Sheffield inspires for Universities Week 2011

The University of Sheffield is marking Universities Week 2011 (13 – 17 June 2011) by celebrating its contributions to education, research, business and the local community.

Universities Week 2011 is a national campaign run by Universities UK, demonstrating the benefits of universities to society and highlighting the impact universities in the UK have on the individual, the local community, its businesses, and society as a whole. The campaign is supported by high profile names such as Professor Brian Cox and actor Patrick Stewart.

Today, internationally renowned Nobel Prize winner and graduate of the University of Sheffield returns to the University to take pupils from across South Yorkshire on a scientific adventure. Professor Sir Harry Kroto will present his Buckyball Workshop to 50 pupils from St Michael's School in Barnsley and Birley School in Sheffield, giving the youngsters an insight into his scientific world.

Every year, the University of Sheffield helps local students from under-represented backgrounds get into University to study subjects such as medicine, dentistry and law, as well as pioneering initiatives such as the Achievement Awards, aimed at improving attendance and attainment in local schools.

Deborah Fowler, Head of Outreach & UK/EU Recruitment at the University, said: "The University of Sheffield has always been committed to ensuring that every young person achieves their full potential in life, whatever their goals are and whatever background they come from. Our outreach work with schools and colleges across the region is integral to this. We are extremely proud to be able to celebrate the commitment and motivation shown by the region's young people."

Dream Bigger Dreams is a project that gives students at the University of Sheffield a chance to engage with the local community, in activities that support the aims of widening participation and access to higher education. The project aims to raise aspirations amongst young people and the general public in South Yorkshire via events, workshops and promotion. Dream Bigger Dreams also shows how current and former students are making a difference to the region and provide platforms to further develop outreach.

Dream Bigger Dreams has so far successfully reached over 44,000 children and families across South Yorkshire.

As part of Universities Week, the University has launched Real Stories to Make You Think, a campaign to promote the arts and humanities. The campaign has taken the form of posters across Sheffield and adverts in local papers, featuring four inspiring stories originating from the University's Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

One story featured in the campaign is Storying Sheffield, a unique project that connects the School of English with the wider community. The module does this by teaming up English Literature undergraduates with members of the surrounding community to create Sheffield stories.

Dr Brendan Stone, lead academic behind the course, said: "Storying Sheffield aims to draw out and celebrate the richness of everyday life, and in particular to present stories and voices which are less likely to be heard in mainstream culture. I'm very keen that universities engage with wider society and that we do all we can to open up educational options for as many people as possible. It's a privilege to be involved with this project."

The project culminates in a one day exhibition of the work created, scheduled for Friday 17 June 2011, the last day of Universities Week. The event is free, open to the public and will take place in the Jessop West exhibition space from 10am – 6pm.

In the University's Faculty of Science researchers are working together to carry out crucial research into the areas of food, energy and global change as part of Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine was set up in June 2010 to unite scientists across the traditional boundaries in both the pure and applied sciences to harness the power of the sun and tackle the biggest challenge facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world's population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change.

Diverse discoveries made by the team include:

  • Capturing music made by longitudinal vibrations within the Sun's atmosphere

  • Insight into the effect of melting glaciers on ocean currents

  • Development of crops which could improve lives of more than a billion people living in poverty world-wide

  • Project Sunshine is changing the way scientists think and work and is inspiring a new generation of scientists focused on solving the world's problems.

    Translating research into solving the problems of every-day life, the Faculty of Engineering recently took up the challenge of creating a piece of equipment to help Kieron Norton, a local child with cerebral palsy. A competition entitled Making Kieron's life easier, saw over 140 engineering students using their skills to design 13 commercially feasible products that could aid Kieron and other sufferers of cerebral palsy to operate more easily in their day-to-day life.

    Students pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, made up of industry experts, entrepreneurial alumni, business people and Kieron's family and teacher.

    Students proposed a whole range of suggestions to help Kieron, some of which were in the initial concept design stage, while other students brought along prototypes for Kieron and his family to try out. The winning device, called 'Easy Mix', was specially designed to help Kieron be independent in his favourite hobby, cooking.

    Kieron's dad, Andrew Norton, said: "The students have been in contact with us and Kieron to see what kind of things would benefit him and their designs show that they really listened to us. The standard has been really high and it was tough picking a winner. I really think every single one of the students' ideas could be turned into a reality to help people with all sorts of disabilities, whether that's cerebral palsy or severe arthritis. We're really grateful to the students for all they've done."

    Highlighting the insight that universities can give into social change, researchers from the University's Faculty of Social Sciences recently created an atlas detailing the changing social geography of Britain in light of the coalition government's austerity measures. Bankrupt Britain: an atlas of social change, published by The Policy Press, shows, for the first time, how economic and social fortunes have been affected in different areas in the wake of the 2007 banking crisis, 2008 economic crash, 2009 credit crunch and 2010 cuts.

    Co-author of the atlas, Professor Danny Dorling, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Geography, said: "The atlas demonstrates that, in too many ways, social trends across the country continue in the wrong direction. In the wealthiest parts of London and the South East, people continue to be extremely well paid, are becoming wealthier more rapidly, and still often have a lifestyle of hyper-consumption. In much of the rest of the country, and especially for poorer groups, austerity has set in and living standards have fallen over the last five years."

    Co-author of the atlas, Dr Bethan Thomas, also from the University's Department of Geography, added: "Despite many people's fears of a bankrupt – or broken – Britain, this remains one of the richest countries on earth, but the rich have not taken their fair share of austerity."

    Universities also provide crucial research that goes on to inform government policy in areas that affect us all. A team from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) recently developed a new index, entitled Summary Hospital Mortality Index (SHMI), to measure hospital mortality rates that has been accepted for use by the Department of Health.

    Professor Michael Campbell, who led the research, said: "This new index is a single, transparent indicator that will be used throughout NHS. It includes deaths that occur 30 days after discharge and so tries to remove the incentive of hospitals discharging dying patients to improve their mortality data.

    "It will be published quarterly to allow better real-time monitoring at a local and national level. Attached will be explanations for healthcare professionals and the public on interpreting the measure, and it will be accessible to patients and the public on NHS Choices. It will not be used in isolation, but will be used with companion indicators and other supporting information."

    Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "From community outreach projects to cutting edge research, the University of Sheffield is constantly striving to be a pioneering example of what a higher education institution can be. Universities Week is a chance for us to look forward to the future, where we are determined to continue to champion civic engagement and remain at the forefront of research and innovation."

    Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, which is co-ordinating the Week, said: "In the media maelstrom which currently surrounds higher education funding, it's easy to lose sight of the huge social, economic and cultural impact of universities.

    "The idea behind this campaign is to tell some of the amazing and inspiring stories of why universities matter to the UK, and how they benefit everyone in the country."

Notes for Editors:
To find out more about the Unviersity of Sheffield's outreach and access schemes, visit:
Outreach and Access

To find out more about Dream Bigger Dreams, visit:
Dream Bigger Dreams

To find out more about Storying Sheffield, visit:
Storying Sheffield

To find out more about Project Sunshine, visit:
Project Sunshine

To find out more about engineering at the University of Sheffield, visit:
Faculty of Engineering

To find out more about Bankrupt Britian, visit:
Bankrupt Britain

To find out more about the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) visit:
ScHARR

To find out more about Universities Week, visit:
Universities Week

For further information please contact: Amy Stone, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2221046 or email a.f.stone@sheffield.ac.uk