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December 30, 2015

2015: A fantastic year for Warwick

lFor the final blog post in our 50@50 series, the 50th project team look back on some of the highlights of our anniversary year.

Well, what a year! Our celebrations started way back in December 2014 when, after a year of planning, we started our celebrations with a launch dinner to say thank you to all those people who were pivotal in making the University what it is today.

Over the year many departments took the opportunity to celebrate in their own way with their own events, and we were astounded that there were over 50 additional activities on top of what we were organising. It was clear that departments had put in a lot of time and effort to ensure that their events were well organised and delivered to a really high standard, and we were impressed that they really embraced the central theme of the 50th anniversary - ‘Imagining the Future’.

Our GRPs also held a range of 50th anniversary events in five strategic locations across the world. An exciting programme of research-led events took place in Brussels, Hong Kong, Singapore, Venice and Washington focusing on 'Sustainable Futures'. You can find out more here>>

We held the first ever Warwick Music festival in May, where we worked collaboratively with the Arts Centre to put on a three day music festival. With the Arts Centre leading and the 50th team supporting, the music festival had cross-generational appeal. There was unique and exciting food and drink, alongside free performances and walk-about entertainers, drawing on the talents of local musicians. The Butterworth Hall played host to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Django Django (supported by Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and Joan Armatrading (supported by Lucy Anne Sale and Garfield Mayor).

The 50th anniversary provided a great opportunity for us to announce the University’s unique partnership with Cheltenham Festivals; a partnership that spanned across all four Cheltenham festivals (Literature, Music, Jazz and Science) and our Festival of the Imagination. You can read more about the partnership and all of the events here>>

We’ve had some great features on our website this year and, if you’ve not already checked them out we’d really recommend you take a look. This 50@50 blog has featured some fascinating alumni, academic and administrative staff and students, all of whom provide a bit of insight into ‘their’ Warwick and their thoughts for the future. The celebration poetry showcases the best talent at, or to come out of, the University and the count up to 50 series provides a snap shot of the last 50 years.

With a third of Warwick's alumni living outside the UK the alumni team wanted to make sure that they were as involved in celebrating Warwick's 50th anniversary as alumni in the UK. An International Alumni Week was held and countries were encouraged to hold their own celebrations alongside ours, countries as far afield as Luxembourg, Kenya, Mexico, Iraq and Canada all held celebrations.

Our highlight of the year was, without a doubt, the Festival of the Imagination. It was the first time the University had attempted anything like it and it was a huge success. The festival was two years in the planning and really hard work – but such good fun! We had the chance to work with lots of different teams across the University, all of whom helped to make the festival so fantastic.

We had 450+ volunteers (both staff and students), 50+ student performers and 110 speakers over 64 scheduled events and 30+ drop in activities. We welcomed 8,400 visitors and around 900 school children from 18 regional schools to campus over the two days.

The year has been a great experience for us all and we were privileged to be involved in so many ‘university firsts’ – the first Warwick Music Festival, the first International Alumni Week and the first Festival the Imagination (to name a few!) We hope to see events of this nature, which bring together the whole Warwick community and showcase the excellence research and people, continue in future years.

We want to end by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in celebrating the University’s 50th anniversary; whether that be attending events, holding your own activities or volunteering, you’ve really helped to make this year very special.

Here’s to the next 50 years!

Nicola, Emily and Christine

Reflections on the 50th

fullsizerender2.jpgAs our 50th year draws to a close, the anniversary project team - Nicola Hunt, Emily Little and Christine Fearn, from External Affairs - share their thoughts on what has been an unforgettable 12 months.

What was your overall experience of the year and being part of the 50th team?

Emily – The whole year from start to finish was an amazing thing to be part of. The variety of projects and events we covered from December 2014 onwards really meant there was consistently a lot of energy and creativity in the team and we thrived on the challenges. Looking back now the inevitable stress of putting on such high profile and public facing events was worth it and the laughter and support I got from the whole team carried us through and bonded us into a strong team.

I enjoyed coming up with the ‘light bulb’ visual identity with its vibrant colour scheme and then seeing it used in so many creative and imaginative ways throughout the year – from the giant billboard outside NAIC, the flowerbed outside the MRC, on dinner invitations, on aprons, on flags made by the international alumni for their reunions and even printed onto edible rice paper as part of a dessert (thanks to Graham Crump!).

Christine – My overall experience was very positive. The 50th team was really small so we all had the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the planning and delivery of the celebration. It was great to be able to showcase some of the excellent work being done in academic departments at the festival, whether that be through the engaging talks and debates or the hands-on interaction in the Discovery Zone. I also really enjoyed hearing what departments around the University and our alumni were doing to celebrate. They really embraced the ‘Imagining the Future’ theme and held some great events.

Nicola – It’s been great! For me this project began in September 2013, and from then onwards it gathered pace to all but sweep the rest of my normal job aside. I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to be involved in something so wide-ranging and ambitious. We set out to celebrate the 50th in a very forward-looking way (it would have been easy to wallow in nostalgia!) and I think we’ve managed to strike the right balance, and done it in a very Warwick way. The 50th team quickly developed into a strong team, and I’m proud of what the team achieved this year, especially as there were only three of us!

What was your best moment of the year?

Emily – So many to mention... From being proud to hear the poetic voices of the young IGGY members and their student mentors carried across a spellbound Butterworth Hall at the Gala Dinner, to seeing the smiling, lit up faces of the first group of the 900 year 6 schoolchildren that entered the Discovery Zone with ‘wows’ and ‘cool’ on the schools' day of the Festival of the Imagination.

From working with and meeting some fantastic people, including alumni Torin Douglas and Serena MacBeth, inspiring chef Vivek Singh and screenwriter Andrew Davies, to finally seeing my creative vision of the Discovery Zone come to life with such vibrancy and energy from the thousands of visitors that passed through the doors and the wonderful, enthusiastic Warwick academics and volunteers that worked so hard over the whole Festival weekend.

Christine – My best moment of the year was the schools' day at the Festival of the Imagination. This had been one of my key projects and I was keen to ensure that it ran smoothly. It was a great example of how teams across the University can work really well together: security took charge of the school buses' arrivals and departures, the Arts Centre staff ensured that the children were ushered around the Arts Centre calmly and safely, we collaborated with the Centre for Professional Education so we could have 100 PGCE students to help us on the day and the University events team helped the 50th team to manage the day and ensured timings were kept to. There were so many other people involved too and I was so grateful for everyone’s help and involvement.

Nicola – I don’t think I could identify a best moment (unless you count the lie-in I had the morning after the Festival of the Imagination finished!) There are so many highlights! From launching the year in a transformed Butterworth Hall with an event that was not only a dinner, but a full production to 200 guests of the University, to spending a week at Cheltenham Science Festival in the Science Faculty marquee engaging with thousands of visitors excited by science, to the Royal visit by Princess Anne, through to the Festival of the Imagination which I can’t really sum up in just a few words… There have been so many high points, and they’ve all come about through great team work and collaborations across the University.

What has been the most challenging part of the year?

Emily – Not sure there’s been too many bad moments, although the most emotional I’ve been was watching the National Grid Discovery Zone being dismantled and feeling like the year had come to an end.

Christine – Definitely the week in the run up to the Festival of the Imagination! I wasn’t quite anticipating the amount of last-minute changes there would be, the schedule was being amended right up until the last minute.

Nicola – I’m not going to say it was the worst moment, but there was a special kind of realisation that dawned on me after the initial excitement of hearing that we were having a Royal visit, when it hit home that that visit was only 10 days before the Festival of the Imagination… Let’s just say I’ve never known a workload like it…but it was totally worth it, as that was a really special day to be part of.

What will you take away with you from this experience and would you do it all again?

Emily – That it takes a fantastic team effort to pull off what we did. There really is nothing like team work. That our academics and students really do step up when it comes to engaging with the public and they constantly made me feel proud to be part of the Warwick community. I would definitely do it all again in a heartbeat, yes! With lessons learnt and the knowledge that there is still so much more to Warwick and what we can share with the public, our staff and our alumni, another Festival would definitely be something I would love to be involved with. I certainly won’t forget this 50th year in a hurry.

Christine –It was such a great experience being part of the 50th team and I have learnt so much, so YES, I would love to do it all again!

Nicola – It’s been really apparent throughout the whole planning and delivery of the 50th that there’s great enthusiasm across the University to reach out and share what we do with the wider community, and there is also an audience out there willing to engage with us to find out more. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Pictured (left to right): Christine Fearn (50th Anniversary Project Officer), Emily Little (Creative Producer, 50th Anniversary) and Nicola Hunt (University Events Manager).

December 01, 2015

Championing Sustainability at Warwick

capture.jpgDid you know that we have enough solar panels on campus to power nearly 4,000 homes? Or that only 3.2% of the University's waste goes to landfill? These statisics are in major part thanks to the work of our sustainability team, who work with colleagues across the University to make sure our campus is as environmentally friendly as possible. We spoke to Judi Kilgallon, one of the team's sustainability champions, to find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’ve been here about a year, which has gone very quickly. Before that? Driving tractors in Australia, working as a National Trust Ranger in Devon and introducing students to haggis and whisky in Edinburgh – I like variety!

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It’s the best job at Warwick, in my opinion! I get to meet so many people and see so much of campus – I’m barely at my desk. I love meeting people with different backgrounds and in different roles: working on projects with people who are passionate about sustainability and the environment, and opening the eyes of those who aren’t so interested to see the difference they can make.

We made this video recently when my colleague David was nominated for a Green Gown award. It explains more about all the different things happening across campus, so check it out!

Who makes up the sustainability team?

Our team is made up of five people. Joel Cardinal, Head of Energy and Sustainability, leads two Sustainability Champions (David Chapman and myself), and two Sustainability Engineers (Mark Jarvis and Andrew Thomas).

The engineers focus on the more technical aspects of sustainability, developing our carbon management plan and improving the sustainability of our buildings and services through refurbishments and better metering. The champions complement this by working to encourage positive behaviour change in our staff and students, and to support the sustainability initiatives of our community.

We work with many different groups across the University, making sure we look at sustainability issues from all angles. This includes our network of Green Champions that you can join right now if you like! This group shares ideas and help us make positive behavioural changes across campus.

All of this comes together to make Warwick more efficient with its energy, water and waste. It also saves us money which the University can invest in teaching and research.

What are some of the key projects that the team has worked on?

Let’s talk about water. Less than 1% of the world’s water is drinkable, but people rarely think about this when they turn on the tap. What do you do when you have students on campus using 43 litres per day more than the UK average? Our approach was to launch a new competition – “Cut the Flow”. We challenged different halls of residence to compete against each other to see who could save the most water in return for prizes.

This got our students thinking about how much water they didn’t need to waste. Little things like taking shorter showers and turning the tap off while brushing teeth all added up to save Warwick over 30 tonnes of carbon.

Moving from small changes to huge ones, building our new Cryfield Energy Centre was a brilliant project. When coupled with our existing Combined Heating and Power (CHP) plant, it cuts campus emissions by about 3,000 tonnes every year. If you want to know how we save the equivalent carbon emissions of over 1000 UK homes, check out this video.

Do you have any statistics about the University's energy usage that you can share?
  • We have enough solar panels on campus to power nearly 4,000 homes.
  • Only 3.2% of our waste goes to landfill – the rest is re-used, recycled or used to generate energy.
  • Electricity, gas and water cost Warwick £1,024 per hour on average.
  • There’s a 19km heating network underneath our campus.
  • Leaving your computer on every night and over the weekend wastes the same amount of energy an average runner would burn doing a half marathon every day of the week! If just 5% of University staff leave their computer on it costs £13 000 each year.

Tell us a bit about some of the projects you'll be working on over the next year.

We'll work on lots of different projects over the next year, but here are my favourites:

The Eco-Centre project
We’re working with the student society Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to put forward proposals for a new campus Eco-Centre. If approved, it would showcase sustainable, low-carbon construction (involving straw bales) and offer a unique learning experience for the staff and students involved. Once complete, it would offer a flexible space for classes, workshops, events and exhibitions. Other universities have sustainability centres, but the student-led nature of this one would really make Warwick stand out.

Environmental Sustainability Fund
We’re working with the Students’ Union on this one. Basically, any student can apply for funding if they have a project in mind that supports sustainability. It could be anything from energy-saving to green spaces to big events… I’ll be really interested to see what comes in.

Food waste
This is a massive issue in the UK and we will be focusing on this in the coming year. There are both financial and environmental costs: the average family spends about £470 a year on food they don’t actually eat (£700 if they have kids!) and wasting less food in the UK could save the equivalent emissions of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. It’s something we really need to address. We have a great group of students known as RAWKUS who collect food left behind in halls - last year they worked with Warwick Accommodation to collect over 15 tonnes of food from halls which went to charity. We need to change this!

Check out Love Food Hate Waste for top tips. Did you know you can freeze milk and eggs?

How do you hope the University will develop in terms of sustainability over the next 50 years?

Sustainability is a global issue and everyone needs to care about it, Warwick included. This is an exciting time – we are seeing attitudes changing in our students and staff, and discussions happening at all levels throughout the University.

One area we can already see flourishing is the cutting-edge sustainability research that’s happening here. Several of our Global Research Priorities (GRPs) are focused on sustainability-related topics like energy, food, manufacturing, cities and international development. I hope Warwick itself will increasingly be used as a living laboratory where our researchers can explore and develop these ideas, such as with the Eco-Centre.

We’re also seeing a growing demand in our students for sustainability to appear on the curriculum at university. Warwick is already responding to this – see this blog by our Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) on education for sustainable development. I hope this continues to develop, and I’m especially keen to see more practical teaching and learning like our Green Steps programme. That way we can send our graduates out in to the world equipped to make a real difference wherever they go.

How can students and staff get more involved in sustainability at Warwick?

We need your help – creating a more sustainable campus is as much about our new Energy Centre as it is about you turning off your computer when you leave to go home. Our team can only do so much so whatever you do here at Warwick, you can make a difference – every little helps!

So what can you do? Visit our website, sign up to be a Green Champion, car share, put your rubbish in the right bin, switch off your computer – the one thing we really want you to do is simply to stop and think about your actions and the impact it might have.

So get involved and help us make Warwick a better place to study, live and work!

November 13, 2015

"Good ingredients in equals good food out"


Graham Crump is the University's Development Chef, managing Rootes kitchen and providing support to our training and conference centres. He shares some cooking tips and a favourite recipe for you to try in this week's 50@50.

Did you always want to work in the food industry? How did you come to work at Warwick?

My interest in food evolved from helping my grandmother, who was a great cook. She had owned and operated a number of small businesses, all food related, and was also a school cook in the days when the ingredients were all fresh and seasonal.

I started in the industry at a large hotel at the age of 14, working part time, which developed into an apprenticeship and a full-time post.

Having worked for a number of hotel and restaurant groups both large chains and private groups I was looking for a new challenge and was made aware of the opening of the first conference and training centre at Warwick (Arden House, which in those days was called the Executive Post Experience Centre).

What does your role involve at Warwick?

My day-to-day role is managing and running Rootes kitchen, providing delivered food across campus and catering for the large events in Rootes. I also support the training and conference centres.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?

It has to be the progressive attitude of Warwick, along with the people and the environment.

What’s your favourite meal/ signature dish?

Too many favourite meals to recall! A memorable meal was when I was stranded in Frankfurt in the middle of January. Cold, wet and hungry, a colleague and I found a small restaurant that provided the “house special” - 10 different types of sausage, sauerkraut, mashed potato and a stein of beer! A great meal.

I'm also lucky enough in my position as Secretary of the World Association of Chefs Societies Education Committee to have eaten in some of the great restaurants and hotels of the world.

I don't have any particular signature dish although I do enjoy producing desserts, having been trained as a pastry chef in my career.

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you have any favourite chefs?

My inspiration comes from the unsung heroes of the kitchen, those chefs who don't seek the media limelight and just want to cook good food, like Paul Gayler, Adam Bennett, Luke Tipping and Paul Foster, an ex Warwick chef. However there are a few that get into media by default but have not lost their way, such as Rick Stein and Keith Floyd.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

Of course - that’s how you learn! I have had operational disasters as well though - working for a hotel group I was once asked to prepare a lunch for 60 and was all prepared when 600 turned up! Yes, they all got fed!

What cooking tips do you have for beginners?

Keep it simple, keep food areas clean and keep it fresh. Good ingredients in equals good food out.

Do you have a favourite simple recipe to share?

Here's a simple Swiss roll recipe that's easy to remember:

100g flour
100g sugar
100g egg

- Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy
- Fold in the sieved flour and spread onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet
- Bake in a preheated oven at 190c (Mark 6) for seven minutes.
- When cooked turn out onto greaseproof paper dusted with castor sugar, leave to cool slightly, then spread with jam and, using the paper, roll to form a Swiss roll.
- Add some fresh whipped cream along the top to make it that bit more special.

Queen of CampusHow do you think cooking in the UK has changed since the University opened in 1965?

Customers are well educated about food and ingredients now, produce is readily available all year round (although we have lost our way a little with seasonality), cooking gets prime time TV coverage and is now seen more as a career and a profession.

Do you have any predictions about how cooking will evolve over the next 50 years?

Food is like fashion, forever evolving and things will come and go. Molecular gastronomy is now on its way out, although elements of this will be retained and used. Core cooking skills will always come to the forefront and technology will progress, in particular for the home cook. Many keen cooks now have water baths, slow cookers, food processors etc as standard items in the home.

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.

August 27, 2015

A Warwick Journey


Robert O'Toole grew up in Coventry and first came to the University in the 1980s via the Open Studies programme (now the Centre for Lifelong Learning). He now specialises in learning technology and learning design in the ITS team. Robert tells us all about his Warwick journey in this week's 50@50.

In July this year I graduated with a PhD in Arts Education from Warwick, 21 years after I graduated with a first in Philosophy from Warwick, and following a long career developing our repertoire of academic technology services and practices. The title of my thesis was:

“Fit, stick, spread and grow: transdisciplinary studies of Design Thinking for the [re]making of Higher Education”

My research was originally inspired by the many great teachers, students and innovators that I worked with during my time as Arts Faculty E-learning Advisor. But once I got going on the PhD, I realised that there are designerly people like that all across the University. We just need to find better ways to facilitate design innovation and the spread of good practice. So that’s what I did – a synthesis of research and state-of-the-art professional design and innovation practices adapted to fit the needs, styles and capabilities of the University – so as to fit, stick, spread and grow.

But where did this all come from?

My story is perhaps unusual, but in a very Warwick kind of way.

I was born in 1971 in what was Walsgrave Hospital, but which is now itself affiliated to the University. My mother was a home help and my father worked for Ford’s, in the foundry and later at their distribution centre in Daventry. I grew up in the Coventry of George Shaw’s imagination – back streets of the city transfigured onto his canvases in green, grey and brown paint. We have some of his works in the University art collection. There is an uncanny everyday strangeness about them. Shaw famously works with Humbrol paints – the same textures and colours used by children to decorate model airplanes. Camouflage. Avoiding contact. Hiding our powers away. Stillness. Going nowhere fast. That was very much the Coventry of the 70s and 80s.

I went to a comprehensive school in Coventry. I’ll not name it. The school has since been completely rebuilt and revitalized. But for me it was just a brutal and grey monstrosity. There was a constant threat and occasional reality of serious violence. The Coventry Blitz had made a lasting impression on the psychogeography of the city. So I needed to find a hiding place. A shelter. Eventually I stopped going to school and found two welcoming homes: Coventry’s central library, and the Wedge socialist bookshop and café – the sandwiches used to be sold off at special solidarity prices at the end of the day. And then I started to listen to interesting music and to read philosophy.

How then did I end up at Warwick? And why did this experience eventually lead to my PhD?

Meanwhile, I watched from a philosophical distance as Coventry’s car industry was devastated. I can remember at some point, perhaps around 1984, having cycled to Warwick University with my friends. It was another world. And I had to be part of it. There were also, it seemed, many attractive and definitely quite clever girls. I really did have to be part of it. Later, I married one of those girls – attractive and clever. But first I went back to college. A-Levels of some distinction: Sociology, Psychology, Communication Studies – but not Philosophy, it was nowhere to be found. Warwick’s Open Studies programme (now the Centre for Lifelong Learning) offered an alternative route. I signed up for evening classes taught by PhD students. They were great. And finally I made contact with the Philosophy Department.

I can remember a meeting with Martin Warner, or was it an interview? Martin was so welcoming that it certainly didn’t feel like an interview. In an instant I went from being an outsider with no knowledge of being a university student, to becoming part of academia. The Philosophy Department has a wonderful inclusive culture – perhaps because philosophers can often feel like outsiders themselves, they welcome people in. I had a superb three years as an undergraduate – very much at the heart of the department. For two years I ran the Philosophy Society, hosting visiting speakers from other universities, helped by some great academics who seemed more like colleagues – David Miller and Angie Hobbs.

Working on post-Kantian European philosophy I got interested in the philosophical problems and possibilities encountered in architecture. That developed into a dissertation on Deleuze and Guattari. Their “assemblages” approach is a great way of thinking about how things get constructed by accident and by design, composed from entirely different materials and systems that co-exist in a kind of disequilibrium. My dissertation work evolved into a chapter for a book edited by Warwick’s Keith Ansell Pearson – an example of the now fashionable “student as producer” ethic.

And then over time I got into artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computing and teaching – all of which converged at Oxford, and then Warwick, into a career in learning technology. After ten years of that, in 2008 I won a Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence and a National Teaching Fellowship. Nice titles to have, but also a handy £15,000 to reinvest in the University, and specifically, to buy equipment for my student friends. I developed a team of students, the E-Squad, who did amazing work helping academics to develop digital resources and activities. The Re-performing Performance website is one that I am especially proud of. It was created by Catherine Allen and Pesala Bandara of the E-Squad, with Jonny Heron of the CAPITAL Centre (now IATL). Catherine has since become one of my best friends, and gone on to a glittering career in educational and academic app development.

Winning the WATE and NTF awards also encouraged me to revisit my research. One of the great things about Warwick is that top people like Carol Rutter and David Morley (both NTFs) just tell people like me that we can do great things. So I listened to them, and many other great people, and I just did it. Five years on and I’m an expert on how universities get assembled, by accident and by design, as complex non-linear systems in constant disequilibrium – and how we can do it better using Design Thinking methods.

I’m now working on applying this to the strategies that we use in the Academic Technology team – you might have seen some this appearing in the guise of the Extended Classroom initiative, and a development of the E-Squad approach called the Student Champions scheme.

Robert is pictured on the right receiving his WATE in 2008.

August 21, 2015

XMaS Scientist Experience: Promoting careers for women in science


How can we encourage more girls to take science subjects at university and pursue scientific careers? That's the challenge that a new scheme at Warwick, 'XMaS Scientist Experience', aims to address. We spoke to Kayleigh Lampard, coordinator of the project, to find out more.

Tell us a bit about the XMaS Scientist Experience scheme.

The scheme aims to promote careers for women in science through a competition for AS-level female students to win a trip to visit the XMaS (X-ray Magnetic Scattering) facility in Grenoble, France and meet the amazing scientists who work there.

At Warwick we have access to the incredible facilities and people who work at the facility in France and it seemed a great opportunity to connect them with young female students to help them see some possible career paths that can be achieved with a degree in science. We also wanted to dispel some of the stereotypes of scientists and break down the perceived barriers of being female in a scientific career.

How was the pilot project this year?

This year’s pilot went better than we had ever imagined! To enter the competition the students wrote an essay responding to the question, ‘What is the legacy of Dorothy Hodgkin, both on the study of structure on an atomic scale, and for women in science?’ This gave the students their first opportunity to see the achievements of an amazing female scientist. pic8.jpg

During the trip they toured the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the Institut Laue-Langevin, including XMaS, and had loads of opportunities to chat to scientists from lots of different backgrounds and scientific areas over coffees, lunch and dinner. They also had time to explore Grenoble and take the cable cars to the top of the Bastille to get an astonishing view across the city and the surrounding Alps.

We're still in touch with the girls as they are helping us share the experience of the trip through events such as the Big Bang science fairs, ScienceGrrl and the staff summer festival. They'll also be helping us to launch next year’s trip in the coming months. We're looking forward to seeing the paths the girls choose to take in future.

What feedback did you get from the girls? Were there any parts of the trip that they found particularly useful?

We received a lot of feedback from the girls. There seemed to be three themes that they all mentioned. Firstly, they all said that the best part was talking to the scientists:

“My favourite part of the trip was talking to the scientists; they were really friendly and they honestly wanted to answer our questions, give us advice and insights into the world of physics.”- Sophie

science3.jpgSecondly, they loved how scientists from different areas, cultures and countries came together to work at the ESRF. They learnt how collaborative science is and they no longer think of science as a lonely, isolated career:

“I found it interesting to see all of the scientists from different countries, studying in different fields and talking different languages, all in one place for one thing. It was really helpful for me to see what life is like as an international scientist and talking to various scientists has helped me to confirm the path that I want to take. It showed me the career options that I have.” - Chloe

Thirdly, they really enjoyed meeting other girls who were interested in science and physics too. They no longer felt ‘different’ in their love of science and they came together as a community. The girls are still in touch with each other, they are supporting each other with their A-levels and university applications and they have even bumped into each other at university open days!

“I feel that this trip not only allowed me to become more knowledgeable about science, but also allowed me to meet like-minded people who I was able to strike up genuine friendships with.” - Michele

We also found that the girls had realised that science careers were within their grasp and that hard work and determination were more important than an innate ability. They loved the passion the scientists showed for their specialist areas and they wanted to be part of it.

We also received lots of positive feedback from parents, especially regarding the student showcase after the trip, in which students presented what they had learnt. They said they had seen their daughters in a new light and loved their renewed enthusiasm for science and the fact that they had started talking about possible careers.

We're starting a blog on our website where the students will be sharing their experiences. One of our students also shared her thoughts on the WISE Campaign website.

Take a look at the video one of the students produced and presented after the trip here >>

What’s been your favourite thing about working on the project so far? science

My favourite part has been seeing the girls form great friendships with eachother. They may have felt isolated in their own schools but by taking part in the trip they were able to form their own community and they now continue to support each other and will hopefully do so for years to come. Having won the competition you could see them grow in confidence in their own abilities. They left the trip feeling like there were no barriers in their way and that, to me, felt like a job well done! Now, thanks to the generosity of the University’s widening participation fund, the project can be repeated annually. I’m excited to do it all over again!

What plans are there for the project in the future?

We have great plans in place for the project in the future! We'll be re-launching the competition nationwide this year in the autumn term. We'll have an event on campus where everyone who enters the competition will be invited to an evening of inspirational talks, during which they'll hear about loads of other opportunities and activities to be involved in, speak to professors, staff and students at the university and hear from the students who went on last year’s trip. We're also working with WISE Campaign, Stemettes, IGGY and ScienceGrrl to spread the news of the project and have had an article published in Materials Today

How can staff and students at Warwick get involved in the project?

We're looking for staff, especially in the sciences, to be involved in our events. If you're interested in finding out more please email and follow us on Twitter @XMaSSchoolTrip. Keep an eye on insite for news and dates of future events!

Pictured (from top)

  • Kayleigh Lampard
  • Laurence Bouchenoire from XMaS explains to the girls how a synchrotron works, with the ESRF experimental stations in the background
  • Didier Wermeille from XMaS discusses his work and experiences of working at the ESRF with the girls over a coffee break during the tour of the ESRF
  • Some of the girls at the Bastille overlooking the picturesque city of Grenoble with the Alps and ski slopes in the background

Want to find out more about the project? Look out for the XMaS Scientist Experience stall at next week's staff summer festival.

July 31, 2015

100 nappy changes, 356 meals and 25 pints of milk per day: Life in Warwick's nursery


Debbie Castle has been the manager of Warwick's nursery for 12 years, overseeing both the provision of care for the 125 babies and young children enrolled in the nursery and managing holiday schemes for primary school children in the local area. We spoke to Debbie to find out more about her role and the work of the nursery and to hear her thoughts on how childcare provision is likely to develop over the coming years.

What were you doing before coming to Warwick?

It's now 40 years since I qualified as a nursery nurse. In the intervening years I have worked mostly in full day care, as I do now, but I have also worked for Social Services departments, run play groups and trained new nursery nurses in college.

Before coming to Warwick 12 years ago I worked for the NSPCC. There were two aspects to my role there. I trained and supported volunteers who would themselves support families who needed just a little bit of extra help for short periods of time. I also worked as a family support worker, going into people's homes to provide advice and guidance. These were vulnerable families and the aim was to prevent children from becoming ‘at risk’.

It was challenging work. Sometimes, when life is difficult because of worries such as housing, money or relationships, it is difficult to prioritise children and the last thing families want is an organisation like the NSPCC knocking on their door. But my work was about helping to keep families together and when I got through that initial barrier, parents would generally welcome all the help they could get.

nursery3.jpgWhat does your current role involve?

My role focuses on managing the 78 place day nursery on campus. We have 125 children enrolled in the nursery and there are 32 staff employed in a variety of different roles. My role includes areas such as childcare, staff management, administration, finance and communications.

I am responsible for ensuring the care and education we provide meets the requirements of the Statutory Framework for the foundation stage, which is the legal framework that governs the operation of a nursery like ours, as well as the criteria by which Ofsted will inspect us.

Our last Ofsted inspection was in February 2011, so we are well overdue for another one. We were judged as being outstanding by the inspectorate last time, which is very satisfying and testimony to the hard work and dedication of the nursery team. Of course that does mean that there is a lot of pressure to keep up the standard, especially as the bar was raised quite considerably in 2014 and is set to be raised again in September 2015, making it increasingly harder to achieve an 'outstanding' rating again.

I’m ultimately responsible for ensuring that we do the absolute best we can for each and every child who comes to the nursery, whatever their needs, although admittedly I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with the children.

I am extremely fortunate to have a very talented and experienced team of early years practitioners working with the nursery and it is through their hard work and dedication that we are able to call ourselves an outstanding nursery. I can't over-emphasise how fantastic they are at what they do.

In addition to the day nursery, I am also responsible for developing the University’s Children’s Services.


Tell us a bit about Children’s Services at Warwick

The day nursery is well established - there has been a nursery of some description on campus for about 40 years. Just over six years ago we were fortunate to move into a purpose-built nursery building right beside the lake at Lakeside. This was a great opportunity for us and has enabled the nursery provision to grow and become highly respected within the early years community in Coventry and Warwickshire. We are particularly pleased to be able to have an accredited Forest School as part of our offering. This has been possible with the support of a number of different departments on campus, from the Registrar’s Office and security team to the Estates Office and the grounds staff as well as the management at Scarman House.

Over the last three years I have been developing the children’s holiday scheme. This is a high-quality childcare solution for children who are at primary school. We hold schemes in the Easter and summer holidays. Our aim is to offer the children activities that will stretch their minds as well as their bodies.

I remember going to a holiday scheme when I was younger where we played rounders and football if the weather was nice and board games if it wasn’t. In the holiday scheme we provide, we aim to do better than that. We do have sports games, but these are led by professional coaches, such as the team at the Tennis Centre on campus. We also have sessions in cookery, puppetry, circus skills, photography, art, music, drama, dance, forest school, science, computer skills and visits from the Leicester Space Centre. All of these sessions are provided by professionals in each field. It's exhausting just thinking about it, but the scheme is becoming a very popular choice for parents and now that we are open to the general public, I have high hopes for a successful future.

Children’s services also provides a crèche service on campus for specific events. For the second year running we have provided the crèche for the summer and winter graduation ceremonies. This is a free service provided by the University for the children of those attending their graduation ceremony and their guests.

A crèche is very different from a nursery. The children in the nursery can be there for the whole day, but a crèche is short-term childcare of just a few hours, usually no more than three hours, while parents are busy elsewhere.

This Easter we also facilitated a family room for the Law School conference. Providing crèches for conferences is an area I’d like to develop further.

Grad party 2

Do you have any interesting statistics to share about the nursery?

We have 78 places with a total of 125 children attending in each week. There are 32 staff working here, 10 of whom have degrees in childcare or education, mostly taken at Warwick. I mention this because childcare is not generally a graduate profession, although more graduates are coming into the work, so to have 10 staff who are graduates is quite something.

Over 50% of the children in nursery have English as a second language and we often have more 20 different languages spoken by the children here. This provides us with a fantastically rich cultural environment within the nursery, but it can also can present us with many problems, particularly at the beginning of the academic year when we have a large number of children joining the nursery, some of whom are not able to speak English at all.

All of the children here have some connection with the University - we are not able to offer places to the general public. 80% are children of university staff, and of the other 20% all but one have parents who are postgraduate students. This group make up the majority of our overseas families.

Each day we change around 100 nappies, provide 356 meals and drink 25 pints of milk. We have two washing machines that are on the go for most of each and every day and our toaster, according to the catalogue, can make around a thousand slices of toast in an hour – although I haven’t tested it!


What do you know about the history of the nursery at Warwick?

I’m not sure exactly when the nursery was set up originally, but it was at least 40 years ago. I am the third manager in all that time. I have been here for 12 years, my predecessor worked for the University for 25 years and we think the first manager was here for three or four years. Sadly no records have been kept.

I was told - a long time ago and from a very credible source - that when the University was first being developed the idea of a crèche (or nursery) was put forward, but discounted because ‘children are a fire risk'!

The original service we provided was a crèche. It was open for just a few hours in the morning, term time only, and provided just 10 places. At some point we moved into the old nursery building on Westwood Campus, where there were 32 places. When the building next door became vacant in 2001, we expanded to offer 47 places and then in April 2006 we moved into our new site at Lakeside.

The answer to why the University first provided a nursery is probably because other universities provided childcare, but it is such a valued service by all those who use it that I would say the reason we have a nursery on campus is because we need one. A lot of our children live on campus and so this is their nearest childcare service. We also have children who travel from as far afield as Watford and Staffordshire, but most of our children live in Coventry, Kenilworth, Warwick and Leamington Spa.

What is the favourite thing about your role?

It has to be the children. Although I don’t get the time to spend with them as I would like, they make the day such fun.

The children are at the heart of everything we do here - they are the reason the nursery, my job and those of my team exist and everything we do is about getting it right for them.

Of course as a parent, and grandparent, one of the luxuries I have come to appreciate about my job is that at the end of the day, when everyone is tired and tempers are getting frayed, we give the children back to their parents and go home to a peacefully quiet house!

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?

It's hard to find just one thing. I can honestly say this is the best job I have ever had.

I like the autonomy I am given, and how my expertise is respected. I like coming onto campus - the grounds are so well maintained and there is always somewhere nice to walk to or just sit. I really enjoy the university community and belonging to it. I like meeting such a diverse range of people, in the nursery and across the campus generally. Most times when I walk around the campus, I bump into someone I know - usually ex-nursery parents. Everyone is so friendly and it's great to catch up on how the children are doing in school.

I have a great team of people here in the nursery and, if I have to pick one thing I love about working here, I would have to say it is the people I work with on a daily basis.

NurseryHow do you hope Children’s Services will develop at Warwick over the coming years?

I'd really like to see an expansion of the services we provide - there is certainly scope for expansion. The nursery is fully booked year on year now and it is frustrating not to be able to offer people the places they desperately need. The waiting time for a baby place is now 18 months, which effectively means that parents have to put their names down as soon as they become pregnant, and even then there is no guarantee of a place.

The holiday crèche is ready to grow considerably in the coming years. This is a fairly new venture for us - although this summer will be the third year we have held a scheme, it has effectively only been running for 17 weeks and our bookings are steadily growing. The external market beyond the University is yet to be properly explored, but this year (summer 2015) we have already received more external bookings than in previous years.

The crèche side of our services would also be an area to expand, perhaps by working with Warwick Sport and Warwick Conferences.

If money were no object I would like to develop a Children’s Services headquarters, which would include a second nursery. This building would have additional space to run the holiday scheme from. One of my biggest challenges with the holiday scheme currently is finding a suitable, inexpensive, venue as a base. To have our own space, so that we could store equipment and provide the children with a familiar location, would make things so much easier.

During term time when the holiday scheme wasn't open, the space could be used for other activities such as training. This year we have worked with CPE and CSE to provide practical training opportunities in good practice and forest school, and I would really like to expand this partnership. The Children’s Services building could also offer local parents a rentable space to hold children’s parties, especially those families living on campus who have no community hall type of building that they can use, which means they end up going to places like soft play areas for parties, which are very expensive. The potential uses for a building like this are almost endless.


How do you think childcare provision will change in the UK in the years ahead?

This is difficult to answer. I’m not sure if, 40 years ago, I would have been able to predict the tremendous growth there has been in the private sector childcare provision that we have been seeing, particularly in the last 20 years. When I first qualified, most childcare was provided by Social Services departments for children in deprived areas or education departments in nursery classes. Privately run day nurseries were few and far between.

Most mothers stayed at home with their babies and most children went to play groups when they were three years old for a few mornings a week. Now, many more families have two working parents and children go to nursery for whole days and often whole weeks.

As the childcare industry has grown, so too has the legislation and regulations governing it, quite rightly. However, good quality childcare is difficult and expensive to provide. The range and quality of training for new early years practitioners in recent years has not always been great and as a result there is a serious shortage of good practitioners out there. Coupled with, in a lot of cases, poor working terms and conditions and low pay and increased expectations on practitioners to provide written reports and other paperwork, it's hardly surprising that young people are not looking at childcare as a possible career path.

I would like to add here that the University is an excellent employer, we have terms and conditions, pay rates and holiday allowances that are much better than most in the private sector, which means we attract the best candidates for employment here. However, it can still be challenging to get the right people.

The challenge for providers and government is finding a solution that ensures high-quality childcare run by motivated practitioners who are properly rewarded for the work they do. Job satisfaction is very important in any role, but so is being properly rewarded for doing a responsible job.

There is currently a drive to get more practitioners qualified at degree level to go into early years work, which I think is excellent, but there is no career structure - particularly in the private sector - to offer graduates any real progression. This means they are looking for employment in the statutory sector such as local authority-run nursery schools and reception classes or children’s centres, or they are continuing their studies to become early years teachers, where the salaries and terms and conditions are much better. There is also a significant staff turnover problem in the private sector - which can never be good for the children - and this just makes providing high-quality childcare even harder to do.

For too long childcare has been under-appreciated as a professional role and under-funded by governments and local authorities. I’d like to see a real shift in the attitude towards childcare so that it is recognised as the profession it should be. The notion that early years practitioners spend their day sitting on the floor playing with children is a long way from the truth.

I’d also like to see more men go into the childcare profession - less than 2% of the workforce is male and this is a real problem that needs addressing. Research carried out some 10 years ago suggested that the main contributing factor is the low pay and status of childcare workers. While I think there is truth in this, I also think it goes a lot deeper than that. Sometime the attitude of parents when they see we have a male employee surprises me. There can be a real suspicion about why a man would want to work with children. Peer pressure also prevents a lot of male school leavers from pursuing a career in childcare, which is a real shame. Men have a lot to offer the world of childcare, especially where there are increasing numbers of female-led, single parent families now.

Grad party

Over the last five years we have employed three male staff members at different times, and while their own aptitude for the work differed, the benefits to the children were always very positive.

I can’t see the current arrangement, where the majority of full day childcare is provided in privately owned settings, changing. In fact with the way things have been changing in the last five years I think more and more childcare will be offered by private providers as local authorities have their budgets tightened and are less able to offer childcare.

I think the number of families where both parents work will continue to increase and the demand for childcare with it. As I have said before, the challenge for all of us is ensuring that we provide the highest quality childcare, but that cannot be achieved simply through legislation and inspection. Quality training is essential and better recognition of the work we do is necessary too.

July 03, 2015

The founding of the Warwick Politics Department

Wyn Grant

As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, Professor Wyn Grant from Politics and International Studies has written a booklet about the early years of the department. He gives us an overview in today's 50@50.

What was it like to establish a new academic department at Warwick when the University was founded, particularly in a relatively new discipline like politics? This was the task that faced Professor Wilfrid Harrison who at the age of 56 had come to the University from being head of department at Liverpool, having previously been at Oxford. He also had the heavy responsibility of being the University’s sole pro-vice-chancellor.

The Illustrated London News reported in October 1965 that ‘For the last year Wilfrid Harrison has been organising his courses in politics from the rosy-wallpapered master bedroom at No.12 Gibbet Hill Road – a small, detached house used as temporary offices until the university buildings are completed.’ Harrison was described as a ‘small, detached Scot’ who was determined ‘to keep politics in its place.’

Much of the debate that took place in the department was about issues of curriculum design. Research was very much seen as an autonomous activity for individuals and it was largely left to each academic to decide what they did and how they did it. There was relatively little pressure by contemporary standards to secure research grants or publish in highly rated journals.


Malcolm Anderson, later to succeed Wilfrid Harrison as head of department, was an early appointment from Manchester. The first intake in 1965 was administered by him making trips from Paris where he had a research fellowship. Graham Webster-Gardiner recalls making a ‘foggy and wet journey to the East Site mud campus of the “White Tiles”.’ He thought that Oxford rejects were being targeted.

Another early appointment from the strong department at Manchester was Jim Bulpitt who had already established a reputation with his Party Politics in English Local Government.His later book on Territory and Power was reprinted by the European Consortium for Political Research and a number of contemporary academics claim to be influenced by his work.

An early student Paul Smith recalled, ‘The department was very friendly. I never felt patronised. I never felt put down because of my young left-wing politics.’ He was inspired by the teaching of another early appointment, also from Manchester, John Halliday: ‘I found him inspiring despite totally different political views. His seminars reminded me in a good sense of A level poetry.’

A priority was the establishment of a single honours degree in Politics. Malcolm Anderson recalled, ‘I realised that the department could not grow without it. It would have been a little fish in a sea of sharks. Departments soon developed pretty tribal attitudes which created difficulties for joint degrees.’ However, Anderson did succeed in establishing a jointly taught Making of Economic Policy course for the Economics and Politics degree which survives to this day.

A MA in Politics was established in 1968, but a major contrast with the department today was the relative insignificance of the graduate programme. This grew substantially after Politics merged with the smaller International Studies department in 1990.

You can read more about the history of the department up to 1979 in Wyn Grant, The Founding of a Politics Department, which can be obtained free of charge from

May 15, 2015

Extending the classroom

Technology has had a huge impact on the way students learn at university over the last few decades. But is it true to say there’s been a ‘digital revolution’ in education? And how could technology transform learning further at Warwick in the years ahead? We spoke to Amber Thomas, who leads the Academic Technology team in IT Services, to hear her thoughts.

What is 'academic technology'?Amber2

Academic Technology is the application of technology to support learning, teaching and research. It encompasses software, digital content, hardware devices and the technology in physical and online learning spaces. My team in IT Services run several services and we advise on the effective use of technology for teaching and research. I've been at Warwick for over two years now and I love this role. It's hugely varied, much more about people than about computers.

How important is technology to academic work?

Feeling competent and confident with technology is an important part of modern life, and that includes skills development, study, research and communication. Digital literacy is not about learning particular software or learning to code: it’s about using technology to help you do what you want to do, whether that's managing information, crunching data, presenting an argument or communicating with your peers.

Some technology decisions are individual, but it’s when people use it in groups that it gets really interesting. That’s why universities have to make smart choices to ensure that technology enhances student experiences, supports research and improves processes.

Is there a digital revolution in education?

You sometimes hear people saying that education hasn't changed since Victorian times, but I don't think that's true at all. On the contrary, there have been many shifts in teaching practice and curriculum approach in all levels of our education system. Even in large lecture theatres, students can be online, academics can use media clips and draw on visualisers, the lecture can be easily recorded for recap, and students can share notes afterwards.

Assessment evolves too: as well as essays, assignments can be by video or portfolio, students can be assessed for group work and work can be submitted online. Most of all, the web has changed learning. My seven year old has grown up in a world where the answers to his questions can be looked up on Wikipedia or YouTube. He makes PowerPoint presentations, builds in Minecraft and has no fear of computer code. Imagine what his generation's university coursework will look like! I think it’s exciting, but it’s evolution, not revolution.

What’s the next step in evolution then?

Right now, we’re working hard to enrich the extended classroom so that students have access to what they need, when they need it, wherever they are. Moodle is a web-based system that enables academics and administrators to make a website for each module that brings together the information, learning materials and activities for each module.

It is used all over the world and because it is 'open source', many hundreds of people contribute improvements in code, so it's always evolving. We’re rolling it out at Warwick to improve access, flexibility and consistency. Echo360 is a lecture capture system that records the academic’s slides and voice so that it’s easy to recap lectures.

MyPortfolio is a tool that individuals can use to present their work, reflect on progress, and keep track of their learning. There are also developments in our teaching spaces and in our administrative systems and taken together these amount to a big step forward. I think getting these things right creates a flexible and inclusive learning environment, and that’s what helps students thrive.

extendedlearner2.jpgIs technology changing research too?

The web makes it possible to redesign the way information is shared. There was a lot of buzz that massive open online courses, 'MOOCs', would disrupt higher education, but the web has also enabled open access to research outputs and I think that might be the long term disruption, it’s just slower.

Over the last decade many more research outputs have become available to many more people. I believe open access brings advances in science, social science and the humanities, it oils the interdisciplinary wheels and it aids public understanding of academic work. Add to that the growth in data-rich methods in disciplines like politics and history, an explosion in ways of presenting ideas, and the future of scholarship looks exciting.

What will Warwick’s use of technology look like in another 50 years?

As a proud owner of a new smartwatch, I’d love to make an accurate guess on how education will make use of wearables, but I’ll leave that to the researchers! What I do know is that universities are full of smart people who work hard to create and communicate knowledge. There are certainly exciting times ahead with student-owned devices in the 'extended classroom', and advances in research collaboration. The answer isn’t always technology, and technology isn’t a panacea to every problem, but it can be an enabler of progress. My hope is that all staff and all students develop their digital literacies so that as new technologies come along they can make the most of them.

April 24, 2015

Voices of the University – an Oral History of the University of Warwick

In this week’s 50@50 blog post we meet Dr Grace Huxford, Research Fellow in Oral History,who manages the university’s oral history project ‘Voices of the University’. Commissioned by the Institute ofAdvanced Study (IAS), the Voices of the University collection comprises of over 200interviews with current and former staff, students and local residents and reveals the history of the University of Warwick through their voices. Grace describes the project in more detail.

I first joined the university as a history undergraduate in 2007, staying on to study for my Masters in 2010 and for my PhD in 2011. I have long been interested in oral history as a methodology in my research and was therefore very excited to hear that the IAS was producing an oral history of Warwick. I joined the IAS as Research Fellow in Oral History in September 2014 and manage the day-to-day running of the ‘Voices of the University’ project.

Project Aims

The ‘Voices of the University’ project was initiated by the IAS in 2013. Its primary aim is to record people’s memories of Warwick– as a place of work or study, as a research and teaching environment, and as a local institution. The project also contributes towards the wider history of higher education, as Warwick was established in 1965 as part of a nationwide investment in universities. Our interviews capture many aspects of social, cultural and economic life since the 1960s – both in Britain and across the world.

Since the oral history project started, our interviews have been carried out by a great team of undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, as well as postdoctoral researchers based at the IAS. To date the team has conducted over 200 oral history interviews and we aim to add to this throughout the anniversary year.


What is ‘oral history’?

Oral history is a historical research method based on interviewing people about their experiences. In the ‘Voices of the University’ collection, interviews follow what is called a life history’ approach, first discussing how interviewees’ early life and how they came to arrive at Warwick. Some participants have been at Warwick since it opened in 1965, whilst other interviewees have been here just a few months. Interviewees include students and academic staff, but also administrative and support staff from across the campus. Overall, the project aims to represent a wide cross-section of the university community over time and to cover not just the history of the university, but also the place of the university in people’s lives.

Oral histories do not always necessarily tell the same story: interviewees have different relationships and recollections of the institution, but that is why it is such a fascinating methodology. In oral history research, we ask not just ‘what happened’, but also try to find out why people tell particular stories (and why interviewers like myself ask particular questions!)

Favourite Extracts

I really enjoy listening to former students describing living away from home for the first time, learning to cook or adapting to university-level study. One of our interviewees even described getting struck by lightning in Rootes Hall! Warwick staff (both academic and non-academic) have also shared their insights on the institution’s development and particular moments in its history, such as the visit of President Bill Clinton in 2000. As a historian, I also find people’s stories about the changing social and economic life of the local area particularly interesting. Many of our interviewees describe the booming car industry in Coventry in the 1960s and the changes that have taken place in the city since.

Getting Involved

Most of our interviews are available online here for you to listen to, through the Library’s online digital collections. A small minority of recordings are not online and only available in the reading room at the Modern Records Centre (which you can arrange to visit).

You can also listen to extracts from the project in our podcast series, which takes a specific theme each month. This is accompanied by a blog post highlighting various aspects of the collection.

If you have a story to share about Warwick, please do get in touch. We are conducting interviews until the start of August this year and would love to speak to as many people as possible before then. If you are interested you can sign up via the Voices of the University website:


March 27, 2015

Exploring the history of Warwick Volunteers

How have volunteering opportunities at Warwick developed over the last 50 years and what benefits has student and staff volunteering had on the local community? We caught up with Jen Sear from the team at Warwick Volunteers to hear her thoughts and how she hopes the organisation will expand further over the coming years.

What were you doing before coming to Warwick?
I worked in marketing and communications for what was formerly known as the Arts & Heritage Trust, now Culture Coventry. Prior to that I graduated from Coventry University with a BA in Theatre and Professional Practice and in 2010 I graduated with a master's in Performance Innovation and Enterprise.

What does your current role involve?
I work in Warwick Volunteers, which is part of Student Careers & Skills. I provide administrative support for volunteering projects, co-ordinate Warwick Volunteers’ marketing and communications, provide event management support to staff and students and deal with general enquiries about volunteering or Warwick Volunteers.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
Supporting students to do something positive with their time at university and seeing the difference they make in the local community is one of my favourite things. I also enjoy getting to work with our Student Executive Committee and project leaders throughout the year, developing their skills and seeing them grow into their roles as leaders. With feedback like this: “Warwick Volunteers has given me the opportunity to meet and make many friends who I know I will call friends for many years to come. WV is a big family”, I can’t help but feel immensely proud of the work we do.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?
Being right in the centre of campus life – we’re located in the Students' Union HQ, which means that we get lots of students popping into the office to talk about volunteering. It’s great getting to meet such a diverse mix of people.

Tell us a bit about the history of Warwick Volunteers – when and why was it set up and how has it grown since?
Before Warwick Volunteers, volunteering opportunities were available through Community Volunteers, an entirely student-run society. The society was set up over 25 years ago, but at the end of 1993, they decided on a name change and became Community Action. The society grew from strength to strength, with more volunteers and more projects each year. Some of the projects set up in 1986, such as Kidz Kamp, are still running to this day.

All the hard work and the many achievements gained were officially recognised in 1995 when Community Action won the much sought after title of ‘Society of the Year’. This was also the year that they adopted the smiling sun logo.

In October 2002, HEACF (Higher Education Active Community Fund) stepped in. The specific aim of HEACF was to boost the role played by Higher Education institutes in their local communities and money was allocated to institutes wanting to increase their active participation. Along with this new funding came the employment of three full-time members of staff, and the society was re-launched as Warwick Volunteers to reflect the many internal changes taking place, as well as making it clear what we do.

Today we have five full-time members of staff and two part-time members of staff. Our membership grows year on year as well as the number of projects we run and community organisations we work with.

Canal Clean UpHow many students and staff get involved in volunteering today? What sort of projects do they get involved with and what impact does their work have?
So far this year we've had over 1,000 students actively volunteer with us on a vast range of regular and one-off projects. Some examples are Student Tutoring, Technology Volunteers, Buddy Club, Canal Clean Up, mural painting and Netball in Schools, to name only a few. Staff volunteers often find that our school projects such as Right to Read or Fun with Numbers fit in with their working day as they can go for an hour session during their lunch break.

Many of our community partners would simply not be able to run their activities without the support of Warwick Volunteers members. For example, an organisation which works on environmental projects to improve the Canley area relies heavily on student volunteers for their success. Our students and staff are ambassadors for the University, giving freely of their time to residents in Coventry, Warwick, Kenilworth and Leamington Spa.

Feedback received from schools has demonstrated the direct impact which volunteers have on improving children’s grades and aspirations. Other projects focus on encouraging interaction between different generations and between able and disabled people. Measuring the impact of volunteering on the local community cannot truly be represented through quantitative analysis – we know it is working from the positive stories we receive back from our community partners and volunteers.

fun_with_numbers2.jpgWhat have been some of the key successes achieved by Warwick Volunteers since it was established?
Warwick Volunteers' membership has increased year on year. When our records began in 2003 we had 552 members and by 2014 this had risen to 2,675. We have increased the range of sectors in the local community with whom we work, and always seek to meet the needs of the community by making this part of the criteria in our selection of projects and community partners. Some of our projects have been running for over 25 years, and since 2006 we have been developing and supporting students to design and lead their own volunteering projects as project leaders or on our elected Student Executive Team

Warwick Volunteers works with academic departments to develop and run projects like Technology Volunteers in local schools. We also work closely with Student Support, the Library and the International Office as research has demonstrated the impact of volunteering on wellbeing and it can provide opportunities for friendship, exploring outside the University campus environment and opportunities for stress-busting at key times of the academic year. Volunteering also provides an opportunity to gain life experience and transferable skills which students take with them when they leave Warwick.

Do you have any advice for people considering getting involved in volunteering but who are concerned about time commitments?
This year we launched a programme of one-off volunteering opportunities as we know from feedback that time commitment can be a big issue for students. Some of these are just a day or half day of activities which are perfect for students not looking for a regular commitment or those that are short on time, such as postgraduate students. If anyone would like to know more about these one-off opportunities or have concerns about time commitments, they are more than welcome to pop into the office for a chat or drop us an email and we can advise on the best option.

How do you hope Warwick Volunteers will develop over the next 50 years?
I hope that Warwick will continue to encourage volunteering by staff and students and that it will become an integral part of the culture and celebrated for the benefits which it brings to the community and to the volunteers themselves. Indeed, in 50 years’ time, with the expansion of Warwick internationally, one could envisage volunteering ‘exchanges’ between Warwick and its international partners to broaden experiences beyond the UK.

By working with academic departments we could develop unique projects which draw on the expertise and skills of staff and students at the University. This would enable Warwick to increase its impact on communities by offering volunteering expertise which will help resolve social issues locally, nationally and internationally.

February 27, 2015

Increasing engagement in sport at Warwick

With Jen Emeny-Green, Warwick Sport

Jen Emeny-Green
How has our engagement in sport changed over the last 50 years, and what do we need to do to get more people active in the years ahead? For this week’s 50@50 we spoke to Jen Emeny-Green, Sports Development Coordinator for Warwick Sport, to hear her views on this topic and to find out a bit more about her team’s work engaging as many people in sport at Warwick as possible.

What were you doing before coming to Warwick?
I’ve been working in sports development for over 15 years now. Before coming to Warwick I was working for Fulham Football Club as a programme development manager for the community team. In a nutshell, I led our social inclusion programmes which worked in high crime areas, targeting young people involved in gangs. We used sport as a medium to get them off the streets and engaged in positive activities and heading down the right path in life. I also led on our programmes rehabilitating young offenders, our sport holiday camps, disability coaching, volunteers and apprenticeship scheme.

What does your current role involve?
I’m a sports development coordinator for Warwick Sport - I’m part of the new sports engagement team looking to get more people more active more often.

How are you doing this?
In 2012 we launched the Warwick Active Programme in order to engage more students and staff at the University. This programme consists of leagues, courses, casual sport sessions (Rock Up & Play) and running groups (Rock Up & Run). We also run a halls residents' programme, ‘Hall Sport’, aiming to create more of a sense of community within halls. And we're responsible for events such as UV Sport, rollerdiscos and the Zombie Run. Look out for Bubble Football at the end of this term! The aim is to provide a variety of activities that will appeal to a wide audience of all ability levels, from bhangra to golf, UV Zumba to casual kickabouts – we have something for everyone!

What’s been your team’s biggest achievement so far?
In August 2014 we were awarded Birmingham County FA’s ‘Higher Education Partner of the Year’ for our football leagues, Referees Hub and Futsal League. This was a huge accolade, beating 18 other institutions for the award. One of our badminton activators, Gavin, was also recognised as Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire’s ‘Young Volunteer of the Year’ in November 2014 for all his great work on the Warwick Active programme.

What have been some of the other key successes in engaging people with sport at Warwick over the last few years?
Since 2012 we've engaged over 6,700 people in sport - they've taken part at least 124,848 times since the launch of the Warwick Active programme. We've been recognised by BUCS and Sport England as ground breakers in participation sport for our activator programme, leagues and events. Many of our UV sport events have been world and UK firsts.

What’s your favourite part of your role?
I work with so many passionate, enthusiastic and genuinely lovely volunteers (or activators) who make this programme happen. My favourite part of the role is supporting them, watching them develop their skills and get the recognition for all their hard work. They also inspire so many other people to get involved in sport.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?
The freedom I have been given to just go out and create this brand new programme that people are excited to get involved with. When the idea for the Zombie Run first popped into my head, I thought people would shut it down straight away. The support I have had from the team and our wider partners including Security, Estates and the Students’ Union has made this event into an institution at Warwick, with many other universities copying what we are doing.

How do you think students’ involvement with sport has changed over the last 50 years?
There have been huge changes in the way students participate in sport in the last 50 years ago. In the past, involvement was mainly competitive club-based with more time to dedicate to sport on a Wednesday afternoon outside of studies.
With the increased demands and pressures on students in terms of fees and grades there has been a huge shift towards more of a casual level of participation. Having said that, our clubs at Warwick are still the beating heart of sport at Warwick, dedicating hours to training and competing against other universities from a participation level right through to high-performing athletes.

How do you think more people could be encouraged to take part in sport in the years ahead?
We need to better communicate the stories behind people engaging in sport – how it has benefited them, and the difference it has made to their life, both socially and physically, in order for people to understand the relevance of our programmes to their lives.
If someone considers themselves non-sporty but they wouldn’t hesitate to try something fun such as a Rollerdisco or Colour Run, then this is what we need to offer them. For these people we need to remove the competitive element, remove the stigma of ‘sport’ and make it more enjoyable for all abilities. This can all be helped by having non-sporty activators of all ages, backgrounds, shapes, sizes and cultures so that we create positive role models for all of our staff and students. We need to create a much more welcoming and enjoyable approach to sport and activity.

What would you like to see happening at Warwick in the next 50 years?
Pretty much all of the above, with the added buy-in to how sport can contribute to people socially whilst at university. I'd like to see more understanding of the link between people engaged in sport achieving higher grades, better jobs, securing competitive graduate programme placements etc. Warwick has a vision to be the most active campus in the UK, with opportunities for everyone in the University community being active everyday.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give for people who are reluctant to get involved in sport?
When I started this role, I aimed to practise what I preached. Before now I was an avid footballer and that’s pretty much all I did. Since being here I have tried so many different sports and met so many different people. Sport can be such a tool for socialising and just increasing your self-esteem. It also forces you out of your comfort zones, which is a good thing for anyone.

Are there any sporting events we should look out for this year as part of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations?
We have some great Warwick Active and Lifestyle events coming up as part of the University’s 50th anniversary. Check out the Warwick Active webpage for more details on our programmes and how you can get involved!

February 20, 2015

Imagining the future of language

With Associate Professor Stephanie Schnurr, Centre for Applied Linguistics
For this week's 50@50 post we asked Dr Stephanie Schnurr from our Centre for Applied Linguistics to consider the question, 'What if we all spoke the same language?' Would speaking the same language mean we would all work and do leadership the same way across the world, or would differences remain? Watch Stephanie's answer below.

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 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 2021

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