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January 14, 2011

Warwick Week – Russia in 2011, philosophy and fairness, and a new training centre

A special Jewish conference was held here over Christmas

Limmud is an innovative educational organisation in the British-Jewish community. Its flagship event is a six day residential Conference, which for the 4th year running was held at the University. The event attracts a number of high profile presenters each year, who present a wide variety of sessions on a range of topics of Jewish interest. In order to allow participants to observe Shabbat (the Sabbath), when work is forbidden, a temporary linked fence (an Eruv), a ceremonial boundary which allows those inside the Eruv to enjoy Shabbat within the laws of their religion, encircled Rootes and the accommodation blocks. Videos of seminars on topics such as 'A History of the Jewish World in 30 Objects' and 'Israel and the Media: An Insiders Account' are now viewable online.

Read more about the Limmud Conference >>

The Arts Centre has been given £1 million

More than £1 million of lottery money has been given to Warwick Arts Centre. The grant, from Arts Council England, is part of a programme designed to make arts organisations more resilient and help them develop long term business plans. In total Warwick Arts Centre, based at the Warwick University campus in Coventry, has been given £1,365,000.

The Arts Centre’s Director, Alan Rivett, said:

We were pleased to be invited to bid for this award. Lottery funding will help steer the organisation towards a healthy future.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

Russia in 2010: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Where will Russia go in 2011? Professor Mark Harrison, Department of Economics, looks back at four stories from 2010 suggesting that for every step Russia takes towards democracy and away from Soviet totalitarianism, the absence of the rule of law takes it two steps back again.

In his blog, Prof Harrison said:

These four stories suggest where Russia is moving: towards a state with increased discretionary power to intervene as it chooses to control prices and direct resources, subsidize favoured interests, control deviance, and lock up or kill inconvenient people. By the standards of Russia’s Soviet past it is definitely one step forward. This one step is hugely important. Russia is no longer a totalitarian state of mass mobilization and thought police. But, compared with the “normal” society that Russians deserve, and that Russia's friends wish for, it is two steps back again.

Read more in Prof Mark Harrison's blog >>

Philosophy is vital in understanding fairness

Dr Angie Hobbs, the UK’s first Senior Fellow in the Understanding of Philosophy, argues that knowledge of her subject is vital to understanding the debate around the fairness of government policies.

Dr Hobbs said:

In the history of philosophy there’s a wide range of possible answers to a lot of the big questions about how we should live as individuals and as societies, and the fewer students who study philosophy, the fewer people who are going to be out there who know about this range of possible answers and rework and adapt them for current problems and future problems. So without philosophy students we are going to be reducing the number of tools in our toolbox to tackle questions like ‘What’s money for?’, ‘What is fairness?’, ‘How does fairness relate to equality?’

Watch Dr Angie Hobb's on The Guardian's website >>

New £10 million Warwick Centre in High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing

WMG at the University of Warwick has been awarded one of five new Industrial Doctorate Centres announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). EPSRC are funding five new Industrial Doctorate Centres to address fundamental engineering challenges in advanced manufacturing engineering. The WMG centre will focus on High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing. The new Centres will train Engineering Doctorate (EngD) students. These four-year postgraduate awards are intended for the UK’s leading researchers pursuing a career in industry. It provides postgraduate engineers with an intensive, broad-based research programme incorporating a taught component relevant to the needs of, and undertaken in partnership with, industry. WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya  said :

Our vision is to produce a new generation of manufacturing leaders with the high-level know-how and research experience essential to compete in a global manufacturing environment defined by high impact and low carbon. They will be adept at working in multidisciplinary teams and exceptionally well networked internationally, and with demonstrable entrepreneurial flair. The WMG based Centre will address industrially challenging issues that enable companies to develop and implement effective low-environmental impact technology and policies that also benefit the ‘bottom line’.

Read more in the press release >>


November 12, 2010

Warwick Week – Inflation and Earnings, Heroism, and Snooker Stars

Inflation and earnings: what is the cost of a pint of beer?

“It were all so much cheaper when I were a lad...” or was it? Professor Ian Stewart looks at how the money in your pocket has really changed over the years. Every day we are bombarded with historical comparisons, intended to demonstrate how badly off we all are, but as Prof Stewart argues, such calculations rarely allow for inflation.

Read Prof Stewart’s article in The Telegraph >>

No Need for Heroism?

Dr Angie Hobbs presented a public lecture this week on BBC Radio 3, exploring today's idea of heroism in war, social justice, the arts and sport. Courage, ambition, vainglory, sacrifice ... what does it mean to be a hero now? Dr Hobbs asks: does this ancient idea still have a role in our age of instant celebrity and can it rise above its financial and political exploitation?

Listen again to Dr Angie Hobbs speaking on heroism >>

Prof Tom Marsh talking Snooker Stars on BBC Radio 5

This week, Professor Tom Marsh spoke on BBC Radio 5, explaining the discovery of a star system that looks like a game of snooker. Warwick's astronomers looked at a binary star system which is 1670 light years away from Earth, consisting of two stars, a red dwarf and a white dwarf. As Prof Marsh commented, “it’s hard to escape the image of this system as being like a giant snooker frame with a red ball, two coloured balls, and dwarf white cue ball.”

Listen again to Prof Tom Marsh at 2:55.43 >>

VC's Blog: Idealism in Hard Times

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift's latest blog entry on the Chronicle of Higher Education's Worldwise international blog section is available to view online. The Vice-Chancellor comments on higher education conferences in both Britain and the US:

In the face of all the difficulties, participants understood that universities were a vital building block of a global civil society and a global citizenry. They understood the need for more cooperation, so as to form a community of communities which could sometimes act outside the traditional bounds of sovereignty… So in very challenging times, what I got out of these two meeting was not just hope but real propositions for how to change how we think about what universities can be which can inspire us to make renewed efforts to light the way ahead.

Read the Vice-Chancellor’s blog in full >>


October 22, 2010

Warwick Week – Comprehensive Spending Review

This week, the whole country has been discussing the Comprehensive Spending Review. There are still significant unanswerable questions regarding how it will change the nature of the UK economy but Warwick academics have been having their say…

Vice-Chancellor Prof Nigel Thrift on Higher Education

Now that the Government has announced the outcome of its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) we are beginning to get some indication of the level of the cut to public funding of higher education in England.

While we have yet to see the detail the CSR does appear to include a significant cut in University funding as was suggested in a wide range of news media over the last few weeks.

Read the full comment on the University website >>

Angie Hobbs on Fairness

The Comprehensive Spending Review announcements have prompted many discussions on the concept of “fairness”.  Are the spending cuts fair? Is fairness too expensive? In a feature on Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Angie Hobbs explains the philosophy of fairness.

Listen again on the BBC Radio 4 Today website >>
You can also read an interview with Angie Hobbs on The Knowledge Centre >>

Lord Robert Skidelsky on Growth Prospects

Lord Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor in Politics and International Studies said Mr Osborne's cuts would "directly worsen immediate growth prospects". Writing in the New Statesman, Lord Skidelsky said:

What are the prospects for Osborne's cuts? They will directly worsen immediate growth prospects, as the Office for Budget Responsibility concedes, and they will not in themselves bring about offsetting reductions in long-term interest rates.

For this, we need quantitative easing (printing money) and it is no secret that this is what the Chancellor relies on to vindicate his policy.

Yet one would be wrong to think this is a cure-all ... the injection of £200 billion of new money in 2009 failed to revive lending and borrowing on the scale needed for robust recovery, and it is not clear why the Chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England expect another monetary injection to do any better now.

Lord Skidelsky’s comments were featured as the lead essay in this week’s issue of New Statesman >>

Wyn Grant on Social Security

In an article on bloomberg.com, Prof Wyn Grant commented on the social-security spending cuts:

Local agents who administer benefits are subject to local political pressures… Even if the local administrators do not know the people whose cases they administer, there may well be a local culture that is sympathetic to, for example, people who have been unemployed for long periods of time.’’

Read the full article on Bloomberg.com >>l

Prof Mark Harrison on the Welfare State

Prof Mark Harrison, Department of Economics was on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on Thursday morning looking at the future of the Welfare State – have George Osborne’s cuts made it a thing of the past?

Listen to the interview here on BBC iPlayer (0:05.30) >>

Prof Mark Harrison, also looks at the principles and the future of the welfare state after George Osborne’s cuts on his blog:

Panic is in the air, especially in the British public sector. Yesterday's comprehensive spending review prompted BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire to ask me this morning if this marks the end of Britain’s welfare state.

There will be a major contraction, for sure. At the same time, it is far from the end of welfarism as we have known it since the late 1940s. George Osborne’s cuts, if and when they take effect, will bring the government’s share of GDP back down just below 40 percent – that is, where it was in the early 2000s. At that time, less than a decade ago, the welfare state was still alive and well.

What will have changed? Most likely tomorrow's welfare state will be smaller than it is now. And the principles on which it is based are evolving. But given the scale of cutbacks, the evolution of the principles is surprisingly slow.

Read the full blog post here >>

An Academic Analysis

The morning after the Comprehensive Spending Review announcements, Prof Abhinay Muthoo from the Department of Economics, Prof Wyn Grant from the Department of Politics and International Studies, and David Elmes, Director of the Global Energy MBA at Warwick Business School, got together to talk through some of the details in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review .

Watch the video here >>


August 20, 2010

Warwick Week – A–levels, IGGY, Junk Food, Ofsted and 100 Days of Coalition

Warwick in the News

A-level Successes
Students across the country received their A-level results yesterday (Thursday 19th August). Warwick was as popular as ever with 23,349 UK and EU applicants for 2,851 places.

IGGY U in Botswana
This week, some of the world’s brightest young people are taking part in the IGGY U Summer School in Botswana thanks to a special partnership between the Botswana Ministry of Education and Skills Development (Education Hub) and the International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY). Young people from Botswana, South Africa, Brunei, Ghana, Tanzania, and the UK will enjoy special courses in Mathematics, Creative Writing, Chemistry, Physics, Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
Read the press release

The Books That Made Me: China Miéville
China Miéville, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and award-winning fantasy writer was interviewed for The Guardian Books Podcast this week.
Listen again - The Books That Made Me: China Miéville

Tax on junk food
With renewed calls for a tax on junk good, Professor Elizabeth Dowler, Department of Sociology argues that any attempt to promote healthy heating must also try to tackle some of the social justice issues that lie behind consumer choices.
Read the story


Science of Discworld
Honorary graduate and author, Sir Terry Pratchett was interviewed on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire this week. Terry Pratchett collaborated with Warwick academics Professor Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on the Science of Discworld books.
Listen again (2:21.47)

Announcements

‘Outstanding’ result from Ofsted for Warwick teacher training courses
Teacher training programmes at the University of Warwick have been judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors. Ofsted, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, has awarded the ‘outstanding’ provider status to the Warwick Institute of Education.
Read the press release

Success for Malaysian alumnus
Nadza Abdul (MBA 1995-96), the Chief Operating Officer of PosLaju National Courier, Malaysia's national and largest domestic courier company, was recently awarded the 2010 Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award. The award is one of Asia Pacific's most prestigious entrepreneurship awards.
Read more on the Alumni and Friends website

British Academy Fellow
Professor Graham Loomes, Department of Economics has been elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy.  The British Academy Fellowship are approximately 900 scholars who have achieved distinction in the humanities and social sciences.
Find out more on the British Academy website

Comment

100 days of Coalition  - Professor Wyn Grant, Department of Politics and International Studies
This week Britain's Coalition Government marked 100 days in office. Why are we so preoccupied with a time span of 100 days when President Kennedy said that 1000 days was too little to achieve anything? The original Hundred Days was the period between the arrival of Napoleon in Paris after his escape from Elba to his removal after the Battle of Waterloo. The term gained political currency when President Roosevelt got the New Deal off to a good start in his first hundred days in office. As prime minister in the 1960s Harold Wilson promised 100 days of dynamic action, but the reality was more disappointing.

One test of success for the Coalition Government is that it has survived for 100 days without any major rifts appearing. Indeed, there have been fewer tensions between ministers than in many single party governments. There has been grumbling about their lack of influence from MPs the right of the Conservative Party and from Liberal Democrat backbenchers, but it has had little real effect.

The real tests for the Coalition Government are still to come. One will be when the Comprehensive Spending Review is published in October. Some cuts in public spending have already been announced, but then their full extent will hit home. Another will be getting the referendum of the alternative vote through Parliament and then, as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned, winning it. 100 days is not a real test of five years.


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