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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.

June 10, 2011

Universities Week 2011 – What's the Big Idea?

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Universities Week takes place next week (13 – 19 June 2011) and is a national campaign run by Universities UK, which aims to highlight the breadth of work that Universities do across the UK and the benefits they provide for society.

Here at the Knowledge Centre we will be supporting the campaign by featuring content around the question “What’s the big idea?”. Each day, Universities Week will be looking at different “big ideas” in higher education, and we will be showing how Warwick contributes in those areas:

Sharing Big Ideas – On Monday, Universities UK will be launching their “factshare” which showcases some of the most interesting facts and information coming out of UK Universities. We have a number of facts about the University of Warwick - some you may have heard of, some you may not – but all highlight the impact and variety of research that goes on across the University in all disciplines.

Big Ideas for Business – As the focus of Tuesday’s theme is on the relationship between businesses and universities we will be showcasing a recent collaboration between WMG and local SME, Envisage Group. Envisage Group, a Coventry-based company, have designed an advanced-concept aeroplane seat for business/first class passengers.

Big Ideas for Society – This theme serves to highlight the positive impact universities have on their local society, particularly how they give back to the local community. Warwick Volunteers provide opportunities for both staff and students to give their time for a good cause and benefit their society. Here, we explain a bit more about the work that has been done with Warwickshire Children's University and the Technology Volunteers.

Big Ideas for the Future – Have you ever wanted to drive a car on Mars? Do you have a great idea that could benefit society? We asked Warwick academics - scientists, inventors, and thinkers - one simple question: If there weren't any practical limitations, what would you do to improve the way we live for the future?

Inside Big Ideas – With the vast amount of research generated in each university, how do we go about finding the most up to date, relevant research? Head of Digital Communications at Warwick, Ken Punter, explains more about the process of disseminating knowledge and the latest research through the Knowledge Centre.

You can follow our Universities Week updates on Twitter using the hashtag #Uniweek. 

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