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October 15, 2015

Celebrate our 50th anniversary at the Festival of the Imagination


Our Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, shares his thoughts on the Festival of the Imagination.

Following months of anticipation, I’m delighted that our Festival of the Imagination ­- the pinnacle event of our 50th anniversary - is upon us. Over the next two days our campus will play host to a diverse programme of events and activities for the whole family to enjoy, all based around the theme of ‘Imagining the Future’.

We’ll be starting the festival by welcoming hundreds of local schoolchildren to the Arts Centre, where they’ll be taking part in interactive sessions led by some of our academics and outreach officers.

From 4pm tomorrow and throughout Saturday we’ll be running a series of thought-provoking talks, providing a platform for discussion and debate on topics ranging from healthy cooking and Shakespeare to big data and robots. I’m particularly looking forward to discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the Higher Education sector over the coming years in a session tomorrow afternoon, ‘Universities Challenged’, where I’ll be joined by Professor Abhinay Muthoo and Siobhan Benita from our Department of Economics, Alison Goddard, Editor of HE, and David Palfreyman, Bursar and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford .

In addition to the wide range of talks on offer, there’ll be a variety of food and drink stalls, music, taster classes and entertainment to enjoy - all of which I’m sure will create a fantastic festival atmosphere.

I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to organise what I know will be an unforgettable event, our volunteers, our speakers, our student performers and everyone who’ll be coming onto campus to help celebrate with us. I look forward to seeing you there.

May 08, 2015

From a degree in maths to a career in sport

Colin Grahamslaw studied Mathematics at Warwick from 1988 to 1991,before becoming Sports Sabbatical Officer in the Students' Union. This led him into a career in the sport industry - something he had never imagined before arriving at the University. Colin tells us more in this week's 50@50 and shares his thoughts on why he thinks it's essential for students to get involved in extra-curricular activities.

Why did you choose to study at Warwick?colin

It was a bit by accident really! I had liked the look of Heriot-Watt Uni – a campus close to the city – but wanted to move away from home to study. Warwick looked very similar - it was only afterwards I found that I was applying to one of the top maths universities!

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?

There are many: winning the local Coventry Cup with the football club; standing in the balcony overlooking the marketplace on the final night of term watching the madness below; the party at the end of my finals – but probably the one that stands out was in my final year at the end of the winter term on the last night, when it snowed – heavily!

We woke up on Saturday morning to find Coventry in chaos and traffic going nowhere. Parents coming to collect students were stuck on campus and there was nothing open. In the end, a couple of the Union staff arrived in on foot and with a few conscripts from the student body. The Union was opened, including the bars and catering, and a second final night disco was staged for those stuck on campus. I spent the night working in the snack bar – I'm not sure everyone got the best prepared meals they ever had but there were no complaints of food poisoning…!

How did you imagine the future when you were a student at Warwick?

I had gone to Warwick expecting to get my degree and head off into the world of accountancy or insurance. Working in sport was not on the agenda and the thought of standing for election for anything was certainly not something I had considered. So to find myself campaigning for the sabbatical Sports Officer role and standing on stage giving a speech, telling a joke and singing a song to a crowded hall was unexpected!

Where has your career taken you since leaving Warwick?

After my sabbatical role at Warwick I headed to Cranfield University as a Students' Union General Manager, but soon moved back into sport with a move home to Scotland to work for Scottish Fencing. Five years there was followed by a stint with the Scottish Hockey Union and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club before, in 2010, I was appointed as Secretary General of the World Curling Federation, one of only three Brits to hold a role such as this in an Olympic Sports Federation.

I have held a number of voluntary roles in sport as well as continuing an involvement in student sport for many years, both in committees and as manager of the Scottish universities cricket team. I have also served as the Vice Chairman of the Scottish Sports Association and on several lottery awards panels.

What does your current job involve?

I am the senior staff member for the World Curling Federation, responsible to the elected board for the staff and management of the Federation. The WCF turns over around US$8m per annum and has a permanent staff of 15 expanding to almost 100 during events, when we also run our own broadcast operation supplying TV pictures to various channels around the world.

The role of an International Sports Federation is varied, from overseeing the rules and regulations of the sport, through to introducing the sport to new countries, to running world championships and the curling events at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

How has your time at Warwick influenced your life?

It is true that without my time at Warwick I would not be where I am today. Although my degree (BSc Maths) probably has little day-to-day impact on my job, it provided me valuable lessons in how to work and deliver projects to time – although I would like to think I am a little less last minute these days!

It was my time in the Students' Union that obviously had the biggest impact on my life, becoming involved in the Sports Federation and being elected Sports Officer led me down a path that I would not have expected to be open to me. It has led to me travelling the world and experiencing the world’s greatest sporting events from the front row – even carrying the Olympic torch and being part of medal ceremonies at the Youth Olympics and Paralympics.


If you could offer one piece of advice to current and future Warwick students what would it be?

It is harder now given the financial commitment required to being a student, but I still think it is important to take advantage of everything the University has to offer outside the degree - whether that be sports, arts or any of the other clubs, societies etc.

Many of the people I knew from Warwick are now working in jobs more influenced by their extra-curricular activities at Warwick than their degree.

What would you like to see happening at Warwick over the next 50 years?

I would like to see the student (particularly the undergraduate) been seen as the core of the University. The University also needs to find ways to ensure that people are not put off attending Warwick because of the costs involved. Education is a right, not a privilege, and society as a whole benefits from a well educated population and the University benefits from a diverse cultural, ethnic and social-economic student body. It is important to find ways to allow students to develop as individuals outside their degrees to achieve their full potential – sometimes that will not happen by just following the course.

March 20, 2015

What was life like at Warwick in the 70s?


In this week's 50@50 we meet Warwick alumna Bojusia Wojciechowska, who studied History from 1972-75 followed by a masters in Comparative British and European Social History from 1975-76.

Since studying at Warwick Bojusia has spent almost all of her working life in higher education, both as an instructor and administrator. She is currently Dean of Professional Studies & Workforce Development at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Why did you choose Warwick?

I wanted a university which was not tied to tradition so that I could forge my own identity. I also wanted a self-contained campus, a good history department and a university with an active student life. Warwick made its way to my shortlist and, after I found out that it had opportunities for study abroad, it made its way to my top five. After visiting for my interview, I knew that this was the place for me.

What was your first day on campus like?

I knew that the University was a building site, so that was no shock. I was dropped off by my sister and her boyfriend who had driven me up from London in his Austin Morris Traveller. It was a relief when we got there as they were worried whether or not the car would make it. I was excited and nervous, in a good way. I felt that I was at the beginning of a great adventure.

My room was in Rootes Hall, 'L' block. I tried making my sister and her boyfriend a coffee but had no sugar, so they suggested I get to know my neighbour by knocking on her door and asking her for some; very corny. Still, I did ask her; she was a 3rd year English student whom I rarely saw during the rest of the year. It was exhilarating to be there; I could discover myself and be myself. The people I could see looked like 'my type of person', what my parents would have called 'hippies.' I was very happy to meet my other neighbours, two of whom were from my part of London. I had no culinary skills: one of them had to show me how to use the cooker! We remain good friends to this day.

What did you imagine your time at university would be like?

I would work hard and play hard. Life would be very full and I would experience a lot of new things and meet lots of different people.

How close was the reality to your imagination?

Very close. Obtaining a history degree was no cake walk. I worked very hard. The Department Chair, Professor Jack Scarisbrick, told us that we had to have the 'moral fibre' to succeed; this was his justification for giving us full-blown finals which determined our course grades. That put us under a lot of pressure, especially if we were planning to continue our studies after we earned our BA.

Socially and politically, Warwick was very vibrant and was acquiring a reputation for itself as a left-wing campus with a very active students' union. There was always something going on and we watched the campus grow. New buildings were constantly going up. You felt like a pioneer participating in the growth of a new community.

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?

There are many, but the friendships were key. My 21st birthday was celebrated in Tocil flats where I lived with a group of friends. Most of us lived together in the same flat for two years so we got to know each other pretty well. For my birthday we had food and music in our kitchen - the music provided by our own resident group, Bretton. I recorded the performance and gave the members of the band a copy of the tape a few years ago.

What do you regret?

This is a tough one to answer! I don't believe in regrets and thinking "what if..." I prefer "carpe diem".

Do you keep in touch with any friends from Warwick?

Yes, many. Although I have been living in the USA for almost 30 years, we stay in touch and when we get together it doesn't feel like we've ever been apart.

How did you imagine the future when you were at Warwick?

Anything was possible. We were all full of optimism and fortunately did not anticipate the tragedies that some of us later experienced in life. It is a confirmation of the strength of our friendships that we have been able to support each other throughout the good and bad times that some have experienced. I decided on my first day that I would not leave higher education until I got my PhD, and that I would work in academia. I achieved those goals.

How has Warwick influenced your life?

It enabled me to solidify my beliefs, and to make sense of my values and priorities, which have changed little to this day. I believe that Warwick enabled me to become the person I am. The environment at Warwick, particularly at the Labour History Centre where I obtained my MA in Comparative Social History, fuelled my passion for grass roots history and social justice. Whereas there have been opportunities for me to work in the 'ivory tower’, my research focus has been on populations who have traditionally not had a voice and, in terms of my work, to contribute to institutions that create opportunities for the economically and educationally disadvantaged.

What do you think has been the most important invention of the last 50 years?

The computer. Not the Charles Babbage or Alan Turing machines, but the multi-purpose, portable gadgets which have us permanently connected to the outside world.

What do you think has been the most substantial cultural change of the last 50 years?

Civil rights, which includes rights for minorities, those with physical and mental disabilities, and various sexual orientations.

What are the best book, film and album of the 1970s?

That's difficult to answer as there was a big shift in culture from the early to the late seventies, especially in music. That being said:

  • Non-fiction: All the President's Men
  • Fiction: Roots
  • Films: Apocalypse Now
  • Album: early 70s: Dark Side of the Moon
  • Album late 70s: Saturday Night Fever

If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?

Have an open mind and try everything. See yourself as a canvas with a charcoal sketch to which you are going to add colour and details. Get involved in social issues; if you don't do it now when will you?

Would you like to contribute a post to our 50@50 series or know someone who we should feature? Get in touch at

March 13, 2015

Imagining the future of space research

With Dr J Emilio Jimenez-Roldan, Astronomy Outreach Teacher Fellow, Physics

What if we discovered life on another planet? What questions would this raise and what consequences could it have? Dr Emilio Jimenez-Roldan shares his thoughts in this week's 50@50 video.

Do you know someone who you think we should feature in our 50@50 series? Get in touch at

February 06, 2015

Between Snow and Stars


In this week's 50 @ 50 post, we speak to Warwick Business School student Tom Vaillant, who's on course to graduate in Warwick’s 50th year having achieved more than a degree during his time here. The 22-year-old from France, in the final year of his BSc in Management at WBS, has just finished producing a feature-length film set on Everest and in the Arctic, ‘Between Snow and Stars’, which he filmed alongside his studies.

Tell us a bit about the project.

Alongside studying, I’ve been working on my production company, Rockline, which was primarily founded to produce, finance and distribute ‘Between Snow and Stars’. The project brought me to amazing places, such as exploring with renowned mushers and climbers in the Arctic and on Everest. I set up the production company during my first year at Warwick.

How have you found the experience? What have been the highlights?

I’ve loved combining two of my passions on these projects – sports and cinematography. Seeing the film for the first time on the big screen at Kendal Film Festival was stressful, as it’s been such a long ride! However the hardest part was showing it to our Kickstarter backers in London, as they’ve been there from the very beginning.

I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences and mistakes; hopefully coming out of this I will have acquired a useful skill set. And Warwick has proved to be a great place to come back to!

What was the most challenging aspect?

Filming at -40C certainly has its challenges, including the danger of frostbite. I made it to 8,000m on Everest – and discovered on my return that I’d lost 20 kilograms during the climb. I spent my second year both studying and filming – I must hold a record for submitting an essay at the highest altitude!

Juggling my studies and the project has definitely been challenging, but the University has been really supportive, including allowing me to take a year out to freelance (working three jobs to fund the creation of the soundtrack and the colour grading) and complete the project.

What has being a student at Warwick made possible for you?

Warwick is very open to creating opportunities for their students. Most institutions would have outright refused my project or my request for a year out in the middle of my degree - and I wouldn't have been able to pursue my goal to its end. Instead I'm on my way to graduating with a degree from a prestigious university. For this I am very grateful.

It's very easy for students here to embark on personal endeavours. Entrepreneurs have many societies and incubators to choose from and Warwick actively endorses students’ ideas. The University has a brilliant network and was not afraid to use it to help me. WBS helped to launch my project by featuring me in press releases in France and the UK, which gave me the necessary credibility to get sponsorship.

I found that everyone at WBS was very approachable, the mindset towards these extracurricular activities is not something I can imagine finding in many universities.

How would you like to see the next 50 years at Warwick?

In the future I would like this spirit to grow, so that aspiring students with entrepreneurial ambitions will know that they are applying to a university that will not only let them carry on their projects but help them achieve them. Many industries have become increasingly competitive to enter, and will not suit everyone, so I think it’s important to keep a dynamic campus by continuing to encourage students to create their own jobs if they want to. I think incentivising this behaviour as part of a core module in some departments would be incredible!

What’s next for Between Snow and Stars?

We’ve recently secured an agreement with Outside Television to make the film available to 30 million homes in North America, which is fantastic news. The film has also been accepted in a few film festivals on the other side of the Atlantic and a teaser has been staff picked by Vimeo. I’m waiting to hear from Channel 4 about the possibility of distributing the film here in the UK.

What’s next for you?

I’d love to pursue a career in sports media production and I’m a finalist in the Red Bull Graduate programme, so I’m working towards that goal in the run up to my finals this summer. Right now, I’m looking forward to enjoying student life at Warwick for my last few months on campus!

Watch the trailer for Between Snow and Stars below and look out for it on the Big Screen Piazza from Friday 6 February. You can see more of Tom’s award-winning images here or on Instagram @tomvaillant.

Would you like to be featured in our 50 @ 50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at

January 29, 2015

Imagining the future of the internet

With Professor Irene Ng, WMG

The internet has changed the world significantly over the last few decades, but how could it transform our lives further in the future? Could everything be connected to the internet and, if so, what impact would this have?

Following this week’s hugely exciting announcement that Warwick will be one of the five universities leading the Alan Turing Institute for data science, today’s 50 @ 50 post features Professor Irene Ng, whose work focuses on data management. We asked her to consider the question ‘what if everything was connected to the internet?’Watch her answer below.

Would you like to be featured in our 50 @ 50 series or know someone who would? Get in touch at

January 23, 2015

Looking back at 1965

In this week's 50 @ 50 post we meet alumnus Anthony Felix, who was one of the very first students at Warwick in 1965. Following his degree in Economics, Anthony went on to found a publishing company, create the world’s first public on-line interactive text information service and to be the first chairman of the North London Training & Enterprise Council. He is now a self-employed business consultant advising several Israeli start-up companies developing medical devices.

Why did you pick Warwick? Anthony Felix

When I was a sixth-former in Brighton I was caught up in the excitement of the opening of Sussex University – a new university on a new campus. Brighton became a different town. The influx of students brought great energy and vitality.

I wanted nothing more than to be one of those students but I also knew that to leave home was an essential component of the student’s experience. So when my time came to choose a university, I looked for a “Sussex away from home”. Warwick fitted the bill perfectly!

It must be said that Warwick developed its own distinct characteristics and certainly was not a carbon copy of Sussex. There is no doubt in my mind that Warwick gave me everything I had hoped for and more.

Was it a risk attending a new university?
There was no risk, as far as I was concerned, going to a new university was a fantastic opportunity to be fully involved from the start. I knew that in the first year of a new university, freshers would take the lead. I was chairman of several clubs and societies in the first term of the University’s life.

What was your first day on campus like? What were your impressions?
Having been interviewed in a porta-cabin on a building site, it was a great surprise to see a completed Gibbet Hill campus. I experienced a variety of emotions - saying goodbye to my mother who had driven me to the university from Brighton was sad, the thrill of arriving at the beginning of a new life and a little fear of “the unknown”.

What did you imagine your time at University would be like?
I expected more intensive tuition, a bit like sixth-form on steroids.

How close was the reality to your imagination?
Very different. I had more unstructured time. The work expected of us could be done at any time of the day or night. The “timetable” had so many blanks.

What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?
The memory that is most vivid has to be the first day – the day it all began for me and for the University. I can still feel the emotion and the atmosphere in the lecture theatre when Jack Butterworth told us how he and the other founders of the University had looked forward to our arrival.

What do you regret?

Do you keep in touch with any friends from Warwick?
Life has taken me and my student contemporaries in different directions and so the great friendships of those three years did not survive the transition. There is only one friend, now in the USA, with whom I stayed in touch for many years. It is sad that it is so easy to drift apart but such is the consequence of new pressures, new relationships and different environments.

How did you imagine the future when you were at Warwick?
I had not formed a clear vision of the future – I took each day as it came and tried to make the best choices among the available ways forward.

How did Warwick influence your life?
Warwick gave me the opportunity to take responsibility, to lead and to create new organisations. I started a business within two years of leaving Warwick and built a successful publishing company. I established the North London Training & Enterprise Council and was the founding Chairman of the Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust. I have Warwick to thank for helping to provide me with the necessary tools for what we would now call a “start-up”.

What do you think has been the most important invention of the last 50 years?
The power off facility on the iPhone

What do you think has been the most cultural change of the last 50 years?
Multicultural society

What’s the best book, film and album of the last 50 years?
Book -The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
Film – Dr Zhivago
Album – Leonard Cohen – Live in London

If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?
Don’t hold back, don’t wait and see, go for it.

Would you like to contribute a post to our 50 @ 50 series? Get in touch at

January 16, 2015

Imagining the future of television

With Dr Helen Wheatley, Film and Television Studies

What if every television programme was available at the push of a button? Would we want this or is there something special about watching programmes like Downton Abbey and the Strictly final at the same time as your friends, family and millions of others?

For this week's 50 @ 50 post we want to imagine the future of television, so we asked Dr Helen Wheatley from our Film and Television Studies department to consider the question 'what if all television was on demand?' Watch her answer below.

50 @ 50 is a special series of blog posts that will run throughout the course of 2015, the University of Warwick's 50th anniversary year. This series of posts will introduce you to 50 different Warwick people, all of whom have something interesting to say as we not only look back at what we’ve achieved in our relatively short time as a University, but also look forward and imagine what our future might look like. You’ll meet academics, students, alumni and administrative staff who will offer you a window on what life is like at the Times and Sunday Times’ University of the Year for 2015.

Stay up to date with our 50th anniversary celebrations by following the 50th anniversary Twitter account, using the hashtag #warwick50 and checking the website.

You can even contribute a post to our 50 @ 50 series – if you’re interested please get in touch at

January 08, 2015

'50@50 – a year of special posts'

Written by the 50th anniversary team

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015! This year is a very special one for everyone connected with Warwick as50 bulb it marks our 50th anniversary and we have plenty of exciting things planned to help celebrate – including a special series of blog posts of which what you’re currently reading is the first.

’50 @ 50’ will introduce you to 50 different Warwick people, all of whom have something interesting to say as we not only look back at what we’ve achieved in our relatively short time as a University, but also look forward and imagine what our future might look like. You’ll meet academics, students, alumni and administrative staff who will offer you a window on what life is like at the Times and Sunday Times’ University of the Year for 2015.

And what better focus to kick off this new feature than by hearing from us – the team co-ordinating all of the 50th anniversary celebration activities? We’re incredibly excited about what 2015 has in store for Warwick and wanted to highlight some of our stand-out events.

From 21-23 May campus will be alive with the sound of the Golden Festival of Music, featuring a performance from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, some of the most exciting upcoming acts and plenty of other special guests.

We’ll also be a key partner at all four Cheltenham Festivals in 2015 – offering our input on literature, music, science and jazz.

Finally, our showpiece event will be back on campus from 16-17 October; the Festival of the Imagination. These two days will feature an interactive research zone, talks and debates, taster classes, street performance, a food market, cooking demonstrations and more.

This is by no means everything, so make sure you stay up to date by checking the website and following our 50th anniversary Twitter account.

We also want you to take part in our celebrations – come to our events if you can, stay up to date on social media using the hashtag #warwick50 wherever you are or explore how you can help shape the next 50 years by becoming a donor. You can even contribute a post to our 50 @ 50 series – if you’re interested please get in touch at

So, here’s to a fantastic year of celebration and, even better, the next chapter in Warwick’s incredible story.

Nicola, Emily and Christine
th anniversary team

October 15, 2014

Our 50th year is almost here!

Written by Christine Fearn, 50th Anniversary Project Officer

It seems hard to believe that we're already in October and that our 50th anniversary year is now just a few months away! It's a really exciting time and we'll be using this blog to share the latest news about the events we have planned and to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes.

The team are very busy at the moment planning and co-ordinating all the events and activities that will take place throughout the year. We’ve spent the last few months on campus meeting with a range of people who are keen to help us develop the programme activity, so we're confident there'll be something for everyone.

The events are really starting to take shape now, especially the ‘Festival of the Imagination’, the centre piece event of the celebrations happening on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October 2015 on central campus. During the festival there'll be a range of talks, debates and panel discussions, an interactive discovery area, cookery demonstrations, taster classes, student performances, food, music and much more. It looks set to be a great weekend!

Tickets for the first night of the ‘Golden Festival of Music’ on Thursday 21st May have already gone on sale. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be gracing the stage of the Butterworth Hall for a night of big American tunes that everyone will recognise, from Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to Bernstein's American in Paris. You can get your tickets here, but be quick as they're selling fast!

We really want to make sure that as many people as possible get involved in the celebrations. We'd love to hear from you - whether you have an idea for an event, want to share a photo or memory from your time at Warwick, or just have a question about the 50th - please get in touch on

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