Lancaster VC Appointed as N8 Chair of Board of Directors

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THE N8 Research Partnership (N8) has appointed Professor Mark E Smith, Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University to success Professor Koen Lamberts as Chair of the N8 Board of Directors.

N8 represents a collaboration of the eight most research-intensive universities in the North of England with the goal of maximise the impact of this research.

Professor Smith will become responsible for oversight of strategic research collaborations with business and public sector research users, as well as ensuring engagement with Government officials, industry, research funders and others.

Commenting on his appointment, he said: "I am very pleased to be able to take up this role of Chair of the N8 Board of Directors. Under Prof Lamberts' leadership over the last two years, the partnership has made great strides."

"Our research strengths in agri-food, bio-economy, digital creativity and life sciences, allied to the development of collaborations with business and industry, are producing innovative thinking, creating new jobs and contributing to tackling issues ranging from climate change and food security to urban transformation and the search for new medicines."

Professor Smith has been vice chancellor at Lancaster since 2012 and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and holds a number of external appointments.

Ofsted Grade Loughborough as Outstanding for Teacher Training

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Teach training at Loughborough University has been graded as 'outstanding' by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

The government body found teacher education at the institution to be of the highest standard, awarding it top marks for overall effectiveness, outcome for trainees, the quality of training across the partnership and the quality of leadership and management across the partnership.

Loughborough trains around 70 secondary school teachers each year via its Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses in Physical Education and Mathematics.

The course is designed and delivered in partnership with around 70 schools in more than 10 surrounding Local Authorities.

The Ofsted report said: "Programme leaders are effective in contributing to the development of educational theory in PE and mathematics, both nationally and internationally, and in creating opportunities for trainees and NQTs (newly-qualified teachers) to engage in this work."

The report added that the outstanding leadership has secured trainees' outstanding outcomes and attainment and employment rates are consistently above national averages.

Commenting on the award Dr Jo Harris, Director of Teacher Education at Loughborough said: "This is the fourth consecutive Ofsted inspection of 'outstanding' during my time as Director of Teacher Education and is a testament to our sustained commitment, drive and passion to developing the best teachers possible."

Hamilton Architects Awarded Canterbury University Project

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Hamilton Architects has been awarded a contract to deliver a £42 million project which will help transform the City Campus for Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent.

The company will carry out the design and enabling works for an 18,000 sq metres science, engineering, technology and health teaching facility, which forms part of the new development on the old Prison Quarter site.

The new building is expected to be completed by 2020, but the overall redevelopment of the university estate could take up to 15 years to complete at a cost of over £150m.

Commenting on the project, Mark Haslett, Hamilton Architects partner and project lead, said: "We're delighted to have won the contract to deliver this prestigious project against stiff national competition."

"We're thrilled with how the project is progressing following the significant development of a design we inherited which has appreciably increased the amount of usable teaching space."

"With all approvals now in place our team is on site one to two days a week and we have forged a partnership with architecture practice Hazle McCormack Young to act as our representatives in Canterbury."

The Belfast based firm has 18 education projects on its books, valued at over £150m.

Plans for Atholl House Approved

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Plans to demolish Atholl House in Aberdeen, replacing it with a mixed-use development, have been granted approval.

Under the scheme the existing building in Guild Street will be demolished to allow for a new development to take its place, which could include student accommodation, a hotel, retail and food and drink premises.

It is also hoped that the new scheme will help to improve connections between the main shopping area of the city and the train station, as well as providing a sheltered public square at street level.

Commenting on the project, Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: "We welcome the news that plans for Atholl House have been approved."

"If these come to fruition, it will be a positive step as the development proposals and significant investment will regenerate an important part of the city centre, as well as fitting in within the wider masterplan."

"It will inject new vitality into the area and potentially enable improved connectivity which will have a good knock-on effect in the heart of Aberdeen."

The Atholl House building was originally built in 1970 but is now vacant and is seen as an eyesore located on the edge of a conservation area. Aberdeen City Council officers even suggested it was visually discordant with the historic character of the area.

University of Southampton to Champion Culture and Creativity

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Southampton's reputation as a city of culture and creativity has received a boost with the signing of a new agreement between the University of Southampton and Arts Council England (ACE).

The Memorandum of Understanding will see the two institutions embark to further champion the provision of arts and other creativity-focused activities throughout Southampton and the wider region.

The University is already committed to increase access and engagement by placing students, staff and communities at the centre of its plans. This new commitment will result in the University and ACE working directly to embed creativity as an essential part of everyday life.

Among other things, the agreement will lead to additional opportunities for talent development, increasing public understanding of the positive impact of arts and culture, enhancing skills and employability, and delivering a strategic culture agenda with higher education sectors.

Commenting on memorandum, University of Southampton President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, said: "We are very pleased to enter into this new phase of our relationship with Arts Council England. This agreement recognises the importance and value of creativity as an essential part of everyone's lives and will help facilitate using the arts as a way of increasing connectivity throughout our community and region whilst improving the health, well-being and improving life chances for the young people of Southampton."

RGU Losses Another Senior Academic

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Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen who recently lost its principal over a conflict of interest, have now seen a senior academic step down.

Mark Sollis, a vice-principal at the university left his position less than three months after Ferdinand von Prondzynski resigned as principal.

Professor von Prondzynski quit in the summer after the board heard there was "considerable concern among a broad spectrum of university employees" about the handling of an internal inquiry into his business links with another vice-principal, Gordon McConnell.

The two academics were co-directors of a firm that owned a castle in Ireland, but the connection was not declared during the recruitment process. Although the university concluded it was a genuine oversight, Professor von Prondzynski resigned after another vice-principal threatened to quit in protest.

Meanwhile, Mr Sollis acted as the head of university advancement but spent less than two years in the post. A spokeswoman for RGU said: "The university can confirm he has left his position to return to Canada" but would not provide any further comment.

Portsmouth Vice-Chancellor Raises Concerns Over Brexit

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The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth has expressed concerns about the future of the institution and the sector as a whole after Brexit.

With the withdrawal deadline fast approaching, VC Graham Galbraith believes both universities and the British economy will be worse off.

Mr Galbraith said: "I am keen to learn the arrangements around EU students. We have about 1,000 students from the EU who attend the university. This accounts for around five per cent of our population. If increased costs prohibit some students from studying at the university, this will affect our ability to offer some courses, especially at the postgraduate level, and our ability to provide the very best for all of our students."

In addition to concerns over the restrictions placed on foreign students studying in the UK, the vice-chancellor believes it could be detrimental to British students looking to study abroad.

Another issue is the impact funding changes could have on providing opportunities for students from less affluent families to study abroad.

Although the Department for Education recognises the concerns of universities, they are confident that Brexit will not result in a significant decline in students from the EU.

Student Accommodation Earmarked for Meadowbank

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Developers are weighing up their options after purchasing two adjoining sites in London Road, Edinburgh.

Scarlett Land and Developments Ltd has acquired two sites on London Road following a deal with Summix Capital Limited.

The sites were previously under separate ownership but could now be bought forward to the city council as a single development.

The combined area for development is 0.75 acres and is directly opposite the Meadowbank Stadium, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games.

It is understood that Summix Capital is reviewing its options, with new student housing a possibility.

Following the deal, campaigners have called on the city council to carry out a strategic review of the entire Meadowbank area.

Will Scarlett from Scarlett Land Development, said: "Summix have been highly strategic in the acquisition of two adjoining sites in such a strongly emerging part of Edinburgh."

"Their ability to move quickly and decisively has been a key factor in this positive outcome."

Those against the idea of developing the plot have called on the council to halt its plans for the Meadowbank Stadium site, believing an investigation is needed to understand the impact on the local community.

Exeter University Closes in on Campaign Target

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The University of Exeter has reached 78% of its target towards its 'Making the Exceptional Happen' campaign, with two years to go.

A total of £47 million has been raised and the final push is now on to raise the remaining 22% so that Exeter can invest further in students, research, equipment and buildings.

The university recently enjoyed its most successful year ever for philanthropy, raising £15 million to support areas including dementia research, environmental solutions, arts and culture, and student scholarships.

More former students are giving than ever before, but donations to the institution have come a variety of sources and from far and wide.

Dr Shaun Curtis, Director of Global Advancement at the University of Exeter, said: "It is wonderful and also incredibly humbling to see such levels of philanthropic support. So much of this comes from alumni supporting their alma mater through regular monthly gifts and these donations combine to have a transformational impact on our work. Thank you to all our donors for their outstanding generosity."

As well as reaching the goal of £60 million, the university has already surpassed its target of 60,000 volunteering hours from 6,000 volunteers.

RLA Responds to Cardiff Consultation

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The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has written an open letter responding to a consultation on the supplementary planning guidance for student accommodation in Cardiff.

The consultation was run by Cardiff City Council and sought the views of landlords on a range of new planning measures in relation to purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

Among the points raised, the response from the RLA cited concerns over the number of PBSA developments being built and questions whether there is enough demand to meet the proposed increase in provision. They also fear the take up of PBSA could be compromised by "international socio-economic phenomena such as the UK Withdrawal of the European Union".

The RLA did offer its support in recognising the City of Cardiff as a world class European Capital City and any policy that maintains the character and sustainability of the city.

However, the organisation noted that developers of PBSA do not appear to have to adhere to affordable housing contributions and have requested greater clarity over their contribution towards S106 monies.

The draft version of the Student Accommodation Supplementary Planning Guidance can be found via the Cardiff Council website.