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January 16, 2014

Letter from the editor (17 January 2014): M’obesity, Mo’ problems

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We’ve published a series of articles on the Knowledge Centre this week on obesity, diabetes and how we all play a part in a society that is becoming more and more obese. I have always struggled with my weight. As a child, I would often be described as ‘big boned’, chubby or stout but the truth was I was fat and I did little about it. By the time I reached my late-20s I weighed over 24 stone, squeezed my legs into 44 inch waist trousers and pulled XXL t-shirts over my head. Needless to say, when it comes to my weight, I’ve got more baggage than Heathrow and these pieces brought back some uncomfortable memories of who I used to be, what I used to eat and how sedentary a life I used to lead.

At that size you have a choice. You can embrace what you’ve become, ignore the looks of disdain from passers-by as you waddle down the street and continue down a path to even more morbid obesity (but, as the kids would say, m’obesity, mo’ problems) and, if you have any ambition left, at best, you can hope to become Britain’s fattest man/woman or a contender on the Biggest Loser. Alternatively, you can try and pick yourself up – mentally as well as physically – and have the ambition to just be healthy. Choosing the latter isn’t easy but you’ll, hopefully, be glad to learn it’s the option I’ve been pursuing and one I heartily recommend.

The truth is, and I’m not sure all large people feel this way but it certainly was true for me, being obese is lonely. We might act like the jolly fat guy but a love of cake is nothing compared to the love of another human being. Pizza cannot hug you and waking up next to an empty box of doughnuts does not elicit the same feelings that you get when you’re in a relationship with a person and not food. Like I said; a lot of baggage!

There was a moment when I caught sight of my reflection in the kitchen glass door and it was the moment I knew my life had to change. I’d just pulled a batch of freshly baked brownies out of the oven and I couldn’t even wait for them to cool down before having “a little taste”. As I looked up I saw this huge guy, whose reflection took up most of the doorway, shovelling still steaming cake into his mouth. Who was this guy? In my mind’s eye this wasn’t what I looked like but this is what other people saw when they met me; this was the real me; overweight, unhappy and lonely.

Gareth Jenkins obese man

It’s been five years since the above picture was taken (not long before that reflective moment) and in that time I made an effort to turn my life around. I’ve kept a varied exercise regime to help change my life – rambling, gym sessions and using the large selection of exercise DVDs I'd bought years before. I even gave Zumba a go for a year. Now, I work out five times a week, walk the three miles to and from work each day and walk the family dog at weekends. I jumped on the scales this morning to see what I was down to. At 18 stone it’s still not where I’d like to be but I’d like to think I’ve got the direction of travel right. The memories of who I used to be might be uncomfortable but they’re also a great motivator to help me live a healthier and more enjoyable life.

Gareth Jenkins, Editor.

Ps. Here’s a more recent photo from this afternoon.


What I’m reading this week

Seeking Clues to Obesity in Rare Hunger Disorder
The New York Times
Lisa Tremblay still recalls in horror the time her daughter Kristin pulled a hot dog crawling with ants from the garbage at a cookout and prepared to swallow it.

The mega-city no one has heard of
Al Jazeera
Hanzhong, China - With four million people, Hanzhong's population is the rough equivalent of Los Angeles yet outside of China, almost no one has heard of it.

Even within the world's most populous country, the city is hardly well-known, its existence usually qualified with the sentence: "It's a few hours away from Xian."

Man Sues Toothpaste Maker Because He's Never Attracted A Woman Like Their Ads Promised
The headline says it all.

Costing secrecy
Vox, Professor Mark Harrison
“Democracy often seems bureaucratic with high ‘transaction costs’, while autocracies seem to get things done at lower cost. This column discusses historical research that refutes this. It finds empirical support from Soviet archives for a political security/usability trade-off. Regimes that are secure from public scrutiny tend to be more costly to operate.”

Mark’s written a follow up blog as well.

May 28, 2013

Applicable to the real world: the future of research

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Image. WMG Robotics - students at the University of Warwick
An interview with Dr Richard Hutchins, Director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG)

If the future of the higher education is virtual (as every blog and newspaper article about MOOCs would have you believe), does the success of WMG (using the Fraunhofer model) contradict this?

I’m not entirely convinced that going ‘totally virtual’ is the way forward, because there are huge advantages to companies, academics and students working side-by-side and sparking off each other. Secondly the fact that for this type of industrial research, where we work with companies in the manufacturing and advanced engineering sector, it inevitably requires people to have access to physical kit and technology. So I think there is a strong case to co-locate facilities that allow for all of those things to happen.

How would you asses the current state of the UK’s higher education sector’s relationships with business (and therefore economic growth) compared to the rest of the world?

I don’t think there is any doubt that the UK is right up there when it comes to higher education collaboration with industry. It’s the only way to go because we cannot rely on the government, public sector and the public purse to fund higher education research and teaching in the future in the way that it has done in the past. So we have to make our research and our teaching more applicable to the real world; the only way to do that is to connect it to the market place, which is working with industry and working with countries. All of the countries that are shooting up in terms of economic growth clearly connect universities with business or connect business with universities. China, most notably, where companies effectively sponsor universities and the development of universities. We see a number of collaborations of that type in Beijing.

The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit this week (w/c 27 May 2013), which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders related to higher education that would benefit the sector, what would that be?

We need to be promoting the freer exchange of students and knowledge across international boundaries. When it comes down to things like that, it means student visas; it means free exchange of intellectual property. Not all easy things to do but things which will undoubtedly help to unlock economic growth in all nations.

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: WMG Robot Team, April 2013. Source: (University of Warwick)

Image. Dr Richard Hutchins WMGDr Richard Hutchins is responsible for leading WMG's interface and work with Jaguar Land Rover, including support for JLR's Government Affairs and Government Programmes teams. Leading the development of the WMG Academy for Young Engineers. Leading our work with Local Enterprise Partnerships. He is a non-executive director of WMMC (Manufacturing Advisory Service).

May 21, 2013

The Class Of 2038: Universities 25 Years Down The Road

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Image. Delorean - the Back to the future car/time machine.

A Q and A with Professor Mark Taylor, Dean of Warwick Business School (WBS).

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

I think one aspect is the impact of the e-learning agenda and how that will change the way we think about universities. Already with the advent of MOOCs we are seeing an ‘unbundling’ of what universities offer. Universities offer knowledge production, knowledge dissemination, and a qualification and student experience; singularly if you like. Top universities offer all four of those. A MOOC offers you what? It doesn’t offer you knowledge production, doesn’t really offer you a qualification after completion; it doesn’t offer you a student experience. So it is just taking out all of those aspects. Its main purpose is knowledge dissemination. We may see the development of universities, over the next twenty-five years, that offer one or more but not all of those aspects of university life. So that may lead to a richness in university education. It may even lead to the development of different areas and niches within the higher education sector. People often like to refer to the ‘Napster moment’ in music, where people thought it would be the end of the universe. What the impact led to was an enrichment of the music industry because it forced the music industry to orientate itself more towards live performances for example, so it actually increased the quality of the provision of the music industry. In the same way I’d have thought e-learning, distance learning and the MOOC agenda will influence universities in a positive way over the next twenty-five years.

Another aspect that is interesting is so called ‘big data’; huge and complex data sets where, for years now, people have been bombarded with huge amounts of information and we are only just getting to grips with how we can actually analyse these data sets in meaningful ways. I think analysing those within institutions seeing how we can improve how we provide some of those elements universities provide like knowledge production, knowledge dissemination and student experience will be very important.

How can university business schools ‘bridge the valley of death’ between academia and industry?

A business school that doesn’t reach out and interact with business is just a school. So it is central to what a business school does and we have a central mission in the Business School. Our mission is to produce world class research, which is capable of influencing the way organisations operate and the way business is conducted. We are here to produce world class business leaders and managers; we are here to provide a return in investment for our students for our alumni during their entire careers as they go out into industry. So we are thinking of ourselves as always trying to integrate within the business industry. Already in the way the government assesses research, in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework in 2014, is an important impact element which will measure the significance of research done in business schools and in universities in general, on society and the environment, as well as in business schools and business industry.

I think that will be an increasingly important element of the metrics of higher education going forward; it’s not good enough just to publish a paper in a top rate academic journal, there has to be the impact that flows from that. I for one welcome the metrics. The use of metrics in the past twenty or thirty years often had a distorting effect. I think that in this case, it will have a positive impact. At Warwick Business School, there are a number of initiatives we have undertaken in order to interface with business; we are, for example, appointing Professors of Practice. So we now have several professors within the school of the rank of professor who are not academics, who have spent their career within industry and business and achieved a very high level of distinction and been very successful. We have hired them and given them the rank of professor to teach on our MBA programme. They want to impart some of that knowledge, some of that experience to our MBA students and to our researchers as well.

If you could get one commitment from the G8 summit of world leaders, related to higher education, that would benefit the global sector, what would that be?

Quite simply it would be a commitment from world leaders to utilise the knowledge and skills within universities. Universities will generally provide a politically independent source of advice from a range of ideas. Going back to a previous question on how we bridge the gap between academia and industry, I think it’s also important how we bridge the gaps between academia and governments and policy. So really just utilising the skills, and experience and knowledge that exist within universities will go a long way towards benefiting the global economy and global society.

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: Model Delorean. Source: Flickr.

Image. Professor Mark Talylor University of Warwick Business SchoolProfessor Mark P Taylor is Dean of Warwick Business School (WBS). Professor Taylor has outstanding credentials both in academia and in the business and policy worlds. He has held a professorship in international finance at Warwick since 1999. From 2006, on partial leave, he worked as a managing director at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, where he led the European arm of the Global Market Strategies Group, a large global macro investment fund.

Professor Taylor's research on exchange rates and international financial markets has been published extensively in many of the leading academic and practitioner journals and he is one of the most highly cited researchers in finance and economics in the world.

May 19, 2013

The Attraction of UK Universities

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Image. Students walking through bluebells on the University of Warwick campus

A blog post by Sir John O’Reilly, Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS.

Our Universities are one of the UK’s national assets. They have a worldwide reputation for teaching and research and make a valuable contribution to economic growth not just through their employment and expenditure, but as a provider of skilled people; through attracting inward investment; facilitating the innovation ecosystem; supplying workforce development services; supporting business start-ups and commercialisation of research and through civic leadership.

Higher education is an important part of the UK economy. The sector employs more than one per cent of the UK’s total workforce. UK universities generate over a third of their funds from non-public sources and their export earnings exceed £8bn, including expenditure by overseas students.

The UK is already one of the most attractive places in the world to study. We have a 13 per cent share of the international higher education (HE) student market by nationality, and over 75 per cent of institutions provide higher education qualifications overseas. To support growth in this important area, the Government is developing an education exports industrial strategy, which will cover the full range of UK education exports from English language training to further and higher education.

Universities’ income from engagement with business and community is at an unprecedented level, and has more than doubled in real terms since 2001 to £3.43bn per annum. Industry has been attracted to working in the UK by our universities, by our skilled people, by the quality of our research and the ease with which the UK transacts its relationships.

We often look to the USA for lessons on university-business interactions: but the World Economic Forum rated the UK second in the world for university-business collaborations – ahead of the United States. UK higher education institutions (HEIs) generate higher number of patents and more spin-outs per pound of research, and attract a similar proportion of industry funding as US HEIs.

Universities are part of the UK’s national infrastructure. The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund helps universities to accelerate private co-investment in UK university research infrastructure and create long-term research partnerships with businesses and charities. This co-investment model will secure over £1bn, through providing £300m of public money.

The Government is actively seeking to support universities to build strategic relationships with business. However we recognise that working with business is not just about securing finance from the private sector: there are wide range of knowledge exchange activities that occur between academia and business.

Tim Wilson’s review of business-university collaborationtold me that there are already excellent links between businesses and universities. But we can do more. This is why BIS has supported the creation of the National Centre for Universities and Business. We don’t think any other country has this facility and we believe it will give us a real competitive edge.

Universities also play a unique and multi-faceted role in local economic development. We need to ensure we realise these benefits and the Government has invited Sir Andrew Witty to lead a review to explore further how universities can work with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and other local organisations to support growth.

The review will explore the range of ways that universities contribute to their local economies and identify where we have world leading capabilities in our research base that can underpin the sectors and technologies of the industrial strategy, and how we can maximise their impact.

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: Students exploring the University of Warwick campus


Image. Sir John O’Reilly Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS

Sir John O’Reilly
Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS

Sir John O’Reilly was appointed Director General of Knowledge and Innovation in February 2013. John came from Cranfield University where he was Vice Chancellor from December 2006.

April 17, 2013

The future of UK universities on the global stage: Louis Coiffait, The Pearson Think Tank

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Photograph: A moment captured in the British Museum: man stands next to a Tennyson quote engraved in the floor
Forward thinking: Image c/o Lewisham Dreamer

Alex Miles(University of Warwick) speaks to Louis Coiffait, Head of Research for The Pearson Think Tank

AM: Based on this issue of universities in 2025, do you see things being radically different from how they are now in terms of the structure and the demarcation between the experiential side of things, going onto a physical campus, and the virtual, which is the MOOCs trend so to speak?

LC: I always struggle with this question. My editorial for the last Blue Skies, had the title Revolution or Evolution? and I struggle to know actually how fast change will happen. I think that in 12 years time some institutions and some aspects of higher education (HE) will have seen a revolution but some will be exactly the same. You will still walk into Magdalene College quad; it’ll still have the nice, green grass which you’re not allowed to stand on, and there will still be a lovely old professor who you can spend time with and that’s not going to change. But it’s beyond that kind of stereotypical university experience that I think things will start to get really interesting and you will see some quite different experiences. I think that the blurring of the boundaries with employers is where that potentially could be particularly innovative.

AM: Late last year there was a report from McKinsey, which said that there’s going to be a deficit of skilled jobs to the tune of 85 million in tertiary education – so let’s say that’s undergraduates leading all the way up to a second degree; that’s in the next five years. Taking the global perspective, and most of these graduate-level jobs are going to be in developing BRIC countries, do you think that the UK sector is prepared to respond to this demand and do you think that the UK graduates are going to have to have a complete evaluation to their attitudes towards travel?

LC: I think that in terms of the skills deficit or the gap, I don’t see that getting solved any time soon. A lot of traditional provision doesn’t equip people with what they need to respond in this ever-faster, ever more dynamic kind of workplace and that’s kind of my earlier point about why employers and education providers at university level or otherwise, when they start to interact, that’s when you actually get really good solutions to some of those skills deficits.

In terms of the kind of competitive global picture, I think that the UK is actually very well placed; perhaps we beat ourselves up a little too much; although the volumes coming out of bits of the developing world are amazing, I don’t think that the quality is always there yet. I think they will get there, I think that the British institutions and British students are going to be involved in helping them get there.

It’s certainly not the case that we are the knowledge economy and the thinkers and the rest of world is going to be the workshop “do-ers” but I think that there is a case that Britain and its graduates are going to have to respond and they are going to be involved in that kind of global change, but it might not necessarily mean travel; I think we need to be better global citizens but technologies these days mean you don’t need to leave your house.

AM: The G8 Summit in June is focusing on free trade. From the point of view of higher education, let's say you can give only one recommendation; what would you like them to commit to?

LC: I think the free movement of people, particularly, is pretty key, and I think higher education (HE) has got a big part to play in that. I think the immigration policy that we’re seeing in this country is pretty despicable, it’s very short-term, it’s very parochial, and I think it’s very political. Countries such as Australia and Canada have been much more strategic in terms of their international recruitment of students. I think that yes, we need to regulate to some extent to make sure we have legitimate students coming for legitimate courses but the message we’re sending out at the moment is a very negative one. And increasingly, those students from international locations are choosing not only to not come here or to go to somewhere else, but to actually not to leave their region. We’re going to see a massive growth in, for example, people from China studying in Malaysia – that kind of thing – so we really need to sort out our free trade – our free movement of people – and our immigration policies, particularly around higher education.

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 GUS, 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.

April 15, 2013

I would rank Thatcher alongside Attlee

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Photograph of Baroness Lady Thatcher at the University of Warwick
The First Lady: Lady Thatcher with Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya at WMG in 1990

As the nation debates the legacy of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, several academics from the University of Warwick have offered their perspectives based on their research and expertise.

Baroness Thatcher was no stranger to the University; she visited Warwick on several occasions. In 1988 she looked in on what is now the Warwick Crop Centre and in 1990, the Baroness opened the Advanced Technology Centre. During the latter visit she was given a tour of WMG by Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, WMG’s chairman and founder (see photo above). Lord Bhattacharyya paid tribute to Lady Thatcher in the House of Lords on 10 April 2013.

This Wednesday (17 April 2013), to mark Lady Thatcher’s funeral, Dr Martin Priceand Dr Anton Popovwill have a Knowledge Centre feature looking at the responses of the under 25s to Lady Thatcher’s death.

Price and Popov are not alone in offering a reflective analysis on the Iron Lady’s political career, with several academics writing blogs about Margaret Thatcher.

In ‘Margaret Thatcher and me’, Professor Mark Harrison addresses the personal passion she roused in others (on both sides of the debate) and, in a less personal analysis, looks at her economic legacy.

“In my heart, at the time, I was enraged by what Margaret Thatcher did. But now she belongs to history. In my head, looking back as an economic historian, I have to acknowledge the necessity of it.”

Good night's sleep
With Margaret Thatcher’s night time habits being a famous part of her routine, Dr Michelle Miller, from the Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing at the Warwick Medical School, has been discussing this and the importance of a good night’s sleep.

“Margaret Thatcher reportedly only slept for four hours per night. Our studies indicate that short duration of sleep is associated with a variety of chronic conditions and poor health outcomes, detectable across the entire lifespan. Sufficient sleep is necessary for optimal daytime performance and well-being.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that a good night’s sleep equates to at least six hours of continuous sleep per night but, within a population, there is a large difference in how much sleep people report, ranging from less than six to greater than nine hours per night.

“Long-term sustained sleep deprivation also exerts sustained and long-term effects on performance and cognitive functions beyond those of acute deprivation and poor sleep is a feature of dementia. However, although dementia is thought to affect around 800,000 people in the UK, prospectively, very few studies have addressed the question of whether disturbances of quality and quantity of sleep precede and can be predictors of subsequent cognitive impairment. We are hoping to explore these and similar questions in our recently funded ESRC study.”

Solution to the problems
Writing on the economics blog Vox, Professor Nicholas Crafts puts Margaret Thatcher’s political career into some perspective; explaining the economy she inherited through to the one that she left John Major and Tony Blair.

“Thatcherism was a partial solution to the problems which had led to earlier underperformance, in particular, those that had arisen from weak competition.”

And finally, discussing her political legacy, Professor Wyn Grant, Politics and International Studies, said:

“Of the 20th century peacetime prime ministers, I would rank Thatcher alongside Attlee in terms of making a difference.”

January 24, 2013

Winter Graduation: Everybody's Free (to wear hats and gloves)

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Suit up Graduates at the University of Warwick
Suit up: BSc students graduating in 2008.

Graduation is as much about reflection as it is a point to embark upon your chosen career. My start to university life, in 1999, happened in a fairly good year:

  • The first new Star Wars film in 16 years had just been released
  • the Millennium (not Falcon) celebrations were only a few months away (and we really did party like it was 1999)
  • and Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ had recently done well on the ‘hit parade’.

The song, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a spoken word essay, by the film director, to the "ladies and gentlemen of the Class of '99.” It would be a few years before I graduated but some of Luhrmann’s advice has stuck with me to this day, especially his words on sunscreen.

I’m not a Warwick alumnus but I’ve several friends who graduated from the University of Warwick so I asked them (and alumni on LinkedIn) what knowledge, like Baz, they would like to impart on the ‘ladies and gentleman of the Class of 2013’. Here’s what they had to say:

Luda Begley née Anestiadi, writer and freelance translator, San Antonio, Texas. Luda completed a master's degree in Creative Writing with distinction, Warwick Writing Programme (2008-2009).

“Once you leave our dear bubble, don't lose that spirit, motivation and enthusiasm you began your studies with. Always remember why you came to Warwick in the first place and follow that goal. And once the ceremony is over, go give a hearty hug to your tutors; trust me, the more time passes after you graduate, the more you realise how much they deserved it!”

Richard Casey, Director, Chapter 1 Executive Recruitment. Richard studied Chemistry (1983 – 1986).

“My advice would be for those candidates heading into industry (non-academia) to get a good grounding with a big organisation first. You can easily head out to a smaller firm later in life but it's very difficult to head the other way. Also, unless you are absolutely passionate about it, think carefully about the rush for investment banking: the salaries are normalising somewhat and those who work there regard it as less fun than it was even ten years ago.”

Jonathan Goggs, Alumni Engagement Intern at the University of Warwick. Jonathan graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Politics with International Studies (2012).

“In this job market, I'm reminded of that classic quote from the Simpsons to sum up graduation: “Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!

“My advice to those following non-conventional career paths would be brand yourself, find your specialism, and work your way towards making yourself indispensable at your organisation. And don't be dispirited!”

Andrew Steel, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Veritas Traducción y Comunicación, S.L. MBA, DipTransIoLET, BA (Hons), MCIL, MITI. Madrid Area, Spain. Andrew graduated with a BA (Hons) in Film and literature (1990-1993).

“Become a master of principles, not policy. Act on principles, not policy. Live by principles, not policy.” (Quoting author Jeffrey Gitomer).

Ian Cotgias, ESG and Other Risk Capital Manager at Friends Life Group. Ian studied MORSE: Mathematics, Operations Research, Statistics and Economics (1988 – 1991).

“Listen and learn from your colleagues in whatever path you choose to follow. Also, be proactive and take responsibility for [yourself]. I say this because graduates can be distinguished by those that expect everything to be done to them without input from themselves (i.e. training, communication, promotion) - they are often the least happy in their jobs. Then there are those that arrange to have coffee with senior members of the organisation and work to understand what's going on, where they can fit in and this allows them to build a picture of what they want to do. You'll be surprised how approachable seemingly unapproachable colleagues can be and how much of a leg up that can give you.”

Good luck to you all, wherever you choose to go and whatever you choose to do…and trust Baz on the sunscreen.

January 21, 2013

Winter Graduation: our honorary graduates

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University of Warwick Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert and Honorary Graduate Pascal Lamy Graduation 2009

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert and Honorary Graduate Pascal Lamy, Graduation 2009

More than 165,000 students have graduated from the University of Warwick since it took its first cohort of 450 undergraduates in October 1965. Alongside the students graduating this week (at the Winter 2013 Degree Congregation), there will also be four honorary graduates. We will be interviewing them for the Knowledge Centre, with audio, images and text appearing online soon.

The honorary graduates receiving awards at the Winter 2013 degree ceremony are:

  • Earl Cameron CBE will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt). Cameron, who was born in Bermuda, now lives in Kenilworth. His acting career stretches over more than 60 years with film credits for, amongst others, Inception (2010), The Queen (2006) and Thunderball (1965). His television appearances include Doctor Who, Jackanory and Lovejoy. Cameron was awarded a CBE in 2009 for his services to drama.
  • Dame Fiona Reynolds will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc). Dame Fiona was Director-General of the National Trust until November 2012 and is a Non-executive Director of the BBC. She was awarded the CBE for services to the environment and conservation in 1998 and was appointed a DBE in 2008. From September 2013 she will be Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She is also a non-executive director of Wessex Water.
  • Caterer, broadcaster and writer Prue Leith will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt). Leith, who is one of the three judges on The Great British Menu, established the Leiths School of Food and Wine in 1975 and sold the school, which teaches amateur and professional chefs, in the 1990s. Her first novel was published in 2005 and she has since published four others, as well as an autobiography and several cook books.
  • Sir David Chipperfield will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc). After graduating from Kingston School of Art and the Architectural Association in London, Sir David worked at the practices of Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. He established David Chipperfield Architects in 1984. His practice was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2007 for the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, Germany. The Practice also created the Turner Contemporary in Margate and The Hepworth Wakefield.

November 26, 2012

Aeneas Wilder competition

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Artist Aeneas WilderJust 56 days after it was created, Aeneas Wilder’s latest artwork, #162, will be ceremonially kicked to the ground by the artist this Saturday, 1 December, at the Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry.

The ‘Kick Down’ is where Wilder (pictured left), a Scottish installation artist, brings in an element of performance to his exhibitions. Wilder’s ‘Kick Downs’ are exclusive affairs and all the public tickets for this event have now gone. The Knowledge Centre has, however, been given two pairs of tickets to give away so that four lucky winners can experience this once in a lifetime event.

To stand a chance of winning a pair of these tickets, simply answer the following question:

Q) How many days did it take Aeneas Wilder to create #162? (Hint: read ‘What Goes Up, Must Come Down: A podcast interview with artist Aeneas Wilder’ for a clue).

Email us at with your answer, name and contact details. The competition closes at 2pm on Friday 30 November 2012 and entries will be drawn out of a hat that afternoon. Please include a mobile telephone number with your entry.

Full details of the 'Kick Down' are available on the Warwick Arts Centre website.

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.

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