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

News

Official recognition for a cybersecurity degree program
Thu
15
Apr 2021

Cardiff University’s MSc in Cybersecurity has been officially certified by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The provisional certification has been made in recognition of the high-quality teaching and learning resources offered by the course as well as the breadth of content that is taught throughout the one-year degree programme.

Developed in conjunction with industry and aligned with NCSC recommendations, the MSc in Cybersecurity provides students with the very latest security principles, practices, tools and techniques.

As well as studying areas such as secure application development, risk management, malware analysis and digital forensics, students are given an understanding of the business continuity and transformation aspects that are crucial to cyber resilience in an ever-evolving threat landscape.

Led by a team of world-class cybersecurity researchers in a well-equipped computer laboratory with 24/7 remote access, the course prepares students for one of the most in-demand roles, with graduates placed in a variety of roles in cybersecurity, digital forensics and data sciences.

The course is run by the School of Computer Science & Informatics and is a part of the University’s Data Science Academy.

Cardiff University is one of ten universities to be certified by the NCSC, which is a part of GCHQ, in the latest round of announcements, joining a number of high-profile institutions from across the UK.

The NCSC degree certification programme recognises high-quality cyber education and is designed to help students make informed choices about pursuing cybersecurity degrees.

Official data shows more than half of UK students (52%) pursuing a cybersecurity-related Master’s degree chose an NCSC-certified course.

On making the announcement, Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “It’s great to see more UK universities being recognised for their work in developing skilled cyber security professionals.

“Offering a certified degree helps prospective students make more informed choices about their future careers and employers can rest assured that graduates will be well-taught and have valued industry skills.”

Professor Peter Burnap, Director of the Cardiff Centre for Cyber Security Research, said: “I am absolutely delighted that our MSc has been provisionally certified by the NCSC and that Cardiff University has been recognised amongst the very best places in the UK to come and study cybersecurity.

“We place a very strong emphasis on developing the very best degree programmes so that our students know they are receiving a distinctive learning experience that makes them well equipped for entering the world of work.

“There has never been a more exciting and important time to start a career in cybersecurity and in conjunction with a number of high-profile research centres and industry collaborations that are based here at Cardiff University, we are fast-becoming the obvious choice to begin that journey.”

Dr Yulia Cherdantseva, cybersecurity education lead in the School of Computer Science & Informatics said: “I am delighted to see the MSc Cybersecurity gain certification from NCSC. This fits into a broad programme of activities in our cybersecurity education strategy, aiming at addressing the significant shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals worldwide.

“Cardiff University MSc Cybersecurity has been carefully designed in close collaboration with an Industry Advisory Board to ensure that graduates gain the skills which are sought after by employers. This MSc programme is an excellent next step for anyone pursuing a career in cybersecurity.”

ARCHAEOLOGY OFFERS A WAY TO MEASURE THE EXTENT HUMANS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Thu
15
Apr 2021

A worldwide team of academics are offering a new way to measure and quantify the extent humans have contributed to global climate change using archaeology, a new paper shows.

The team led by archaeologists from the University of Glasgow, University of Pennsylvania (Penn), USA and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain hope their project will improve predications about the planet’s future and fill in the gaps about its past.

The archaeology project, called PAGES LandCover6K, is showing how humans have transformed the earth to such an extent over the last 12,000 years that they have contributed to current global climate changes.

In their new PLOS ONE paper, the team have created a classification system that allows them to quantify the global extent of that transformation and offer an example of this through a case study of the Middle East and Arabia 6000 years ago.

These land change transformations can now be passed onto modellers who will use this new classification system to correct their land use and climate models that project climate changes into the future.

Dr Nicki Whitehouse, a University of Glasgow archaeologist, said: “Archaeology provides us with important information around global land use that helps us understand how humans have affected past land use and cover at a global scale, including the crops and animals being farmed, how they were being farmed, the extent of land cleared for crops and how much land was needed to feed growing populations.

“This incredible archaeological resource of information not only helps us understand these past activities but also help us to understand how humans continue to impact our global climate systems into the future.”

Professor Kathleen Morrison, a University of Pennsylvania archaeologist, said: “Archaeology provides an incredible resource of information to understand how humans have modified the earth system in the past and how these past activities will continue to impact our global climate systems into the future.

“While humans have transformed landscapes for thousands of years, we can’t just say that. We have to demonstrate it.”

Professor Marco Madella of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, said: “Though current Earth system models suggest that human activity over the past 12,000 years influenced regional and global climate, the models do not capture the diversity and intensity of human activities that affected past land cover, nor do they capture carbon and water cycles.”

PAGES LandCover6k, now in its sixth year, includes more than 200 archaeologists, historians, geographers, palaeoecologists, and climate modelers around the world.

One of LandCover6k’s goals is to collect archaeological and historical evidence of land-use systems from four slices of time -12,000 years ago, 6,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, and around the year 1500 - into a single database that anyone can comprehend and use.

Led by Professor Morrison, Professor Madella, and Dr Whitehouse, with data expertise from Penn landscape archaeologist Assistant Professor Emily Hammer and others, LandCover6k offers what the researchers hope will become a tool to improve predications about the planet’s future, plus fill in gaps about its past.

In a new PLOS ONE paper, they provide a detailed introduction to LandCover6k’s land-use classification system and global database.

To share this data meant first creating a common language that scientists across disciplines could understand.

Partially because of a lack of shared terminology, archaeologists have not tried to collect and compare data on a global scale, something the project’s palaeoecologists and modelers had already been doing.

The LandCover6k team have created a flexible, global hierarchical classification system and a uniform terminology for land use that can be used in all regions of the world, allowing researchers to understand where and how prehistoric and historic communities were altering land use patterns. The hope, broadly speaking, is to offer enough nuance in the classification system for the archaeological community, yet still make the data accessible to climate modellers.

It “takes the perspective of land rather than people,” as the researchers write in PLOS ONE, and employs a consistent 8x8 kilometre global grid scale. “That’s quite large, from an archaeological perspective,” Assistant Professor Hammer said, “but we did that to make sure that one person isn’t drawing something very small and another person very large.”

To showcase how the classification works, the researchers offer the example of the Middle East 6,000 years ago. This region, the area represented by modern day Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen, was home to some of the earliest agriculture in the world. Using the new classification and database, the team built a regional land-use map, despite data availability differing from one spot to the next.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE USED TO AUTOMATE ASSESSMENT OF MESOTHELIOMA
Tue
13
Apr 2021

Patients receiving treatment for the “asbestos cancer”, Mesothelioma, are being assessed with Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of a prototype imaging system which could revolutionise the way people with the disease are cared for. Scotland currently has the highest incidence of Mesothelioma in the world, a reflection of the historical use of asbestos in many UK industries, including shipbuilding and construction.

Canon Medical Research Europe, a Scottish firm specialising in next generation medical imaging software, and the University of Glasgow are set to publish clinical findings from a study evaluating a new, world-leading AI-driven cancer assessment tool, developed as part of the Cancer Innovation Challenge.

The study team, which comprises AI and data scientists at Canon Medical and University of Glasgow clinical researchers based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Research and Innovation staff, created a prototype AI system able to automatically find and measure Mesothelioma on CT scans, which are used to assess patient’s response to drug treatments like chemotherapy. The AI was trained by showing it over 100 CT scans, on which an expert clinician had drawn around all areas of the tumour – showing the AI what to look for. The trained AI was then shown a new set of scans and was able to find and measure the tumour extremely accurately, without any human input.

The tool, which could revolutionise the fight against cancer, intentionally focused on Mesothelioma given its prominence in Scotland and because it is one of the most difficult-to-measure cancers on CT scans. This is because it grows like a ‘rind’ around the surface of the lung, forming a complex shape - rather than a round ball like most tumours. The successful results of the project will provide a strong foundation for similar tools to be developed in the assessment of other cancers.

At present, treatment options for Mesothelioma are limited and clinical trials are critical for discovery of new, more effective treatments. The AI tool streamlines tumour measurements, potentially making clinical trials of new drugs less expensive, less time-consuming and more accurate. After further validation work, which is now ongoing as part of an international ‘accelerator’ network funded by Cancer Research UK, the AI tool may soon be available to help doctors measure Mesothelioma on scans during treatment with greater precision and at a reduced cost.

Keith Goatman, Principal Scientist at Canon Medical, said: “The speed and accuracy of the AI algorithm could have a wide-reaching impact on Mesothelioma treatment. Accurate tumour volume measurements are much too time-consuming to perform by hand. Automating these measurements will open the way for clinical trials of new treatments, by detecting even small changes in the tumour size. Ultimately, it could be used routinely in hospitals to decide the best treatment for each individual.

“The funding and support from the Cancer Innovation Challenge has been vital in bringing this idea to life, and we are looking forward to continuing our work with the excellent team at the University of Glasgow in the years to come. This work is a strong first step towards real change in the treatment of all cancers – not just Mesothelioma.”

Professor Kevin Blyth, Professor of Respiratory Medicine in the University of Glasgow, and Honorary Consultant Respiratory Physician at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “To our knowledge, this study is world-leading in its successful use of AI to assess treatment response in Mesothelioma. Using external data sets to validate our results, we have shown that tumours can be accurately measured by AI, giving us a new tool that will help us make better decisions for patients on treatment and reducing barriers to development of new treatments in clinical trials.

“The results, which are testament to the expertise of Canon Medical and made possible by the Cancer Innovation Challenge funding, have acted as a springboard towards our next project, the PREDICT-Meso Accelerator, which is now allowing us to further develop the AI so that it can start benefiting patients soon.”

Launched in 2017, the Cancer Innovation Challenge is a £1 million project funded by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Funding Council to encourage collaboration between innovation centres, medical professionals and cutting-edge healthcare businesses to help Scotland become a world-leader in cancer care.

The project brings together three Innovation Centres, led by The Data Lab in collaboration with Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI) and Precision Medicine Scotland.

Steph Wright, Director of Health & Wellbeing Engagement at The Data Lab, added: “The work to develop this world-leading tool from Canon Medical and the University of Glasgow, represents an incredibly exciting healthcare innovation. Not only does it have the potential to revolutionise Mesothelioma cancer care through more targeted treatment, but it may also be able to be applied to a number of other cancer types in the future.

“It’s been a privilege to play a part in helping to deliver the Scottish Funding Council’s Cancer Innovation Challenge initiative, supporting and spotlighting the companies carrying out valuable work that can help make Scotland a leader in data-driven cancer support. Through projects like this, we really can show that data saves lives.”

Following publication of the initial study results, the team will continue to work together, supported by part of a £5million funding award made by CRUK, for the PREDICT-Meso Accelerator led by Prof Blyth. In addition to AI optimisation, this project aims to understand how asbestos-driven inflammation develops into Mesothelioma and develop new treatments for the disease. Canon Medical is a key collaborator on this project.


Study reveals the extent of human impact on the world’s plant-life
Mon
29
Mar 2021

Research has shed new light on the impact of humans on Earth’s biodiversity. The findings suggest that the rate of change in an ecosystem’s plant-life increases significantly during the years following human settlement, with the most dramatic changes occurring in locations settled in the last 1500 years.

An international research team studied fossilised pollen dating back 5000 years, extracted from sediments on 27 islands. By analysing the fossils they were able to build up an understanding of the composition of each island’s vegetation and how it changed from the oldest to the most recent pollen samples.

The study was led by Dr Sandra Nogué, Lecturer in Palaeoenvironmental Science at the University of Southampton, UK and Professor Manuel Steinbauer from the University of Bayreuth, Germany and University of Bergen, Norway. PhD student Dr Alvaro Castilla-Beltrán was also a member of the Southampton team.

Dr Nogué said, “Islands provide the ideal environment to measure human impact as most were settled in the past 3000 years when climates were similar to today’s conditions. Knowing when the settlers arrived on an island means that scientists can study how the composition of its ecosystem changed in the years before and after.”

The results, published in Science, showed a consistent pattern on 24 of the islands where human arrival accelerated the turnover of vegetation by, on average, a factor of eleven. The most rapid changes occurred in islands that were settled more recently - such as the Galápagos, first inhabited in the 16th Century. Islands where humans arrived more than 1500 years ago, such as Fiji and New Caledonia, saw a slower rate of change.

“This difference in change could mean that the islands populated earlier were more resilient to human arrival but it is more likely that the land-use practices, technology and introduced species brought in by the later settlers were more transformative than those of the earlier settlers,” explained Dr Nogué.

The trends were observed across a range of geographic locations and climates, with islands such as Iceland producing similar results to Tenerife and other tropical and temperate islands.

Ecosystem change can also be driven by a number of natural factors such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, extreme weather and changing sea levels, however the researchers have found that disturbance caused by humans surpasses all of these events and the change is often irreversible. They therefore advise that conservation strategies must account for the long-term impact of humans and the degree to which ecological changes today differ from prehuman times.

“Whilst it is unrealistic to expect ecosystems to return to their pre-settlement conditions, our findings may help to inform targeted restoration efforts and provide greater understanding into the islands’ responsiveness to change,” concluded Dr Nogué.

UNDERSTANDING THE CENSUS
Tue
23
Mar 2021

Southampton Spotlight shines a light on the impact our University is having across the world, through the achievements of the individuals that make up our community.

On 21 March 2021, England and Wales completed the once-in-a-decade national survey, which helps us to understand more about our communities and how we live.

We’ve all heard of the Census, but why is it so important? What does the data collected from the census get used for, and why could carrying it out in the middle of a global pandemic be both a good and bad thing?

David Martin, Professor of Geography in Geography and Environmental Science, is something of a celebrity in the Census world. His decades of involvement in the Census process and the world of population mapping has shaped the way that the survey is run. Over the years, he has worked with University colleagues and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to develop new ways of mapping our country through its people.

Just weeks before Census 2021 took place, David spoke on our podcast, Universi-tea, to share his experiences and answer questions about the survey.

Listen to David’s podcast interview below, or find all Universi-tea episodes online.

In this Southampton Spotlight article, we’re sharing some of his answers, including some that weren’t included in the final version of the podcast episode.

Why is the Census so important, and what is it used for?

The Census in England and Wales is carried out by the ONS, the National Statistical Agency that produces data on inflation, COVID-19, population, and migration ─ so a huge range of core national information. But the Census is our one chance to attempt to count everybody and get a detailed picture. 

It is important to learn how one neighbourhood differs from another: for example, in terms of deprivation, differences in COVID-19 rates, concentrations of older generations, or distributions of ethnic groups. It's not too difficult to work out roughly how many people there are in the country from quite a few different sources ─ the number of people registered with the NHS, for example. But these sources won't tell you reliably about ethnicity, how people live together in families, or about their jobs.  There are many questions that the Census asks, which allow us to work out these sorts of details. 

Census data gets used in a huge variety of ways. For example, we understand the differential impacts of COVID-19, because we've got the ethnicity data and the detailed geography from the 2011 census. You might find that the mix of goods down at your local supermarket will have been, in part, determined by local spending habits and basic demographics from the Census. It’s the same with predicting future school places or looking at hospital beds. We don't, at the moment, have any other source that gives that amount of detail. There's no alternative. 


"In a historical sense, this census will tell us a colossal amount about why we are who we are now and how we've changed over time.

"


                                                  - Professor of Geography in Geography and Environmental Science

Why wasn’t Census 2021 in England and Wales postponed until the pandemic had subsided?

The answer to that is, as you'd expect, a very complex one. 

When we went into lockdown in March 2020 and the immediate future looked quite uncertain, England, Wales and Northern Ireland were looking at how far they were into the Census process. The questions in the Census couldn’t be changed, because they had gone through Parliament in early 2020 based on a White Paper from 2018. So, these nations all decided that they were so far through the process, and the need for the data was so pressing, that it was better to go ahead. 

If you don't measure it in the moment, you can't go back, so in a historical sense this census will tell us a colossal amount about why we are who we are now and how we've changed over time.

What’s your involvement with the Census and how did this come about?

My involvement goes back to the mid-1990s. I was here at Southampton and had some study leave, and I got in touch with the ONS and asked if there was any chance of borrowing a desk and working with them for a bit.

I started looking at their first implementation of what we call a Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a standard technology in geography, and our undergraduates take GIS courses as part of their training. We were right at the beginning of thinking that we could use GIS in the Census. I programmed an alternative way of mapping the areas used for data, and they liked it.

I devised a prototype of the system that was used in 2001, 2011 and again now in 2021. I've carried on working on it because they're great people to work with and it's been a fascinating project. I'm only one little bit of a huge jigsaw.

What’s driven your involvement in the Census, and what are you most proud of?

Part of my motivation for getting involved in this area is my fascination with seeing small area mapping. For me, the biggest satisfaction is seeing it used in academic papers, newspapers, websites ─ people using the data that we've helped to create. 

What matters to me is when people want to use the data because they want to hold the government to account and use it to work out how we will go forward from here. I get a big kick out of seeing that change is happening; it's a real opportunity to make a difference. 


VACCINE HESITANCY MORE LIKELY IN YOUNG PEOPLE, WOMEN AND SOME ETHNIC GROUPS
Mon
15
Mar 2021

Young people, women and some ethnic groups, including black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups, are less likely to take-up a COVID-19 vaccine when offered, according to new research.

In a new large-scale UK-wide study, led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Essex, researchers looked at vaccine hesitancy in the population alongside the reasons why the COVID-19 vaccine would be accepted or refused. Their findings are published today in the journal Brain Behaviour and Immunity and were based on data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study.

Overall intention to have the COVID-19 vaccine was high, with 53.5% of participants very likely to and a further 28.5% likely to take up vaccination when offered. However, there were marked differences in some population subgroups including black people, Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups and younger age groups.

The study found that black or black British were the ethnic group with the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy, with 71.8% of the people surveyed in that group reporting that they wouldn’t have a COVID-19 vaccination. Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups were the next most vaccine hesitant ethnic group, with 42.3% reporting they wouldn’t take-up vaccination when offered.

A higher proportion of female participants indicated vaccine hesitancy, 21% compared to 14.7% of male participants. Younger age groups were also more vaccine hesitant with 28.3% of younger adults aged 25-34 reporting they wouldn’t take up the vaccine, compared to only 14.3% in the 55-64 age group, 8.1% in the 65-74 age group and 4.5% in the 75+ age group. Vaccine hesitancy was also inversely linked with education, with the most educated least likely to be vaccine hesitant.

The main reasons for vaccine hesitancy were concerns over future unknown effects of a vaccine, with 42.7% citing this as their main reason. Reasons for vaccine hesitancy were often similar across ethnic groups however, when compared to the White British/Irish group, Black/Black British participants were more likely to state they ‘Don’t trust vaccines’ (29.2% vs 5.7%) and the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group reported worries about side-effects (35.4% vs 8.6%).

The two ethnic groups most likely to take up the COVID-19 vaccine when offered were the white British and Irish groups with 84.8% being likely or very likely to take a vaccine, and the any other Asian background group, which includes participants of Chinese ethnicity, 86.1% of which said they would take up the vaccine.

Professor Vittal Katikireddi, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “Our study data shows a positive picture in terms of being willing to vaccinated overall, however the research does highlight that very large differences in vaccine hesitancy exist by ethnicity, with some but not all minority ethnic groups being hesitant.

“These differences highlight the potential to widen health inequalities, and therefore the importance of deliberate efforts to engage with these groups as a priority. Initiatives to improve uptake in Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups within the UK should continue to be a priority – for example, by working in close partnership with communities and making use of community champions.”

When asked what would most convince participants to take the vaccine, 43.2% of Black/Black British maintained that they would not take it, while a further 44.7% reported that they would if the vaccine was demonstrated to be safe. Pakistani and Bangladeshi participants reported that they may be persuaded if the vaccine reduced their risk of catching COVID-19 and if it was demonstrated to be safe.

The paper, ‘Predictors of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the UK Household Longitudinal Study’ is published in Brain Behaviour and Immunity. The work is funded by the Medical Research Council and Scotland’s Chief Scientist Office. The Understanding Society COVID-19 study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Health Foundation.  

TWO NEW DIABETES DRUGS MAY WORK BETTER IN ASIAN PEOPLE
Fri
12
Mar 2021

Two relatively-new but increasingly commonly-used diabetes drugs (with one of these classes also now approved for used in heart failure in people with or without diabetes) are possibly more effective in people with an Asian background than in people with a White background, according to new research.

The study – published today in Diabetes Care and led by the University of Glasgow – found the diabetes drug classes GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors may work better at lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke, and heart failure and death from heart disease, respectively.

People with an Asian background, including South Asian and East/Southeast people, experience a greater burden of type 2 diabetes compared with those with a White background.

Of the antihyperglycemic drug classes used to treat diabetes, drug classes GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors are the only ones to show consistent benefits in cardiovascular outcomes. In this study, researchers meta-analysed data from six trials of SGLT2is; four diabetes trials and two heart failure outcome trials. They also analysed data from six diabetes outcome trials for the GLP-1 receptor agonist class.

The study found a greater benefit of GLP-1RA therapy on heart attack and stroke risks in people with an Asian background compared with those with a White background across all types of the drug tested. In addition, SGLT2i drugs had at least as good an effect on reducing risk of major cardiovascular events in people with diabetes in Asians, but potentially had a better effect on heart failure outcomes in this group compared with Whites in the heart failure trials.

Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said: “These data show something potentially exciting for doctors treating Asians with diabetes. That Asians may benefit more from a class of drugs to lower heart attack and stroke risks in people with diabetes is exciting, since diabetes is more common in many Asian populations, and finding new ways to lower their cardiovascular risks is helpful”.

“At the same time, potentially better outcomes in Asians with heart failure with SGLT2 inhibitors is also exciting. Such findings now need confirmation and future trials should better categorise people with an Asian background into differing subgroups so that we can work out whether the findings apply to all people with an Asian background or specific subgroups.”

The paper, ‘Meta-analyses of Results From Randomized Outcome Trials Comparing Cardiovascular Effects of SGLT2is and GLP-1RAs in Asian Versus White Patients With and Without Type 2 Diabetes’ is published in Diabetes Care.


Impact of ultra-thin dolls on girls’ body image
Thu
11
Mar 2021

What was your favourite childhood toy? A car? A teddy bear? A doll? Many of us have fond memories of playing with dolls: dressing them up, combing their hair or doing some kind of role play with other toys.

But new research shows that playing with ultra-thin dolls could make young girls want a thinner body.

The small-scale study, led by our Psychology Department, shows that ultra-thin dolls may negatively affect body image in girls as young as five years old.

Body dissatisfaction

The researchers warn that the dolls, combined with exposure to ‘thin ideals’ in films, on TV and social media, could lead to body dissatisfaction in young girls, which has been shown to be a factor in the development of eating disorders.

In the research, thirty girls aged between 5-9 years old played with an ultra-thin doll, a realistic childlike doll or a car. Before and after each play session, the girls were asked about their perceived own body size and ideal body size via an interactive computer test using pictures.

Playing with the ultra-thin dolls reduced girls’ ideal body size in the immediate aftermath of play. And there was no improvement when they subsequently played with the childlike dolls or cars afterwards, showing that the effects cannot be immediately counteracted with other toys. The realistic children’s dolls were relatively neutral for girls’ body ideals.

Body ideals

The vast majority of the girls who took part in the study had access to ultra-thin dolls at home or with their friends and almost all of them also watched Disney and related films, which also tend to portray very thin female bodies.

In the study, the girls played with the dolls in pairs and before and after their play session, they were asked to change the body size in a picture of a girl to what they thought they looked like themselves, what they would like to look like and what they thought a beautiful woman looks like.

The experimental study contributes to a growing number of studies which show that doll play may affect the beauty ideals that young girls internalise.


World Book Day: creativity and teaching during COVID
Mon
1
Mar 2021
On World Book Day (March 4) this year, Warwick’s student teachers will be in an online lesson of their own, using books and bookmaking to inspire ideas and creative methods of teaching, while they look forward to getting back into a real classroom later this spring.

The past twelve months have been challenging and topsy turvy for us all, but the continuation of education for children and young people has been one of the biggest hurdles. Parents have become teachers and teachers have delivered lessons virtually. But how about those teaching the teachers, and how are the trainees learning to be creative during their time in school and at University?

The University of Warwick’s Centre for Teacher Education trains over 500 newly qualified teachers every year, with over 90% of them going on to teach within the region. This year lockdown may have impacted some of students’ training, but tweaks to the normal programme mean they will now be joining newly re-opened schools later this spring.

Professor Des Hewitt from the Centre for Teacher Education explains: “Normally most of our course takes place in schools, so it has been important that we do everything we can to continue placements. Our students have been learning online at the University – and yes – this does present challenges but there are so many positives for them to take away and now, with the planned reopening of schools ahead of us, they are really looking forward to return to schools and put into practice what they have learned over the last few months.

“Warwick, like all Universities has been dynamic in its response to the pandemic, implementing online, interactive teaching, whilst also maintaining high quality placements in schools. The University and partner schools have worked together to make this happen.

“Our style is to concentrate on constructive engagement – so doing something creative and purposeful which absorbs our students as individuals and they can then transfer those skills into the classroom.”

This year’s World Book Day presents exactly that opportunity for trainee teachers to use a creative hook to deliver learning across a range of subjects. This year Warwick CTE is delivering a training day full of ideas and teaching methodology but also creativity and fun, including a book making session led by PGCE student Alice Mallinson.

Alice explains: “I am an artist and I wanted to use art to help children access education and learning and that is why I enrolled on the PGCE. I’m thrilled to be asked to share what I do with the rest of the students and that they may be able to use the ideas in their future careers as teachers.”

Alice has made a simple folded book templates which can be illustrated and used in storytelling. She has also drawn templates of characters which can be printed off and used in the task.

Alice adds: “This task is not just for teachers to use in the classroom either – it can be done easily at home and I hope that it encourages families to share a creative moment and find joy in making a fun little story book together, using simple, inexpensive materials.”

STEP BY STEP: HOW TO MAKE AND ILLUSTRATE A SIMPLE BOOK ABOUT A STRANGE ANIMAL

Step 1

Take a sheet of A4 paper. Fold in half down the long length. Then fold the long rectangle in half to make a shorter rectangle, and then in half again. Unfold your piece of paper – you should have eight rectangles.



Step 2

Make the original fold again along the long length and then concertina fold along the shorter creases, until you have a zigzag effect folded book which reveals four facing ‘pages’.





Step 3Arrange your book so it is folded up and you can reveal each panel by flipping the top panel over away from your body. Begin drawing different parts on each leaf, head first. Make sure each body part joins up to the next. As you flip over a leaf you should reveal the neck and upper body, then the middle, then the legs and feet. Make up a story as you go about how your fantasy animal ended up with the face of a bull, a giraffe’s neck and chicken’s feet – or any combination you like! Be adventurous.

Step 4Colour in your artwork and start telling your story to your family!

Supporting a zero-carbon future through transport innovation
Mon
25
Jan 2021
Professor David Greenwood, CEO of WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Director for Industrial Engagement and Professor of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, University of Warwick, looks ahead to COP26, the ban on sales of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2030 and considers how the UK could and should become a global leader in the decarbonisation of transport.

The green revolution in the UK has stepped up a gear as we approach COP26, and the UK aims to demonstrate a globally leading role in carbon reduction. Policies and plans have been outlined to ensure that environmental sustainability and proactive emission reduction feature as core principles as we aim to rebuild the economy post-Covid.

In order to realise the benefits of these policies, such as better air quality, healthier lives, thriving industries, boosted employment and diversified skillsets, a clear set of measurable overarching goals is needed so that efforts across multiple sectors can be aligned. This also enables businesses and individuals to become accountable and responsible for meeting such targets.

The Government’s recent public commitment to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 based on 1990 levels highlights a substantial objective, with an accompanying Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution aiming to improve skills, training, access to finance and innovation in Britain.

Batteries are the critical technology

Within the 10 Point Plan, approximately 30% of the objectives revolve around transport, and specifically delivering zero emission vehicles across land, sea and air. All of these technologies – whether plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles or fuel cells, rely on batteries for their operation. The decarbonisation of personal transport by moving to Electric Vehicles (EVs) will be a major contributor to delivering on this challenge. The current generation of EV technology performs well in passenger cars but the cost associated with buying an EV, the range between recharges, and the availability of charging infrastructure are regularly cited as the barriers to widespread adoption. The cost of the battery can be half the cost of the entire vehicle and is the biggest factor in this. To reduce costs and alleviate range concerns, two things must happen – significant investment in fast charging infrastructure, meaning that battery sizes (and costs) can be reduced, and sustained investment in R&D into the technology of batteries and their manufacturing processes to make them cheaper and more sustainable.

The next big thing is small

The banning of sales for petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles from 2035 gives a clear deadline for electrification – for passenger cars at least. However, further improvements will come from changes in the way we travel.

Mass transit like buses, trams and trains, especially when electrified, can be much more environmentally and economically efficient when compared to the private ownership of cars. These have, however, fallen out of favour during the Coronavirus pandemic and it remains to be seen whether the consequent shift in travel behaviours will persist beyond that. An alternative solution for the 80% of UK journeys which are less than 10 miles is micro-mobility, which can reduce emissions, congestion and parking, as well as being significantly cheaper to own and run than a car.

Micro-mobility is the use of smaller, lighter and more efficient vehicles to achieve short journeys. Typical vehicles, technically referred to as “L-Category”, include bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, motorcycles and small four-wheel vehicles (like the Renault Twizy).

Some of these vehicle categories continue to suffer with poor regulation and poor infrastructure provision in the UK, but this is beginning to be addressed, with commitment to better provision of “cycle” lanes, and the legal use of electric scooters being successfully trialled in cities like Birmingham. If the UK were to take braver and better informed steps with regulations in this area, such vehicles have the potential to reduce travel time, costs and energy consumption, as well as being useful tools to alleviate pollution, congestion and parking problems.

Successful mass adoption will require careful policy and infrastructure provision which delivers safety, as well as taking into account societal behaviours. This means separating vulnerable road users from fast, heavy traffic, and recognising the need for safe and secure parking, storage and charging of vehicles. With any new technology such as this, it is too easy to make flawed assumptions about how individuals will adopt and use them, so significant research, based on large-scale real-world trials is still required to understand public attitudes and behaviours.

Powering the future

To provide the utility that consumers require of electrified vehicles, we must also invest in the infrastructure that will generate and distribute the power required for charging. In particular, we need reliable, plentiful, accessible and predictable availability of fast charging around trunk roads, and we need forward investment in electricity distribution networks in both urban and rural locations across the country. Without these, EVs will simply not be viable for consumers, and we will fail to achieve our targets for transport decarbonisation. Home charging is not required for all when fast charging stations are available at local amenities like supermarkets.

Solutions like flexible timing of charging and vehicle-to-grid energy transfer have the ability to alleviate some of the pressure placed on energy networks by using the vehicle battery to balance supply and demand on the electricity grid at both a national and local level. This will help support increasing supplies of intermittent renewable energy (such as wind power) to our grid and reduce electricity costs for consumers and industry.

Closing the circle

To ensure that the products we produce today are truly sustainable for a zero carbon future, the technologies of recycling and re-use for EV component parts are also essential. Whilst these are required primarily to minimise environmental impact throughout the lifespan of an EV, these are also industrial opportunities for the UK - to provide low cost energy storage for homes, industry and the grid, and ultimately to secure future material supply chains without the need for additional mining.

The good news is that the vision is deliverable. To do so however cannot be left to market forces alone. Clear, consistent, well-researched and long-term regulation will be critical, as will sustained support for research, development and industrialisation. With these in place, the UK can become a global leader in transport decarbonisation.

Universities and admissions leaders encourage students to be ambitious with their 2021 applications
Thu
15
Oct 2020

Students applying for degree courses that start in autumn 2021 should be ambitious with their choices, following no substantial rise in deferrals in 2020, with universities ready to be flexible when considering applications. 

The number of UK students choosing to delay beginning their course for a year increased by just 0.1% (to 5.8%) in 2020. This means universities have the capacity to welcome applicants wanting to start in 2021, with opportunities ranging from degree programmes to higher and degree apprenticeships. Universities will expand capacity on some courses to meet growing demand, where possible.

UCAS has this year improved the ability for teachers to provide more details on their students' backgrounds, allowing universities and colleges to get a fuller picture of an individual. This follows an increase in students from disadvantaged backgrounds being accepted onto courses beginning in 2020.

Insight from recent UCAS surveys suggests young people want more online information than in previous years to make their choices, and are particularly interested in graduate employment rates to 'recession-proof' their degrees. They are also less interested in staying at home to study. Overall, students are positive about applying to study at university in 2021. 

The encouraging news comes ahead of this year's deadline for applications to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, plus medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses on Thursday 15 October. The deadline for 'equal consideration' for all other courses is 15 January 2021, although anyone who applies for at least one course in October can keep researching and adding choices to their application (up to a maximum of five) after their initial submission. In recent years, nearly 6,000 people applying for a course with an October deadline added more choices before 15 January.

Clare Marchant and Alistair Jarvis, the Chief Executives of UCAS and Universities UK, will be sharing the latest updates to provide help and advice to applicants, teachers and parents as part of a special Facebook Live event, hosted by UCAS, on Tuesday 20 October at 4:30pm.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, said: "UCAS and universities and colleges are already receiving applications for next autumn, with plenty of opportunities available. The key application deadlines remain the same, meaning the consistency and target dates that we know teachers value are retained in this exceptional year. As with all things, we keep everything under review as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives. By applying on time, students will be in a great position to receive offers, carry out further research, and secure a place on their chosen course. They will also have clear targets to work towards in their exams and coursework throughout the year.

"Everyone involved in admissions is alert to the ongoing challenges posed by coronavirus and flexibility will be key. Last year, students benefitted from more time to consider their offers, there was a welcome increase in students from disadvantaged background achieving a place, and some of the most competitive universities increased their overall intake of students.

"With no substantial rise in deferrals, many universities planning to raise their capacity, and teachers able to easily supply more relevant information, I encourage students to aim high as opportunities abound for them."

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "Choosing to study at university will open doors and provide value throughout your life. Despite the hugely challenging circumstances of this pandemic, students continue to show their resilience and determination and achieve excellent results at university, and I have no doubt that will continue.

"The application process continues to develop, with teachers able to provide more details on their students' background than ever before, and universities have taken steps to ensure that, while taking a blended teaching and learning approach, opportunities remain engaging and interactive.

"When choosing to apply, applicants should explore a range of options, speak to their parents, guardians and teachers, and get in to contact with university support teams to ask questions about the experience on offer. They are there to support you to make the choice that best suits you."

SOUTHAMPTON RISES TO 15TH IN THE GOOD UNIVERSITY GUIDE
Mon
12
Oct 2020

The University of Southampton has risen to 15th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.

This ranking is in a table of 131 higher education establishments and Southampton has overtaken Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and York to improve on last years 21st place.

President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark E Smith, said ‘I am pleased to see our rise to 15th in the Good University Guide. For the second time this year we have shown the strongest rise in performance for those already in the top 20. I would like to thank colleagues for all of the hard work, dedication and excellence in our research, enterprise and education endeavours across the University which this result reflects. It is a great piece of news as we approach the new academic year.’

Included in the table are subject specific rankings of which Southampton was in the top 10 in 14 different areas: Civil Engineering (2nd); Subjects Allied to Medicine (2nd); Electrical and Electronic Engineering (3rd); German (3rd); Iberian Languages (4th); Music (4th); French (=6th); Mechanical Engineering (=6th); Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering (7th); Criminology (9th); Archaeology & Forensic Science (10th); Communication and Media Studies (10th); Geology (10th).

The Good University Guide is compiled using indicators of student satisfaction, research quality, graduate prospects, qualification levels of incoming students, student/staff ratios, services, facilities, degree completion rates and levels of social inclusion.