devices that could, for example, display live holograms of friends and family in a living room to recreate the social interactions that many hold so dearly.

Located hundreds of miles away from each other, friends and relatives could experience a connectedness much closer to real-life interactions, the team say, whether it be in their own home or a care setting.

The project is an attempt at tackling chronic loneliness, with around 1.5m peopled aged 50 and over in the UK reported to be suffering from the condition. A recent UK government white paper suggested that loneliness could be costing private sector employers up to £2.5 billion a year due to absence and productivity losses.

This growing problem has been made worse by the numerous lockdowns imposed throughout the coronavirus pandemic over the last 18 months, severing the physical ties between friends and relatives even further.

Thanks to new funding from UKRI, the Cardiff University team will look to develop a software prototype that will include a virtual reality headset, worn by a user, and a telepresence robot that can beam images and sounds of the friends and relatives back to the user in various shapes and forms, such as a hologram.

The researchers describe the technology as ‘mixed reality’ and liken the experience to playing the popular smartphone game Pokémon Go.

“You can imagine an elderly relative sitting in their living room with a cup of tea and interacting with their relatives as if they were sat right in front of them,” said the project’s principal investigator Dr Daniel J. Finnegan, from Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics.

“This technology could be used to render holograms of people that could literally be hundreds or thousands of miles away and allow people to chat or play games with one another as if they were in the same physical place. Our aim is to support community building activities and reduce the growing loneliness epidemic.

The first stages of the project will involve gathering information from potential end-users, with both price and technology being potential barriers for the elderly.

Dr Finnegan plans to work alongside charities and other organizations to develop the product and help role it out to stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on developing training programs for carers to equip them with necessary IT skills required to engage with the technology.

“In a world dominated by social media, where we have so many tools and technologies to connect with another, loneliness remains a huge problem,” Dr Finnegan continued.

“This, I believe, could be linked to the shallow experience of connectedness these technologies provide. Connectedness is more than just being connected – it requires a shared understanding, the chance to socialize, agency and independence, and to share meaningful experiences and interact with other human beings.

“By using technology in a smart, meaningful, and research-driven way, this project aims to reduce feelings of emotional and social loneliness and isolation and go some way to addressing the growing problem in the UK.”

The funding, awarded through UKRI, was part of The Healthy Longevity Global Competition, with over 500 awards worth £62,500 each issued globally as seed funding to advance innovative ideas.

‘First-of-its-kind’ levy-funded custom-made executive development programme promises to transform businesses’ leadership pipelines
Sep 2021

Cranfield University has launched a first-of-its-kind, custom-made executive development programme addressing management and leadership skills shortage at scale, eligible to be funded by the apprenticeship levy.

Designed to develop the talent of companies' whole leadership pipelines, the Senior Leader Executive Programme is an in-work level 7 apprenticeship tailored to the strategic needs and agenda of individual businesses and flexed around their requirements.

The 20-month programme aims to equip 'accidental' leaders and experienced managers alike with the knowledge, skills and capabilities they need to help shape and drive forward their company's strategic agenda.

As well as achieving a Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship, participants can also gain a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership Practice, and be granted Chartered Manager Fellow status (CMgr FCMI).

Leading global professional services firm Aon was the first to sign up to the new programme.

Julie Hyett, UK and Ireland Talent Lead at Aon, said: "As a firm, we are absolutely committed to developing our colleagues across all levels of the business, and we're keen to make use of our apprenticeship levy funds to help us to do that.

"Cranfield's reputation for excellence in executive education is unrivalled, and we are delighted to be able to draw on their expertise through such a wide-ranging development programme. The depth and capacity that Cranfield brings will allow us to access the best of both worlds. We will benefit from Cranfield's world-class leadership development, which is absolutely focused on the real and the tangible – the day-to-day reality of our firm, its operational challenges and our strategic objectives."

The Cranfield Senior Leader Executive Programme is a 15-month apprenticeship, delivered via a combination of live online masterclasses, face-to-face and recorded sessions, that is followed by a five-month end point assessment.

Throughout the programme, learners are expected to role model, reflect and sustain the leadership, coaching and mentoring practices advocated on the programme, and to enhance their commercial acumen by compiling an applied in-work experience portfolio and developing new strategic business propositions that create business value and tangible returns.

Professor David Oglethorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Cranfield School of Management, said: "We are really excited about the potential of this new programme. It has been designed to be lean, yet transformative; to be fast-paced and acutely targeted, giving organisations maximum return on their investment.

"Having worked with Aon before in taking some of its high-potential employees through our Business and Strategic Leadership MSc, I am not surprised the firm was the first to sign up to this new programme. Aon is very future-focused, has bold plans for what it wants to achieve in the coming years, and admirable determination to deliver on those plans through strategic investment in developing the capabilities of its colleagues.

"We are looking forward to working with the Aon team in a broader context over the coming months to enhance the transformation we are already seeing taking place within the firm."

The Senior Leader Executive Programme is led by Cranfield Executive Development and draws on the expertise of faculty from Cranfield School of Management, one of an elite group of triple-accredited business schools and consistently ranked as one of the top 30 business schools in Europe for executive development.

New heritage centre showcases 6,000 years of West Cardiff history
Sep 2021

A community project which has helped people connect with the rich history of their local area is celebrating the completion of a new £650,000 community and visitor attraction.

The Hidden Hillfort Community Heritage Centre is the culmination of a ten-year programme of community initiatives led by the Caerau and Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project, a partnership between Cardiff University, Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), local schools, residents and heritage partners.

Attended by First Minister Mark Drakeford in his capacity as the Member of Senedd for Cardiff West, the opening showcased the new state-of-the-art building and surrounding garden with volunteer-led tours running throughout the day and a VR experience and archaeological finds on display.

A new prehistoric-themed children’s playground, funded by Wales and West Housing and Cardiff Council, is also now open to families.

Local involvement, co-creation and community participation

The centre, a redeveloped gospel hall on Church Road, will act as a gateway for visitors to discover the 6,000-year history of Caerau and Ely – two vibrant Cardiff communities which face some significant social and economic challenges.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, it will be a place for volunteers, local residents, school pupils and visitors to explore and celebrate Caerau Hillfort alongside heritage professionals, artists, academics and university students.

Over the coming months, the project team will plan heritage trails, art installations, information and signage around the monument, heritage themed gardens, a community fridge and heritage food projects to address local challenges including food poverty.

This kind of local involvement, co-creation and community participation has always been at the heart of the CAER Heritage project and Co-director Dr Oliver Davis hopes the Centre will act as a catalyst to get more people involved.

Dr Davis, who is a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: “The visitor centre is the culmination of ten years of work by thousands of participants, many being school children, volunteers and residents from the local area.

“Over that time we’ve worked together to co-create geophysical surveys, museum exhibitions, adult learners’ courses, art installations, creative writing, dance performances, banner processions, history projects, films and heritage trails.

“We want to involve those same people in our discussions about the centre too, so we can ensure that it best serves them and their communities going forward.”

Dave Horton, Co-Director of Action in Caerau and Ely, added: “We’re building on years of research that we’ve carried out with local people through the CAER Heritage project, based on this amazing historical site.

“And the idea of the Centre is for it to really put this place on the map and provide a gateway to the monument, so that first and foremost local people can access it, understand it and embrace it as an important part of their community and an important part of their story.

“But also we want it to run as a community centre as well. So we want it to be a space that local people can use for all kinds of activities and projects that help benefit their community and also a place where they can build on their skills, energy and enthusiasm so they can make changes they want to see in the local area.”

Breaking down barriers to higher education

CAER Heritage opens up new educational opportunities for people of all ages including scholarships schemes and skills development at Cardiff University. The project team hopes that the new Centre will become a hub to further break down barriers to higher education for local volunteers like Doug, 60, who lives in Caerau and joined the project after a near-miss car crash.

He said: “We’d been involved in an accident and I was having a lot of bad dreams and didn’t want to go out. I kept having thoughts about what would’ve happened if it’d been a few inches closer. I still don’t like driving past the spot where it happened.”

A full-time carer for his wife, Doug found the project helped him get out of the house again and into the surrounding woodlands.

“Once this took off, I just had a bit more interest. It’s a nice place to come and work and it keeps me fit too because I hike up here. I like to get out into the woods and help get them tidied up. To be part of this big project is fantastic. It’s a good atmosphere and basically we’re a community,” he said.

Participating in the project also reignited Doug’s love for history, which led him onto the Exploring the Past pathway programme at Cardiff University.

“I spent most of my time at school sat at the back messing about, so getting onto the pathway to a degree course has been the main change for me. I doubt that I would have got to this point on my own,” he said.

With the opening of the visitor centre and heritage trails underway, Doug wants to see the woods developed next, to create jobs for the local community.

“I’d like to set up a wood yard as it would’ve been back in Roman times to make simple things like fences. You weave them out of branches, so basically it would be somewhere that would produce these and use them on the site. It would go with the theme and the general atmosphere of the place,” Doug explained. Find out more about the CAER Heritage Project.