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May 28, 2013

Applicable to the real world: the future of research

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

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)

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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).



April 15, 2013

I would rank Thatcher alongside Attlee

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge

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.”


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