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May 21, 2013

Fundamental Curiosity: The Dynamic Of The University

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Image. Rodin

A Q and A with Professor Tim Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor: Research (Science and Medicine), Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, University of Warwick.

What do you think is the most under-hyped, yet significant, change universities in the UK will undergo during the next decade?

I don’t know if it’s necessarily under-hyped but I think the private provision of higher education will completely change the dynamic in the future. I think a number of universities will be threatened very significantly. Private provision will expand and will change the way universities have to behave and operate in a very, very significant way.

And do you think global providers have an advantage?

Almost certainly yes, I mean the US is a classic example, and I think the UK is behind the curve with this certainly compared to some countries.

Open-access research: is the UK shooting itself in the foot or are we leading the way?

There is no doubt that open access research is a great thing in principle, however I think being first is not necessarily a good thing. So I would argue we are shooting ourselves in the foot because I don’t necessarily see the rest of the world following. I think the UK is going to be in a very difficult position.

The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit in May, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders, what would that be?

It would be to ensure that universities remain establishments of academic research and scholarships and are no skewed too much by the agendas of governments around the world, where economic growth seems to be the raison d’être for the existence of universities. Don’t skew universities too much towards being engines of economic growth; don’t change the dynamic of the way the university operates. Don’t discriminate against intellectual, fundamental, curiosity driven education and research that continues to attract the very very best students and academics, who are free thinkers and are not constrained by government thinking and policy.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Auguste Rodin's Le Penseur (The Thinker). Source: (Flickr).
Image Professor Tim Jones, University of WarwickAs Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, Professor Tim Jones has responsibility for development of the University of Warwick’s knowledge transfer and business engagement strategy to support the University’s research and teaching ambitions through corporate level regional, national and international relationships with business partners. He also works with the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer to maximise the impact of the University HEIF allocations and lead engagements with relevant external bodies.He also has responsibility for the University’s Science research strategy, including the development of research opportunities and collaborations both nationally and internationally and the raising of research income, publications and citation scores in the Faculty of Science.

November 13, 2012

What is in an acronym? WIDS 2012

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WIDS 2012 US_Navy Haitian workers Port-Au-Prince international airport
Haitian workers move cooking oil supplied by United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID) at a distribution centre at Port-Au-Prince international airport. Image c/o Wikicommons.

Higher education is full of acronyms – from HEFCE and BIS at the government/funding end through to the likes of ‘WBL’ and UWWO that students at the University of Warwick might come across during their time on campus.

Sometimes, once the acronym is spelled out, the purpose of the phrase or organisation is self-evident (WBL is work-based learning and UWWO is the University of Warwick Wind Orchestra if you haven’t already googled the terms). But over the past month there’s one acronym that keeps popping up at Warwick that I’ve struggled to get my head around. It’s ‘WIDS’ – the Warwick International Development Society. It’s not because the group’s badly named or that I’ve not come international development before, it’s just that the acronym and name cannot fully sum up all of the ideas and work that WIDS embraces. It’s a failing of the English language rather than a poor choice of name. WIDS is the student society equivalent of ‘Espirit d'escalier’1 or ‘Tatemae and honne’2. Sadly, the English language lacks a succinct term that fully sums up the work, aspirations and feelings involved in WIDS.

Think about it, what comes to mind when you say ‘international development’? Is it a mixture of:

  • Community-based development
  • Poverty reduction
  • Sustainable development
  • Self-sustainability
  • International relations

WIDS as a society covers all this but it does so much more. It:

The upcoming summit, taking place this weekend, is promoted as providing “an intellectual platform to discuss and present original means of tackling these diverse issues. [WIDS] strives to involve a range of speakers from varying backgrounds and distinct perspectives, as well as engage students from across the globe to form a truly international summit”.

If you take a look at the WIDS website, you can see that this year’s summit is clearly aiming high on the guest speaker front.

Jeffrey Sachs speaking at WIDS 2012Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute (left), Columbia University and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will be speaking to the summit via video conference. Professor Sachs, who is also co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, is one of the world’s leading economists and has been named as one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" twice. Amongst the many people who work closely with Professor Sachs is U2 frontman Bono. Speaking of Sachs, the singer said “In time, his autograph will be worth a lot more than mine.”

WIDS 2012 World Bank Managing Director Mahmoud MohieldinOther speakers at WIDS 2012 include the head of the World Bank Group, Mahmoud Mohieldin (left); Meghnad Desai, Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Labour Peer in the House of Lords; and Professor Alan Winters of the University of Sussex. The full list of speakers is on the WIDS website.

The variety of those presenting talks this weekend speaks very highly of the students involved in WIDS and their ability to both approach interesting speakers and convince them to give up their time in the hope of finding new answers to some very old questions.

Bengali famine 1943
Bengali famine 1943. Image c/o Wikicommons.

I’ll be attending the conference, running from Friday evening (16 November) to Sunday (18 November). Hopefully I’ll see you there but, if not, I’ll be producing an overview for the Knowledge Centre to accompany some audio-visual content from the Summit later this month.

1 Espirit d'escalier is a French phrase for the moment when you come up with the perfect verbal comeback but too late for it to be of any use.

2 Honne and tatemae are Japanese words for ‘what you choose to believe/publically display’ and ‘what you actually believe’ respectively.

November 06, 2012

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

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The wizard of Oz 1939
If I only had the nerve: (L-R) Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland and Bert Lahr (Image c/o Wikimedia Commons)

Have you ever taken part in an ice breaking exercise where you put a few facts about yourself in a hat, leaving your name off so you remain anonymous, and your colleagues take turns picking out the pieces of paper and before guessing who’s who? It’s more fun than it sounds and I’ve got more than my fair share of personal facts to drop in the hat. I’ve lived opposite a tiger (called Mike), I played the cowardly lion in a production of the Wizard of Oz at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry and I’ve been called upon by MTV to be an expert interviewee on al-Qaeda.

They’re all true. One of those items would be enough of an anecdote to get you through a party but I seem to collect stories like other people collect wine. I did a reasonable Bert Lahr impression and survived the tiger encounter (although it’s much less exciting when you know it was in a cage). Unfortunately, my knowledge of Middle Eastern politics is limited and is gained from Channel 4 News and The Observer. It turns out there’s another Gareth Jenkins and he’s also a journalist. He’s an expert on Middle Eastern politics and terrorism and, for obvious reasons, he tends to keep a low profile. Me? I’ve spent my career working with blue chip companies or interviewing celebrities about their favourite cheeses. I also like social media and the web and have a very snazzy website that anyone can find to contact me – including MTV.

It took some time to convince the TV researcher that I wasn’t the Gareth Jenkins she was looking for (it’s surprising difficult to demonstrate that you’re not an expert in a field, especially if the real expert is purposefully keeping a low profile). Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m also not the former head coach of the Welsh rugby team either.

Whilst the other Gareth Jenkins’ seemingly have exciting, international lives, I’m reasonably satisfied with mine and where I now find myself. I love writing, I’d say it’s my area of expertise, and it’s great to be working with academics who are just as passionate about the field they’re proficient in. Hopefully, in my time as the Knowledge Centre’s online writer I’ll write something eye catching so I’ll be able to say ‘Yes, I’m that Gareth Jenkins’ when MTV phones up again.

August 03, 2012

Hello From the New Online Writer

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Hello! I’m Francesca Tenenbaum, and I’m one of the new Online Writers for The Knowledge Centre. I’m a Warwick graduate, and read Modern Languages and Literature here a couple of years ago. Clearly, I loved campus life so much that I just couldn’t stay away.

My first week here may have just come to a close, but in a few days I have interviewed the deputy-manager of the IMF, Dr Nemat Shafik, Dr Saskia Sassen from the university of Columbia, learnt what polymer technology is, and begun to write about current University research into the uses of Cloud technology for local SMEs. Oh, and written about the Asian Financial Crisis. No big deal.

Even though I’ve worked as a writer for a few years already, working for the Knowledge Centre, at least if my first week is anything to go by, is going to be an incredible way to broaden my experience, and bridge the gap (for an old school Humanities student like me) between my own interests and all of the other incredible research that takes place here at Warwick.

I’m really looking forward to researching and writing features about my own areas of academic interest (in particular: anything Shakespeare-related or anything about Italian literature and culture) but also broadening my own insights into everything that is happening here at the University. And, of course, bringing that content to the Knowledge Centre’s readers.

Happy reading!

August 04, 2011

A break from themes…

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With another successful graduation behind us, and the summer in full swing, we wanted to let you know about a few changes that we’re making to the Knowledge Centre this month.

Over the past six months the Knowledge Centre team has been delving into current research happening around the University, and publishing content grouped into fortnightly themes. We’ve looked at a diverse range of subjects from Security and Terrorism to Global Powers and Knowledge Exchange (if you’d like a complete rundown, you’ll find everything under the Themes tab at the top of the home page). The aim has been to build some handy learning resources for you, as well as to entertain and to keep you up-to-date with news at Warwick.

We’ll be keeping the themed content exactly where it is, so you can come back to it whenever you like, but for the remainder of the summer we’re taking a break from themes and taking a broader look at Warwick’s research activity, with the aim of covering even more departments and making even more links across the University.

As ever, we’d love your feedback on the site, so do let us know which themes you’ve enjoyed or what sorts of subjects/departments you’d like us to cover in the future (you can email us at, tweet us @WarwicKnowledgeor leave a comment below). And if you’d like to write an article for us, we’d love to hear from you. Getting your work published on the Knowledge Centre website is a great way of showcasing your research and encouraging debate.

We hope you that you’ll check back next week to see our new content, and enjoy discovering some of the diverse projects that are currently underway at Warwick.

June 16, 2011

Virtual Futures 2.0’11

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Around 1994, an extraordinary collection of people from the philosophy and literature departments at the University of Warwick began asking questions about technology. They were interested in the impact of emerging technologies on the human body and the idea of the obsolescence of culture brought about by the rapid growth of ‘cyberspace’.

These ideas found their way into a series of cult CyberConferences called Virtual Futures, held annually at the University between 1994 and 1996. At the time, many people were sceptical that cyberspace existed at all; Virtual Futures aimed to shatter these misconceptions with a combination of hardcore academic analysis and highly theatrical performance.

Significantly, these events coincided with the emergence of the internet and cyberculture. Over its three-year existence, Virtual Futures ventured into territories such as chaos theory, geopolitics, feminism, nanotechnology, cyberpunk fiction, machine music, net security, military strategy, plastic surgery, hacking, bio-computation, cognition, cryptography and capitalism. In 1995 alone the conference attracted many cutting-edge artists and philosophers including Stelarc, Hakim Bey, Manuel De Landa and Orlan.

This weekend, Virtual Futures returns to the University under the banner Virtual Futures 2.0’11. The event has been organised by digital media artist, and current Warwick student, Luke Robert Mason, and the Knowledge Centre will be on hand to meet attendees, video the talks and interview the speakers

With the return of some of the original guests, plus some new leaders in the fields of VR, bio-enhancement and the ethics of emerging technologies, Virtual Futures 2.0’11 aims to provoke debate around technology and its impact on culture. It’s also the perfect opportunity to step back and consider the internet’s extraordinary trajectory since 1994. As Dr Dan O’Hara - who was one of the original organisers - has remarked, Virtual Futures was put together in ‘almost a punk spirit… but punk married with technology’.

Performance artist Stelarc - whose interests lie in the post-evolutionary architecture of the body - will be returning as the keynote speaker. Exploring a world in which ‘death now means to be disconnected from technology’, Stelarc has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He is surgically constructing an EAR ON ARM (2006-2011) that will be internet enabled, making it a publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places.

Other speakers include science-fiction author Pat Cadigan; ‘living technology’ expert Dr Diane Gromala; Director of the Creative Futures Research Centre at the University of the West of Scotland, Professor Andy Miah; Senior TED Fellow Dr Rachel Armstrong and cybernetics expert Professor Kevin Warwick. Dr O’Hara also returns to provide some essential historical context.

You can catch Luke Robert Mason and Dr Armstrong talking about Virtual Futures on Click Radio; please also join us on the Knowledge Centre next week for videos, interviews and post-event analysis. We’d love to hear your views!

June 02, 2011

We've made a few changes…

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The keen-eyed among you may have noticed some changes to the Knowledge Centre over the last couple of days. Since the beginning of February we have been organising our content based on two or three week themes, all centred around a particular topic or issue. This differed from our previous organisation of articles by five key subject areas: Business and Economics, Culture and Society, Health and Medicine, Engineering and Technology and Science and Maths.

To reflect this shift in organisation we have been working on a new navigation for the Knowledge Centre, which you can now see live on the site. Below is a description of some of the changes to help you find your way around!

Themes: Our new themes section brings together all of the content that has been published under past themes in one place. From the overview page you can click on the button images to be taken to the individual section relating to a theme. We hope that this will make browsing the site easier and more accessible for all.

Subject Areas: Although a large amount of our content is organised by theme, we do still publish content based in the five key subject areas and a lot of our articles still fall under these headings. The new Subject Areas page brings together the five headings and leads you to a new page relating to each subject. 

From these pages you can access all of our past content and find links to upcoming events.

Learning Resources: This is a brand new section on the Knowledge Centre, aiming to showcase some of the Learning Resources on offer to all. In this section we will be featuring podcasts, advice on careers and links to further study opportunities. As well as this, we have a subpage identifying opportunities for professional development which will be updated regularly.

The Blog: Our Knowledge Centre Team blog will become a central feature of the site, with various members of the team updating it regularly to keep you up to date with the latest news on research and expertise at the University.

About the Knowledge Centre: We have updated our ‘About’ section to reflect new developments on the Knowledge Centre and provide more ways for you to Contact us and tell us what you think!

We hope that all of the above changes will make it easier for you to identify and enjoy content related directly to you, and also open up opportunities for you to find out more about other subjects.

We’d love to hear your feedback, on the new navigation or just about the Knowledge Centre in general. Fill out our feedback form, email us, find us on Twitter or share your thoughts on Facebook!

May 26, 2011

Our Email Feedback

As you may know, here at the Knowledge Centre we send out a weekly email newsletter with all of the latest Warwick knowledge delivered straight to your inbox. The emails include the latest articles, details of any live events and a sneak peek at what we have coming up on the site but we’d love your feedback to help us improve the way we keep you informed!

We’ve sent out a short survey in the last couple of days, asking for your comments and we’ve had a great response so far. It has been really interesting to read your thoughts and opinions and we will use your feedback to improve the way we do things.

Here are just a few comments we’ve had so far and we are always looking for more! Let us know if you agree or not by leaving a comment or by completing our survey yourself. And if you’ve got any other feedback on the Knowledge Centre, we would love to hear that too.

‘In an internet overflowing with headlines and sound bites, I relish substantive discussion of interesting topics’.

‘One or two have been very relevant and others not at all but I deliberately wanted to see a range of stuff outside my sector to stimulate thinking! So I like it as it is’.

‘I like to see the variety of content on offer, I wouldn't want something more personalised to me in terms of suggesting what content I would be interested in based on previous engagement - I am interested in a wide range of content, all I need is a catchy title and perhaps an image to draw me in, would worry that serendipity would be lost if it was personalised!’.

‘The Knowledge Centre throws up some interesting stuff for work (Science) and personal (Culture/literature) use’.

‘There's a lot [of content] to fit in - which is fine by me, but does mean it has to be 'busy'’.

‘The layout is ok on a screen, but quite hard to read on my blackberry’.

‘I prefer the content that I can use in my daily life e.g. links to management theory or economics. Content about e.g. social science or more theoretical subjects is less relevant’.

‘Once I identify the email as being your weekly update, I open it without considering the subject line’.

What do you think? If you haven’t already, please take a couple of minutes to fill in the survey. We will put it all together, take a good look and see what we can do in response to what you all say.

If you are not already signed up to our weekly emails, you can do so here.

Sean Howitt

May 18, 2011

Alumni Knowledge Exchange

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Once you graduate, the learning doesn't stop - Alumni Knowledge Exchange day is an opportunity for Warwick graduates, along with their friends and family, to return to campus for a programme of exciting and interactive talks, discussions, workshops and entertainment. This event will share and discuss world-class thinking from the University and our wider community.

The event takes place this Saturday 21st May, and the Knowledge Centre team will be there to meet attendees, to video many of the talks and to interview some of the speakers. If you plan on coming along, we’d love to hear what you think of it.

The event takes the form of talks, workshops and panel discussions. ‘You, Your University, Your World’ is a series of 45-minute discussions that tackle global topics. The panellists comprise leading academics from the University, business leaders and alumni, such as Rob Grimshaw (’s Managing Director) who is at the cutting-edge of the debate about internet paywalls, and Jon Teckman, former Chief Executive of the British Film Institute (BFI). The themes under discussion include:

  • Wellbeing at Work
  • Building Success Beyond Recession
  • Can We Be Green And Profitable? 
  • How Can the Arts Improve Our Lives?

Meanwhile, the alumni speakers series features presentations from a diverse range of Warwick graduates, all of them leading voices in their professions. Immerse yourself in talks by (among others) Heather Brooke: an award-winning writer, journalist and activist whose work led to the exposure of MPs’ expenses; Jo Hemmings: a behavioural psychologist who specialises in celebrity behaviour; and Sarah Haywood: a respected wedding designer, coordinator and media spokesperson on bridal matters. There will also be a panel featuring various Warwick alumni working in children's literature, including Helen Thomas: Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children’s Books.

If you're coming to the Alumni Knowledge Exchange on Saturday, let us know! Look out for the Knowledge Centre team in Warwick Arts Centre and we look forward to talking to you!

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