Category / Fusion

New Nature paper by IMSET researchers

An internationally significant and ground-breaking paper has appeared in the journal Nature, led by Dr Phil Riris of the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions.

The work investigates 30,000 years of population resilience, with contributions from collaborating scholars from 14 institutions in 7 countries. The paper marks a watershed in our understanding of how people in the past adapted to, and overcame, disturbances. It is available in open access.

A schematic diagram of disturbances and population responses

Left: A sketch of an archaeological population time series with downturns and metrics obtained during the analysis. Right: Example types and groups of disturbances noted in the literature.

The key finding of the paper is that land use – the kinds of subsistence practices, mobility regimes, and extent of infrastructure investments – enhanced both how often a population experienced downturns and their ability to recover from them. In particular, agricultural and agropastoral societies in prehistory were especially likely to suffer demographic busts. However, they also displayed an improved ability over time to “bounce back”.

This result has wide-ranging implications for the development of sustainable land use practices, as traditional lifeways may have intrinsic rates of failure “baked into” their function and operation. The paper speculates that, similar to resilient ecosystems or ecological communities, such localised, small-scale, or short-term failures in human socio-environmental systems may contribute to building improved long-term resilience for the system as a whole.

Artistic impression of some of the types of disturbances experienced by ancient societies.

Importantly, these patterns only reveal themselves in the macro-scale comparison of independent case studies, and take multiple decades or even centuries to unfold. Archaeology is the only field able to tackle these timescales systematically, and underscores the value and contribution of the historical sciences to resilience-building and sustainability challenges in the present.

URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07354-8

The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/X002217/1).

 

Student numbers in the next decade

In contrast to recent student numbers intake across the country FT has published an article stating that, undergraduate numbers will see a rise in England in the next decade. [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved].

Total numbers have a direct relation to several factors including but not limited to overseas students, and both financial and planning challenges faced by international students. Various geographical regions for example South and Southeast Asia are conventionally more leaning towards traditional degrees for example engineering and medicine. Particular interest in these degrees is stemmed by primary and secondary education systems, national skill gaps and more widely societal impacts. Despite, a brief decline in the numbers of international students a pattern in terms of various disciplines varies according to available data. In order to attract and sustain international student numbers core engineering and medical/ medicine degrees will remain significant centripetal force.

FT also reported that, this year universities will make a loss on each domestic student unless there is a change in fees policy [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved]. In addition, a more diverse repositioning in terms of educational provisions is needed, such as strategic priorities for engineering & technology degrees, innovation in delivery models and methods of gradually but completely decoupling from textbooks taught system to a more flexible intuitive, research informed and practice-based education in partnership with industry which is fit for solving real world impact bearing problems. In turn safeguarding graduates’ future, placing their learning experience at the heart of education-research interface to guarantee higher levels of employability and job satisfaction.

HEIs are also facing a challenge in terms of financial sustainability as reported, the sector is struggling to recruit the higher-paying foreign students it relies on to subsidise lossmaking domestic places [FT 07 April 24]. A two-pronged approach would be needed to address these challenges. Firstly, repositioning in terms of facilities and resources to introduce, apply and integrate more state-of-the-art modelling and simulation techniques for practice, practical and experimental elements of teaching in engineering and technology degrees and initiating a phased transition from dependency on conventional hardware tools e.g. expensive machines to realise releasing economies of scale. Secondly, more robust, simpler and well understood parallels and transitioning pathways between HEIs and primary to higher secondary education are needed.

FT added that, “At the same time, government spending on skills will be 23 per cent below 2009—10 levels, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank.” [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved]. Collaborating closely with industrial partners and stakeholders’ skills gaps can be strategically prioritised for medium to long term needs, and educational provisions would need reshaping to integrate with research portfolio, UNSDGs, socio-economic, environmental impacts and relevant REF Unit of Assessment (UoA).

FT reported that, “The apprenticeship levy introduced in 2017 has also failed to deliver the expected boost to training, according to London Economics.” [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved]. This is an important pathway for filling the skill shortages and also bridging the gap between theory and practice. A steady rise in flexible learning engineering degree students’ numbers, have been observed. These students are industry professionals who join these degrees at L5/6 level for a BEng/MEng flexible learning program. In addition to academic benefits these professionals achieve academic benchmark qualifications for professional registrations with professional institutions. This is one of the best available models to address skill shortages with a flexible high-quality delivery and academic provisions underpinned by research.

A stronger and broader engineering sector in collaboration with industry partners and professional institutions to develop futuristic engineering degrees to contribute to economic growth and its sustainability with an upward trajectory to address real concerns that, “tackling (of) the UK’s entrenched skills shortages and low economic productivity.” [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved] is important.

Telescopic Electrochemical Cell (TEC) for Non-Destructive Corrosion Testing of Coated Substrate. Patent number GB2018/053368

FT also mentioned in its latest article that, “Policymakers should also remove the cap on FE college places in order to “level up” education, (Lord Jo Johnson), added, providing more opportunities.” [APRIL 7 2024. Looming rise in student numbers sparks calls for skills reform in England. Peter Foster and Anna Gross. © The Financial Times Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved]. This can be looked into within the context of above-mentioned points in terms of establishing more defined parallels between HEIs and from primary to higher secondary education. A rethink to consider schools’ post code model for HEIs entry will help in levelling up.

Keywords: education, numbers, overseas students, engineering, skills, industry, professions.

 

Zulfiqar A Khan

Professor of Design, Engineering & Computing

NanoCorr, Energy & Modelling Research Group Lead

Email: zkhan@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

Embedding Fairtrade in teaching and research: a panel discussion with the Fairtrade Foundation

Dear all,

As part of our BU Fairtrade weeks 2024, we are delighted to invite you to a panel discussion dedicated to academics with an interest in sustainability, to explore connections with Fairtrade through collaboration with the Fairtrade Foundation.  

Date: February 27th at 2 pm – Fusion Building, room F305 (in-person only event).

BU is a Fairtrade University; we received the accreditation in 2022 with the highest possible score (3 stars out of 3) and we are among a very small group of universities worldwide to have achieved this. There are plenty of ways for academics to get involved with Fairtrade that will be explored in a panel discussion with the following speakers: 

Elena Fernandez-Lee, Education Campaigning Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation: Elena will talk about the Fairtrade University scheme, discussing best practices to embed Fairtrade in teaching and research, and highlighting potential areas of collaboration with BU academics. Elena will also share about the Foundation’s new campaigns about climate justice and decolonization of the curriculum, and outline ways for BU academics to get involved. 

Izzy Chalk, BU Sustainability Officer: Izzy will talk about BU’s journey to becoming accredited as a 3-star Fairtrade university, outlining best practices in embedding Fairtrade in the curriculum and emphasising further areas of collaboration between the Sustainability team and BU academics. 

Dr Roberta Discetti, BU Fairtrade academic representative: Roberta will share some research-informed practices related to Fairtrade engagement, including NGO/academics cooperation, student co-creation, and multi-stakeholder collaborative initiatives. 

The panel discussion will be followed by an optional 30-minute networking where we will have the opportunity to connect with our guest speaker Elena and discuss different ways of expanding the integration of Fairtrade in sustainability teaching and research. This event is open to all BU and AUB academics, to maximise opportunities for collaboration across departments and faculties.

Challenges and New Directions in Journalism Education

“What journalism should we teach?” “How can the academy drive and lead change in practice?” These questions run like a red thread through a new publication produced by a collective of BU academics. Challenges and New Directions in Journalism Education (Routledge) draws on original and innovative contributions from educators, practitioners and students – including BU alumni. Its aim: to inform our understanding of journalism pedagogy in the context of ongoing shifts in journalism practice that often run deeper than merely technological change. Some observers describe journalism as broken – accused of elitism and often branded as too far removed from the reality of people’s lives. Beleaguered by a persistent crisis of trust, journalists and journalism are often portrayed as core to the problem, rather than the solution. Inclusivity remains an urgent issue with news organisations and industry councils, such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists intensifying protocols in a bid to create more diverse newsrooms.

Against this background, Challenges and New Directions in Journalism Education engages with a series of key themes and objectives: These include discussions around safeguarding, sustainability, journalism’s ‘democratic deficit’, integrating media literacy, podcasting and the ‘post-pandemic’ context. Each chapter draws on a research-informed approach: primary data, case studies and examples to describe and unpack the topic, and concludes with practical suggestions for journalism educators. The core tenet is the importance of listening — to the voices of students, the requirements of industry and to each other.

The book is accompanied by a podcast, in which the chapter authors expand on the final section of the book – Reflections. “ Journalists don’t often have time to reflect on their practice” says the book’s editor, Professor Karen Fowler-Watt “their work is tomorrow’s ‘fish and chip wrapper’ – so it was refreshing to have the time and space to discuss with each other the findings of our chapters and our own thoughts about the process of writing this book”. The book concludes with a Manifesto for Change, drawn up by the authors — it is intended to spark a conversation within and between industry and the academy.

The podcast (deftly edited by Jason Hallett) also includes the findings of a ‘call and response’ exercise with final year students of BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism. Each chapter author devised a question for the students to debate and produce a call to action in response – this exercise was discussed further with journalism.co.uk. Senior reporter Jacob Grainger devoted the latest podcast to an interview with Karen Fowler-Watt, who is a former BBC journalist, about the book project, the students’ responses and ways of growing the next generation of journalists. They also discuss how journalism schools and news organisations can work together towards the shared goal of producing journalists that are ready to hit the ground running in industry. Never has this been more important than now – the conversation is only just beginning!


Challenges and New Directions in Journalism Education is published by Routledge.
Editor: Karen Fowler-Watt
Chapter authors – Members of the Journalism Education Research Group (JERG):
Andrew Bissell; Jaron Murphy; Graham Majin; David Brine; Michael Sunderland; Jo Royle; Max Mauro and Julian McDougall; Fiona Cownie; De-Graft Mensah (BBC Newsround presenter and BU alumnus); Daniel Henry (ITV News reporter).

The 2 part podcast: I Challenges and II New Directions is available under ‘Support Materials’ for the book.
The journalism.co.uk podcast is available here.

The Evolving Landscape and Future Prospects of Mechanical Engineering Education in the UK

IMechE FL

Mechanical engineering education in the United Kingdom has undergone significant transformation in recent years to meet evolving societal needs and strategic priorities. As the educational landscape adapts, mechanical engineering programs have emerged as catalysts for innovation, sustainability, and societal advancement.

The UK has a rich heritage of engineering achievements, making engineering education an intrinsic part of the nation’s academic fabric. Traditionally, mechanical engineering has been at the forefront of this endeavour, contributing to the country’s industrial prowess. Today, this legacy continues, with mechanical engineering playing a pivotal role in shaping the future.

Mechanical engineering education in the UK is intimately connected to national priorities:

Energy Sustainability: The global concern for energy sustainability is reflected in the curriculum. Mechanical engineering programs focus on energy technology development, equipping students to address pressing issues in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable power generation.

Health-Related Technologies: Mechanical engineers are at the forefront of healthcare innovation. They contribute to the development of health-related technologies, such as medical devices and healthcare robotics, bridging the gap between engineering and medicine to improve patient care.

Longevity of Structures: Ensuring the longevity of critical structures and infrastructures is paramount. Mechanical engineers learn to design and maintain durable and resilient structures, contributing to economic stability and public safety.

Wider Sustainability Context: Mechanical engineering education has broadened to encompass sustainability principles. Graduates are well-versed in sustainable design, circular economy concepts, and eco-friendly manufacturing processes, addressing sustainability challenges effectively.

In a pioneering move, Professor Zulfiqar Khan worked closely with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) on their accredited Further Learning Programme (FLP). He assumed the role of scheme coordinator and integrated Bournemouth University’s existing educational and enterprise provisions into the IMechE FLP. This collaboration achieved IMechE accreditation in July 2011 as a Further Learning Programme, marking a significant milestone for academic year 2012-13. This was a historic achievement as it marked the first IMechE accredited program in an English Higher Education Institution (HEI).

Recognising the need for lifelong learning and professional development in engineering, Professor Khan championed the creation of a flexible learning degree tailored for industry professionals. This innovative program allows working engineers to obtain academic qualifications while continuing their careers. It enables industry professionals to achieve academic qualifications required for professional recognition as incorporated or chartered engineers, further contributing to the engineering workforce’s expertise and professionalism.

Building on the success of the IMechE FLP accreditation, Professor Khan played a pivotal role in establishing a successful mechanical engineering course at Bournemouth University. This course, with its industry-relevant curriculum and strong ties to the IMechE, quickly gained recognition and attracted students enthusiastic about pursuing careers in mechanical engineering.

Central to the success of these programs is the fusion of research-informed education with a strong industry and professional interface. By aligning educational provisions with the latest research and industry needs, students benefit from a dynamic learning experience that is both academically rigorous and practical. This approach enhances their employability, as graduates are well-prepared to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Moreover, research-informed education underpinned by industry applications also yields significant societal impacts. Graduates are equipped to address environmental challenges through sustainable design practices, contribute to social well-being through healthcare innovations, and drive economic growth by applying their skills in industry sectors.

Professor Zulfiqar Khan’s impact extended beyond the classroom and curriculum. He used the successful accreditation of the IMechE FLP program as evidence to support the repositioning of Research Excellence Framework (REF) Unit of Assessment 15 to UoA 12. This strategic move was initiated well before the launch of the Lord Stern review of the REF in 2015. It sought to ensure that research in mechanical engineering received appropriate recognition and support within the REF framework.

The Lord Stern Review of the REF was officially launched in 2015, led by Lord Nicholas Stern. Its objective was to assess the role and operation of the REF and make recommendations for the future, including how research excellence and impact are evaluated, funded, and rewarded.

Professor Zulfiqar Khan’s contributions to mechanical engineering education in the UK extend beyond the classroom. His vision, dedication, and collaboration with industry and professional bodies have not only led to the establishment of successful academic programmes but have also influenced the strategic positioning of research in mechanical engineering within the REF framework. As mechanical engineering continues to evolve, such contributions are pivotal in shaping its future impact and significance, fostering a dynamic and impactful fusion of education, research, and industry interface.

Acknowledgment. This article is researched, produced and written in collaboration with GAI.