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


New help for women returning to running after giving birth
Sep 2021

Researchers at Cardiff Metropolitan University are the first to help women return to running following childbirth using recovery methods traditionally used in sport.

The team of academic and clinical experts at Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences joined forces with Swansea University to provide a unique understanding of how medical practitioners can best support women in returning to running following childbirth.

This pioneering research has resulted in the publication of a set of evidence-informed key messages to assist medical practitioners, such as GPs, midwives and physiotherapists, working with postpartum women.

The research team surveyed 881 postpartum women via an online questionnaire and found four main factors influencing a woman’s return to running journey:

Running during pregnancy positively influences the likelihood of returning to running following childbirth

Suffering from the sensation of vaginal heaviness reduced the likelihood of returning to running

A high ‘fear of movement’ reduced the likelihood of returning to running

A high running volume before pregnancy increased the odds of returning to pre-pregnancy running levels.

‘Fear of movement’ is seen widely across the sporting spectrum following major injuries – with athletes apprehensive to carry out certain movements in case it results in pain or compromises their recovery. This is the first time this concept has been applied to postpartum care.

The research, which has been published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also suggests that fear of movement and vaginal heaviness can be addressed in clinical practice.

Reader in Human Movement and Sports Medicine at Cardiff Met, Dr Izzy Moore led the study and said: "Following childbirth, women may struggle to return to exercise which can significantly affect both maternal and child health.

"Our research is therefore important as it shows how the traditional concept of childbirth recovery simply being ‘natural’ requiring little support should be replaced with a sports recovery model. Furthermore, our research shows us that mothers should be supported to undertake active recoveries following childbirth.

"This new way of thinking benefits women because in essence, returning to an active lifestyle following childbirth can have long-term health benefits for both mother and child.

"Ultimately, our message is clear – health professionals should educate, support and empower women to remain physically active during pregnancies, where it is safe to do so."

Physiotherapist Gráinne Donnelly was clinical lead for the project and added: "The clinical-academic collaboration enabled us to make our research clinically relevant and meaningful. By ensuring elements consistently seen in clinical practice were considered, we were able to identify that fear of movement was present in the postpartum population and vaginal heaviness seems to influence return to running, rather than perineal traumas.

"Our findings are directly relevant and transferrable into clinical practice and reinforce the importance of evaluating each woman as an individual and crucially, considering physical and mental factors which influence their return to exercise following childbirth.

"Our research highlights the need for a proactive rather than reactive approach to postpartum care. We need to ensure all women are supported during and after pregnancy to lessen the risk of these modifiable experiences."

Steph Dunlop lives in Derry, Northern Ireland and worked with physiotherapist Gráinne Donnelly on her postpartum returning to running. Steph said: "I have two children – a three-year-old girl and an eleven-month-old boy and worked with Gráinne after both births. The return to running clinical guidelines were published in between my kids, so with my youngest I felt so much more prepared to return to running.

"After the birth of my youngest child, I set myself a goal to rehabilitate and lose a bit of weight with lower impact work but I found that coming up to six months postpartum I started having a heaviness type feeling and panicked about having a prolapse.

"I initially visited Gráinne for my postpartum check at about seven weeks where she set a programme of tummy exercises to regain strength and graded impact to get me ready for running. If I hadn’t seen Gráinne I think I would have been a lot more conservative and slower with my rehabilitation."

First ever cross-Channel hybrid electric flight lands at Cranfield
Sep 2021

The first flight by a hybrid electric aircraft across the English Channel has landed at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire.


VoltAero’s Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft flew from Calais in northern France to the airport owned by Cranfield University and used electric propulsion for its take-off and landing.


During its stopover at Cranfield, on the way to the ACE21 Air Charter Expo, Cassio 1 was also presented to University faculty and students.


Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, said: "It’s an honour to have this first cross-Channel flight by a hybrid electric aircraft land at Cranfield, and congratulations to the VoltAero team on this milestone achievement. It has also been a fantastic opportunity for our staff and students to see hybrid technology working in practice, which offers another step towards greener aviation.”


Rob Abbott, Director of Aviation Operations, Cranfield Airport, said: “We’re very proud to welcome VoltAero’s Cassio aircraft to the airport. As a fully-functional research airport, we are excited to engage with all types of manned and unmanned aircraft as we look to play our part in developing the aircraft, airport and airspace management systems of the future.”


VoltAero CEO and Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti added: “The stopover at Cranfield University introduced Cassio to the next generation of engineers, programme managers and decision-makers who are to lead the future of electric aviation. This Channel crossing clearly shows how VoltAero’s team has progressed in advancing the Cassio program through its development phase for a planned certification in 2023.”


The Cassio 1 demonstrator aircraft has flown more than 4,900 kilometres while validating VoltAero’s electric-hybrid power module, which combines electric motors with an internal combustion engine.


The module’s electric motors enable Cassio to perform nearly-silent take-offs and landings, while the internal combustion engine serves as a range extender by recharging batteries once Cassio is airborne, as well as providing a secondary source of propulsion and for backup.


Also in attendance for the landing was the team from KinectAir, a software aviation company focused on regional air mobility who work in partnership with VoltAero.


KinectAir is building a smartphone app that will enable people to order a direct flight from the nearest airfield to take them wherever they wish to go. Artificial intelligence software will continuously optimise the air transportation supply and passenger demand across KinectAir’s operated network of aircraft.


Nick Rogers, Chief Commercial Officer, KinectAir, said: “VoltAero is at the forefront of hybrid electric propulsion in conventional take-off and landing aircraft, which is the emerging leader for making regional air travel greener. We place these aircraft on a network and put the power to summon them in the hands of ordinary passengers. It will open up access to more sustainable air travel and is an exciting partnership for the future of transport connectivity.”

Gut and heart signals affect how we see ourselves
Sep 2021

Weak internal connections linked to body shame and weight preoccupation

New research has discovered that the strength of the connection between our brain and internal organs is linked to how we feel about our appearance.

Published in the journal Cortex, the study is the first to investigate, and first to identify, the association between body image and the brain’s processing of internal signals that occur unconsciously.

Carried out by a team of psychologists and neuroscientists at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the study found that adults whose brains are less efficient at detecting these internal messages are more likely to experience body shame and weight preoccupation. 

This research could have therapeutic implications for people suffering with conditions in which body image plays a significant role. For example, the unconscious signals could be made conscious. Further research could even be applied to the clinic as it may be the case that brain responses to gut signals could indicate a predisposition to eating disorders.

The study participants – a group of healthy UK adults – first took part in four body image assessments to measure their feelings of body appreciation, body functionality appreciation, body shame, and weight preoccupation.

The researchers then carried out measurements of the participants’ internal signals. Some of the messages from the heart and gut are processed at an unconscious level and the nervous system interprets these signals to provide the brain with continuously updated information about the body’s internal state. 

The strength of the connection between the gut and the brain was measured by recording the electrical activity of both regions at the same time. The researchers also measured brain responses to heartbeats. 

They found that weaker brain responses to the gut and heart were both significantly associated with greater levels of body shame and weight preoccupation amongst the participants.

Senior author Dr Jane Aspell, Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“We experience our body both from the inside and out: we can be aware of how our skin and limbs look, but also of how hungry we feel or how strongly our heart is beating during exercise. The brain also continuously processes internal signals that we are not conscious of.

“We found that when the brain is less responsive to these implicit signals from inside the body, individuals are more likely to hold negative views about their external bodily appearance. It may be that when the brain has a weaker connection to the internal body, the brain puts more emphasis on the external body and so appearance becomes much more important for self-evaluation.”


Lead author Dr Jennifer Todd, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Our research could have implications for those experiencing negative body image, which can have a serious impact on people’s lives. 

“The gut and heart signal measurements used in our study could potentially act as a biomarker to help identify, or even predict, negative body image and associated conditions, such as eating disorders. Additionally, by training people to become more aware of internal sensations, it might be possible to amplify these unconscious signals.  

“We need to understand why some brains are better at detecting these internal signals than others. We expect it is partly due to differences in neuro-anatomical connections between the brain and internal organs, and this will be the subject of future research.”


Meanwhile, Dr Jane Aspell will be speaking about her research on the body and sense of self in a talk at the British Science Festival 2021, 7-11 September hosted by the British Science Association at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). The talk will explore research on out of body experiences (OBEs), and she will share case studies from neurological patients. 

Dr Aspell’s work investigates what happens in the brain during an OBE and she will present evidence that these are caused by abnormal functioning in parts of the brain that process and combine signals from our bodies. This research on neurological patients sheds light on how the healthy brain generates the experience of one’s self, and what happens when that construction temporarily goes ‘wrong’.

Discover why crows and ravens rule the roost
Aug 2021

British Science Festival event will focus on the incredible world of corvids

Dr Claudia Wascher will head into the wild (of Chelmsford) during the British Science Festival to share her remarkable research into crows and ravens, two of the smartest birds around.

Dr Wascher, a behavioural ecologist at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), will be Talking With Birds in Bell Meadow Park in Chelmsford on Tuesday, 7 September, in an event focusing on how these intelligent birds socialise and communicate.

Both crows and ravens, which along with rooks, jackdaws, magpies and jays are part of the corvid family of birds, display complex behaviours such as “delayed gratification” – the ability to wait for a better offer than the one in front of them – and they are also aware of when they are being treated unfairly.

Dr Wascher carried out the first ever study looking at how these birds behave when they are treated unequally.

When asked to exchange a token for either their favourite food (cheese) or a less exciting option (grapes), the crows and ravens stopped cooperating if they saw other birds receive a reward without exchanging their token or if they saw another bird receive cheese at the same time as they were given a grape.

Dr Wascher believes that this understanding of fairness and cooperation has helped corvids evolve into highly sociable birds. Some corvids such as jackdaws live in large groups, while crows typically live in family units.  And Dr Wascher has also found that the size of their family group has a direct impact on their health.

study published in 2019 discovered that more sociable crows, living in larger groups, are generally healthier birds. Rather than large social groups increasing stress levels for the individuals, as is typically thought, the results of Dr Wascher’s six-year study confirmed her belief that crows enjoy being sociable and are happier, and therefore healthier, in larger groups.

Dr Wascher, Associate Professor of Biology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“Crows are incredibly sociable, and our study discovered that those with the strongest social bonds contained fewer parasites.  Physiological stress can dampen the immune system of birds, so to find that birds in larger family groups were healthier indicates that social interaction actually reduces their stress levels. 

“Thanks to their incredible intelligence, corvids are the most fascinating animals to work with.  In a recent study carried out at the University of Cambridge, the researchers performed sleight of hand magic tricks to six jays.  For two of the three tricks performed, the jays weren’t fooled while the 80 human participants were!

“In previous research I’ve also shown how crows have a long-term memory for recalling social information, such as the calls of others, while other biologists have found that ravens have the ability to remember social relationships over a period of years.  Corvids are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth and I’m looking forward to explaining more of their incredible talents at the British Science Festival.”
Housebuilder funds climate study into future of home construction
Aug 2021

Housebuilder funds climate study into future of home construction

Vistry Group, a top five national housebuilder, is funding research at the University of Exeter to explore the impact of climate change on homes and housebuilding in the future.

The analysis will look at two climate-related risk scenarios – a rise of 2°C and 4°C - to understand the implications of rises in temperatures. The results will influence the way future houses are built, the materials used, and how they are powered.

Alex Roberts, group sustainability manager at Vistry, said: “We are delighted to work with the University of Exeter, which carries out world-leading research on climate change, to explore these scenarios. This climate analysis will enable us to confidently make the right decisions going forward to the benefit of all our stakeholders. These meaningful results will help us identify the risks and opportunities of future changes, both in terms of physical climate impacts and policy, so that we are well-prepared, innovative and can communicate our strategy and direction in a clear way.”

It’s likely that all large companies will soon be required to complete climate change risk assessments. Issues will include people’s exposure to heat, the way materials react to hotter temperatures, what the future power supply will look like and increased likelihood of flooding and extreme weather, as well as changes in policy and expectations of customers. A first step is to undertake a scenario analysis to help understand the impact of a 2°C and also 4°C rise in temperature but ultimately the aim is to support carbon neutral homes by 2030.

Dr Matt Eames and Dr Peter Melville-Shreeve from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter, are leading the research. As well as the climate scenarios they will also be looking further at flood risks and the overheating potential of standard house types.

Matt said: “This scenario analysis is crucial for determining how our houses need to evolve in the future. It is exciting to work on something where we will see the real-world impact in a comparatively short time.”

Peter added: “Challenges such as flooding and drought continue to rise up the agenda as climate change impacts are realised. Understanding the potential scenarios we are facing is the first step necessary to help us design the flood resilient developments of the future.”

Graham Prothero, chief operating officer at Vistry, said the housebuilding industry, including the new Future Homes Task Force, would gain from Vistry’s work with the university. The task force brings together representatives from across all the sectors that shape new homes, including the government, housebuilders, utility providers, material suppliers and environmental groups.

“A new Future Homes Task Force has been set-up to ensure housebuilding is aligned to the UK's net-zero target,” Graham said. “Meeting the ambitions set out by the task force requires a new approach and cross-sector collaboration.

“This research won’t just help us at Vistry, the results will be fully open so that all housebuilders can benefit. It is the first step in what we hope will be a longer-term research partnership.”

Vistry focuses its efforts in sustainability across all aspects of its strategy, with a particular focus on three key areas – its people, operations, and homes and communities. The housebuilder this year committed to setting out a roadmap to delivering zero carbon homes and to implement science-based targets for carbon reduction. This is supported by a dedicated sustainability team to coordinate and control current and future performance across the Group.

EXPERT COMMENT: Paying with a palm print? We're victims of our own psychology in making privacy decisions
Aug 2021

With reports that Amazon is offering customers credit in exchange for using their handprints to pay at Amazon's stores, what are the impacts of using our biometric data for everyday purchases? Professor Pam Briggs, Research Chair in Applied Psychology at Northumbria University, writes for The Conversation, outlining the complex issues involved in giving up your biometric data to another party and suggests we should be wary of being offered incentives to do so.

The online retail giant Amazon has moved from our screens to our streets, with the introduction of Amazon grocery and book stores. With this expansion came the introduction of Amazon One – a service that lets customers use their handprint to pay, rather than tapping or swiping a card. According to recent reports, Amazon is now offering promotional credit to users who enroll.

In the UK we’re quickly becoming used to biometric-based identification. Many of us use a thumbprint or facial recognition to access our smartphones, authorise payments or cross international borders.

Using a biometric (part of your body) rather than a credit card (something you own) to make a purchase might offer a lot more convenience for what feels like very little cost. But there are several complex issues involved in giving up your biometric data to another party, which is why we should be wary of companies such as Amazon incentivising us to use biometrics for everyday transactions.

On the benefits side, you’re never without your biometric identifier -– your face, hand or finger travel with you. Biometrics are pretty hard to steal (modern fingerprint systems typically include a “liveness” test so that no attacker would be tempted to chop a finger off or make latex copies). They’re also easy to use -– gone are the problems of remembering multiple passwords to access different systems and services.

What about the costs? You don’t have many hands –- and you can’t get a new one –- so one biometric will have to serve as an entry point to multiple systems. That becomes a real problem if a biometric is hacked.

Biometrics can also be discriminatory. Many facial recognition systems fail ethnic minorities (because the systems have been trained with predominantly white faces. Fingerprint systems may fail older adults, who have thinner skin and less marked whorls, and all systems would fail those with certain disabilities – arthritis, for example, could make it difficult to yield a palm print.

Who should we trust?

A key issue for biometrics “identity providers” is that they can be trusted. This means that they will keep the data secure and will be “proportional” in their use of biometrics as a means of identification. In other words, they will use biometrics when it is necessary – say, for security purposes – but not simply because it seems convenient.

The UK government is currently consulting on a new digital identity and attributes trust framework where firms can be certified to offer biometric and other forms of identity management services.

As the number of daily digital transactions we make grows, so does the need for simple, seamless authentication, so it is not surprising that Amazon might want to become a major player in this space. Offering to pay for you to use a biometric sign-in is a quick means of getting you to choose Amazon as your trusted identity provider … but are you sure you want to do that?

Privacy paradox

Unfortunately we’re victims of our own psychology in this process. We will often say we value our privacy and want to protect our data, but then, with the promise of a quick reward, we will simply click on that link, accept those cookies, login via Facebook, offer up that fingerprint and buy into that shiny new thing.

Researchers have a name for this: the privacy paradox. In survey after survey, people will argue that they care deeply about privacy, data protection and digital security, but these attitudes are not supported in their behaviour. Several explanations exist for this, with some researchers arguing that people employ a privacy calculus to assess the costs and benefits of disclosing particular information.

The problem, as always, is that certain types of cognitive or social bias begin to creep into this calculus. We know, for example, that people will underestimate the risks associated with things they like and overestimate the risks associated with things they dislike (something known as the “affect heuristic”).

As a consequence, people tend to share more personal data than they should, and the amount of such data in circulation grows exponentially. The same is true for biometrics. People will say that only trusted organisations should hold biometric data, but then go on to give their biometrics up with a small incentive. In my own research, I’ve linked this behavioural paradox to the fact that security and privacy are things we need to do, but they don’t give us any joy, so our motivation to act is low.

Any warnings about the longer-term risks of taking the Amazon shilling might be futile, but I leave you with this: your biometrics don’t just confirm your identity, they are more revealing than that. They say something very clearly about ethnicity and age, but may also unknowingly reveal information about disability or even mood (in the example of, say, a voice biometric).

Biometric analysis can be done without permission (state regulations permitting) and, in some cases, at scale. China leads the way in the use of face recognition to identify individuals in a crowd, even when wearing masks. Exchanging a palm print for the equivalent of a free book may seem like a vastly different thing, but it is the thin end of the biometric wedge.

University’s mini-lecture series scoops bronze award in national education award
Jul 2021

The University of Chester has been recognised once again for innovation in education and marketing at the 2021 HEIST Awards.

For the second time this academic year, The Kitchen Sessions – a bite-size series of lectures designed to help school and college students applying to university – have been celebrated, scooping the Bronze award in the Best Value category at this year’s event.

When the pandemic hit last year, the University wanted to support not just its current students, but also prospective ones as they made their all-important university choices.

Academic staff worked quickly to move their teaching online and worked with the University’s Marketing and Recruitment (MRA) team to produce The Kitchen Sessions.

These wide-ranging online lectures were aimed at prospective students to help them feel more connected and experience the benefits of digital learning.

The Heist judges had a real job on their hands awarding this category offering two ‘Highly Commended’ awards before they even got to the bronze category. 

The University was also shortlisted for its Let’s Get September Sorted Clearing campaign which positioned the University as a supportive, empathetic ally in prospective students’ decision-making process. The campaign increased Clearing applications by 44% year-on-year, far exceeding objectives.

Nikki Mullineux, Marketing Manager at the University, said: “ To have secured a Heist Bronze and been shortlisted for the Clearing campaign for our work last year demonstrates the quality of work we’re undertaking. The pandemic didn’t hold us back and it was great to see academic and support staff working together so effectively to support prospective students in their decision making.”

Report assesses effects of increased sedentary lifestyle on mental health in pandemic
Jul 2021

Reducing the amount of time spent sitting down should be part of public health policy following COVID-19, says a new report from a study by the University of Huddersfield.

The study assessed the impact of sitting time and physical activity on mental health during the pandemic, and found that the increase in time spent sitting down had an adverse effect on mental health and even outweighed the benefits of regular exercise.

Mental as well as physical health improves with exercise

Being allowed an hour of outdoor exercise on a daily basis was a key part of the UK government’s strategy in the first national lockdown that began in March 2020. However, the study found that a great proportion of people were spending more than eight hours a day sitting, due to working at home or being at a loose end while on furlough, were experiencing detrimental effects to their mental health.

Even people who were active, with around 150 minutes per week of moderate or vigorous physical activity, reported detrimental effects to their mental health. Even more exercise was required to counterbalance this more sedentary lifestyle.

The findings have been collated in the report ‘The impact of sitting time and physical activity on mental health during COVID-19 lockdown’, published in the journal Sport Sciences for Health.

“I started from the position of the government’s allowance of an hour’s outdoor activity during lockdown, which recognises the importance of exercise on mental and physical health,” says Dr Liane Azevedo, one of the report’s three authors along with Dr Susanna Kola-Palmer and Dr Matthew Pears. “People looked forward to that exercise once a day for a bit of fresh air.

“Although our sample of nearly 300 was very active, they were sitting for longer periods with over 50 per cent sitting for more than eight hours a day. We found that sitting time, together with some demographics and pre-existing health conditions, were the main variables to negatively influence mental health and wellbeing.

“Reducing sitting time has a positive effect on mental health. We recommend that together with increase in physical activity, public health should encourage reduction of sitting time for mental health benefits.”

Research aids local study into effects of COVID-19

The research by Dr Azevedo and her colleagues was also shared with Rebecca Elliot, Public Health Manager on mental wellbeing from Kirklees Council to help them assess the impact of Covid-19 on mental health in the local area.

“Exactly what physical activity is should be better understood by people,” adds Dr Azevedo. “It is not just going to the gym. Just going for a walk specially in green areas  is really important, any type of  moderate activity does have benefits. We also noticed from our study that leisure and gardening are activities that help both physically and mentally.

“We want to develop an intervention based on these findings, to focus on the decrease of sedentary behaviour as well as increase in physical activity to promote benefits on mental health.”

London-Liverpool alliance awarded £1.9 million to accelerate solutions to combat infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance
Jul 2021

The RVC and its partners in The Bloomsbury SET programme will bring together academic and commercial sectors to respond to One Health challenges

The Bloomsbury SET – a knowledge exchange programme led by The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) – has been awarded further funding from Research England, totalling £1.9 million. Beginning in July 2021, the year-long project will help commercialise research into infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance.

Building on the current work of The Bloomsbury SET, this new programme, entitled ‘The Bloomsbury SET: A London-Liverpool alliance to accelerate solutions to infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance’, retains three of the four original collaborating institutions.

Joining the RVC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and SOAS University of London, is a new partner, the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The programme also works closely with the London International Development Centre (LIDC), a consortium of seven Colleges of the University of London shaping the future of international development.

iiCON brings together public and private partners in a £170 million programme born out of the Liverpool City Region. The consortium builds on the North West’s UK-leading capability in infectious diseases R&D. It has been established to fast-track the discovery and development of new antimicrobial products and treatments to reduce the global burden of disease caused by infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

With infectious diseases and AMR now a high priority for global public health, there is an urgent need for both academic and commercial sectors to work together more effectively to prepare and respond to existing and emerging challenges

In response to these critical threats, The Bloomsbury SET’s new Impact Connector programme will work with businesses to deliver products including vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that will benefit both animals and humans. Aiming to transform the support for commercialisation of research across the partner institutions, it will build a collaborative culture across geographically-dispersed sites, creating the potential for strong synergies to arise from linking the key investments by Research England.

Impact Connector will target colleagues across the consortium who are at an early stage in their commercialisation journey, aiming to develop a pipeline of skilled innovators and support the most competitive ideas to progress to higher Technology Readiness Levels. Throughout the 12-month period, the programme of activities will accelerate partnerships, skills training and product development, including:

  • A programme with bespoke workshops, peer-to-peer learning, and business mentoring to support product development.
  • A skills programme for academics and other university staff to develop their understanding of the concepts required to commercialise academic research and work with strategic partners.
  • A series of events and activities to support connections between academics and appropriate commercial partners.

As part of this process, The Bloomsbury SET will provide small grants to nurture new collaborations and knowledge ecosystems, support the best technologies to move closer to market, and thus help safeguard global health.

Professor Richard Bomphrey, Interim Vice-Principal for Research at the RVC, said:

"There has never been a better time to bring together an outstanding interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial consortium to take on the globally important and pressing issues of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme will support innovators as they take promising therapeutics from the laboratory to communities worldwide."

Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, Director of iiCON, said:

“Joint innovation and collaboration is critical if we’re to revitalise and innovate the anti-infectives pipeline and combat the growing global threat of AMR. iiCON is delighted to be joining the Bloomsbury SET’s Liverpool London Alliance and we look forward to working in partnership to support industry and expedite the discovery and development of innovative new treatments and products to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases.”

Dr Hannah Whiteman, Head of Strategic Research at LSHTM, said:

“The Bloomsbury SET Impact Connector programme represents an excellent opportunity to build further links with our regional KE partners at RVC and SOAS, and strengthen our national network through a new partnership with the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON). The programme will empower our innovators across career stages with training, funding, and opportunities to forge new external industrial networks and advance their technologies closer to delivering societal and economic impact.”

Dr Ying Chen, Head of Research & Knowledge Exchange at SOAS said:

“SOAS has been a Bloomsbury SET partner since 2018 and we have seen some fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations. This additional year's award will allow us to harvest the connections we have already established and generate more opportunities for collaboration. We look forward to collaborating with the RVC, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON)."

New report reveals the harsh reality of life for the UK’s migrant communities
Jul 2021

A new report produced by Queen Mary University of London and the Racial Justice Network has revealed that a toxic combination of government policy, Brexit and the pandemic have had a devastating impact on migrant communities particularly accessing life saving medical treatment, mental health services and food.

The report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, contradicts much of the current media coverage of immigration in the UK. It comes at a time when MPs have voted to support a new immigration bill that makes arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence.

The report shows that migrant communities are grappling with, and still enduring systemic racism, the hostile environment, border controls, poverty, fear and suspicion of authorities and were left to their own devices during recent lockdowns.

Mental health crisis 

The pandemic has brought to the surface existing social, economic and health inequalities. The findings also show that migrants’ mental health has been severely impacted during the pandemic, with many feeling triggered and desperate, as they are unable to work or study while their claim is being processed. It has been reported that up to a dozen asylum seekers have taken their own lives in the UK over recent months, and as the report highlights, GPs have also been denying vaccines to undocumented people.

According to the report, actions taken by authorities do not address the inequality and inequity brought on by hostile environment policies, the new Immigration Plan, the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, the Domestic Abuse Bill in conjunction with Brexit.

Based on interviews with refugees and asylum seekers, the report provides vivid accounts of the lives of people from marginalised communities. It also documents how easy it is to fall through the cracks of the system and become deportable.

Scare tactics 

Many respondents revealed the practical difficulties of living on the periphery of society, with many local shops not accepting the Aspen card, a card used to buy essentials, meaning that many were unable to buy necessities. Others said that they were so poor that they could not afford PPE or sanitary products.

The report also showed that the words ‘Home Office’ were used as a ‘way of scaring people into not asking questions’ in outsourced accommodation and there is prevalent racism which has prevented many from being able to access medical help when they were ill with Covid-19.

The report makes a number of recommendations including giving immigrants and those with precarious status in England voting rights like in Scotland and Wales. The authors argue that this will ensure that migrant communities are represented when it comes to policy development. The report also recommends that people working for government authorities and institutions should be given training so that they understand the barriers faced by marginalised communities. It is argued that at present, racism and xenophobia is embedded in the current system.

Listening to experiences 

Penny Wangari-Jones, Director at the Racial Justice Network said: “This report comes from listening and acting upon community concerns. It highlights resilience, resourcefulness of marginalised communities but also the manufactured structural barriers and inequality that made the situation much worse during the pandemic. The authorities, decision and policy makers as well as the general public should take heed.”

Tesfalem Yemane, Eritrean community and doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds said: “The effects of colonial legacies will continue to exist and thrive under the hostile environment policies and we need resist those by coming together and then showing our solidarity to our fellow migrants.”

Laura Loyola-Hernández, University of Leeds, trustee at the Racial Justice Network added: “The Covid-19 pandemic surfaced and shone a light to health, socio-economic and other inequalities on a regional, national and global scale. It is clear that with or without local or national support from authorities, migrant communities stuck between a rock and a hard place, have come together to build a sense of solidarity and mutual support before, during and after the pandemic.”  

Prepping for Uni’ Course co-designed by students launched by Ulster University’s School Outreach Academy
Jul 2021

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of Ulster University Magee and Trans-jurisdictional Education Officer James Wray present St Cecilia’s pupils with Ulster University Hoodies as a ‘thank you’ for co-designing the course. Included in photo Staff from left to right Eimear McLaughlin, Martine Mulherne Principal of St Cecilia’s, James Wray Trans- jurisdictional Educational Officer, Orla Morris , Jeannie McLaughlin, Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of Ulster University’s Magee campus Bernadette Ó Mianáin Head of Sixth Form, & Shanna McCallion

St Cecilia’s College, in conjunction with Ulster University’s School Outreach Academy have helped to co-design a new innovative ‘Prepping for Uni’ Course. St Cecilia’s pupils took part in a focus group sharing their insights on how best to support Year 13 & 14 pupils across to Higher Education, harnessing expectations, motivations, readiness and vision of what University Life may be like for new students.

The course gives students practical information and tips on the application process, as well preparing students for the independence that comes with university life. The course will widen access, in supporting the education decisions of those who are less likely to progress or apply to university. The project was part of wider collaboration and engagement by Ulster University with all schools in the Foyle Learning Community and Donegal.

Malachy Ó Néill Provost of the Magee Campus said:

“This is just another example of how we are committed to working with the principals of the schools in the Foyle Learning Community, providing opportunities for the young people of the city region and supporting teachers. I hope that the course helps the young people of the entire region with their transition to university life. Anyone thinking of going to university should consider their options at Ulster University. Magee campus is a great place to learn, with consistently sector-leading returns in terms of student satisfaction. There are a wide variety of courses available to choose from with new options this year, including Paramedic Science. This will be further boosted by new course options in Health Sciences and related professions from 2022. Local students can be assured of a world-class education in state-of-the-art facilities that continue to develop at Magee.”

Lorraine Lavery-Bowen, School Partnerships Manager – Widening Access at Ulster University said:

“The course is aimed to support students who are anxious about qualification outcomes and the processes for gaining university entry. We could never have expected the changes that we are now living with. The increase in eLearning since the outbreak of COVID-19 and move to remote learning has mirrored the need within schools for support to be provided in a digital format. The recent launch of the Ulster University Schools Outreach Academy will allow us to offer a full online approach to school engagement and service delivery. We were delighted to work with Year 13 pupils from St Cecilia’s, who were able to give us real and honest insights on their expectations around university selections. With so many decisions to be made by our Year 13 & 14's we hope this resource will support informed decision making.”

Martine Mulhern Principal of St Cecilia’s College said:

“Our 6th year girls were really delighted to have the opportunity to meet with staff from Ulster University. They discussed ways in which schools and the University could work in partnership to make the transition from school to university much smoother. They are hopeful that the students following behind them will benefit from this partnership.”

‘Virtual’ ceremonies celebrate the Class of 2021
Jul 2021

A host of virtual ceremonies are taking place today and tomorrow (22nd and 23rd of July) to mark the successes of the University of Bedfordshire’s students.

Family and friends will cheer on remotely as those who have completed their degrees pull on their glad rags, raise a toast and congratulate each other on their respective achievements. Each ceremony will give deserved recognition and celebration to students across the University’s four faculties.

On Thursday, graduands will become graduates for the Faculty of Creative Arts, Technology and Science, the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Education and Sport. On Friday, ceremonies are held for the Business School and further Education and Sport students.

As in 2020, the University has put safety first in the face of Covid-19 and the Class of 21 are graduating virtually, with hopes to hold in-person events when large-scale events are safer for those attending.

For everybody graduating Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor, has a special message:

“Looking back to your first days at the University I’m sure you will recognise how much you have changed since then, not just in terms of your knowledge and skills but personally too. You have grown and developed, and now you are ready for the next steps. Be ambitious and bold, achieve remarkable things in your lives, make a difference in all you do.

“My very best wishes to you all for a happy and fulfilling life. Many congratulations and welcome to the community of graduates of the University of Bedfordshire.”

Seven students graduating this week shared their thoughts on joining this community; from the obstacles provided by the pandemic to the sky-high aspirations that come with being on the cusp of graduation, it has been an incredible journey for everybody.

As well as reading out graduating students’ names and awarding 27 faculty prizes across the two days of celebrations, the ceremonies are to be filled with well-wishes from the University’s community including Heads of Departments, members of Bedfordshire’s Board of Governors and local VIPs.

One such figure is Helen Nellis, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, who shared this message: “You are all extraordinary people, having shown your resilience and commitment to facing forward during the most challenging time that we have faced as a world in our lifetime.

“Though undoubtedly it has been the hardest of times, you have proved that you can battle against adversity and come though stronger, with a deeper understanding of yourself and of your fellow human beings.

“My sincere congratulations to you all. Make each day count and make a difference!”

Honorary degree recipients such as the musicians James Bay, Tom Grennan and The Shires have also sent video messages congratulating students, while Radio 1 DJ and Media Performance and Radio alumnus Melvin Odoom shared the following heartfelt advice.