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University awarded for recognising the life-changing importance of the Living Wage

The University has been chosen as the winner of the Living Wage Champion Awards 2015 for the Wales region and becomes the only university in the UK to receive this recognition.

The awards, coordinated by the Living Wage Foundation, celebrate Living Wage Employers that have made great contributions to communities and industries by implementing and recognising the life changing importance of the Living Wage.

The awards are part of Living Wage Week 2015, a national celebration of responsible pay, running from 1st-7th November.

Living Wage Foundation Acting Director, Sarah Vero, said: “Congratulations to Cardiff University on becoming a Living Wage Champion Award winner. With 2,000 employers now signed up, it is wonderful to have Cardiff University leading the way in Wales. The leadership of responsible employers is making a profound difference in the lives of families and communities across the UK. Thank you very much for celebrating the Living Wage.”

In November 2014, Cardiff University became Wales's first University to be accredited as a Living Wage employer and one of only a handful of Russell Group universities outside London. 

Cardiff University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: “We are delighted to be named a Living Wage Champion and to act as an exemplar for other Welsh employers and the higher education sector more broadly. Becoming a Living Wage employer has sent a clear message that we value all the people who work for us.”

The Living Wage Foundation offers a recognition mark for employers that commit to paying the voluntary Living Wage rates to their directly employed staff and sub-contractors on their premises. There are now over 2,000 employers registered with the Foundation.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. The Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.

One Champion Award winner has been named in each region of the UK: Scotland; Wales; Northern Ireland; the East Midlands; the West Midlands; the East of England; Yorkshire and the Humber; North East England; North West England; South East England; South West England; and London.

The awards were judged by an independent panel of community leaders from Citizens UK, national community organising charity and home of the Living Wage campaign.

Internationally-renowned eye nursing researcher takes helm at Cardiff’s UK top five school

An internationally-renowned eye nursing researcher has been appointed to lead Cardiff’s School of Healthcare Sciences.

Professor Heather Waterman, who joins the School from the University of Manchester, will replace Professor Sheila Hunt as head of School, where she will work to build on its reputation of excellence for teaching and innovative health research.

Following the assessment of a government-backed panel, the School of Healthcare Sciences’ research was recently ranked among the top-5 schools of its kind in the UK. Ninety per cent of its research was deemed ‘world-leading’. The School’s physiotherapy course was also ranked best in the UK by the latest Complete University Guide.

With over 25 years’ experience in healthcare sciences research, Professor Waterman will bring to the School an expertise in medical and surgical eye problems, with a specific focus in glaucoma – a vision impairing condition that affects around half a million people in England and Wales.

Speaking of her appointment, Professor Waterman said: “I am extremely excited and honoured by the opportunity to lead the School of Healthcare Sciences. Cardiff University is a Russell Group university with excellent traditions in teaching and research.

“My vision for the School is to build on its existing strengths; its reputation for high education standards, an incredibly high rating for research in the latest Research Excellence Framework, and its size – such a large School can command serious influence.  Above all, of course, the School’s biggest strength is its people; academics, professional services staff, and students alike. They are what makes the School what it is.

“My aim as head of School is for us to continue to deliver an excellent student experience which gives rise to caring, competent, ethically aware and knowledgeable health care professionals, who will be future leaders in their field. “ And I want to ensure that we deliver world-leading research that generates knowledge which has direct impact on the well-being of people living in Cardiff and beyond.”

The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan welcomed the new appointment: “Professor Waterman is a key appointment for the university as it develops the School of Healthcare Sciences. I am confident that her experience and expertise will be a great boost for the School, and to the delivery of the University’s overall strategic aims.”

The focus of Professor Waterman’s current project - which she will bring with her from the University of Manchester’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work – lies in patients’ perspectives of living with both dementia and glaucoma.

She qualified as a nurse from Manchester Royal Infirmary in 1983. After gaining her degree from Kings College London, she joined the University of Manchester where she gained her PhD in 1994. Once there, she became Professor of Nursing and Ophthalmology for some 13years.

She also has an international reputation for her research into the promotion of self-care of patients with long-term conditions, particularly those concerning loss of sight.

Stephen Crabb MP delivers keynote speech at Cardiff Business School

Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb MP visited Cardiff University today to deliver a keynote speech on his vision for devolution and the Welsh economy.  Speaking at Cardiff Business School, the Secretary of State outlined how the UK Government’s programme of devolution and decentralisation could be harnessed as an opportunity for innovation and growth in Wales.

In particular, the Secretary of State emphasised the need for Wales to compete with fast-growing economies overseas and other parts of the UK.   He told the audience of business leaders, policymakers and academics that Wales needs to move beyond debates around the constitution, and focus on the challenges laid down by a globalised economy.  Mr Crabb also added that the city of Cardiff is innovative and entrepreneurial, and has the potential to become an engine of innovation and wealth creation which would benefit the whole of Wales.     

Following his speech at the Business School, the Secretary toured the University’s Hadyn Ellis building where he met academics at the forefront of Cardiff’s ground-breaking research.

During the tour, Mr Crabb saw how the University’s Neurosciences and Mental Health Research Institute is working to improve the understanding and treatment of major mental disorders, such as dementia, by bringing together the University’s strengths in psychiatry, neuroscience, and psychology.

sec of state briefing 2

He also visited the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, which was established to tackle some of the most pressing issues in cancer treatment.

The Secretary of State concluded his tour by meeting representatives from the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), who explained how the University’s new £44M state-of-the-art imaging facility will establish Cardiff as a European centre for neuroimaging.  The Centre, which will allow the University to further its world-leading research into neuroimaging, psychiatry and psychology, is due to open in the spring of 2016.

Recommendations to improve relations between faith groups and local government planning systems supported

An academic from the University’s School of Planning and Geography has co-authored a policy briefing that has been commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Richard Gale, Lecturer in Human Geography, co-authored the policy briefing which identifies key challenges for both faith groups and the planning sector.

Working alongside Dr Andrew Rogers at Roehampton University, he led an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded network on Faith and Place. This network set out to explore the effects of planning laws and regulations on faith groups. 

Dr Gale said: “We focused on bringing together pools of expertise around the topic in a unique 'task' group, which included planners, policy-makers, faith group representatives, and academics. Our discussions built on longstanding research that I have done on the effects of planning controls on Muslim communities trying to establish mosques and education facilities, and similar research Andrew Rogers has done on Black Majority Churches.”

Previous research has shown that many faith groups - and minority groups especially - face difficulties, including extensive local opposition, to the development of religious facilities

Following 14 months of meetings and deliberations, the outcome of the Faith and Place Network is a policy briefing on how local planning authorities across the UK should respond to the growing spatial needs of religious minority groups.

The briefing makes 15 recommendations as to how relations between growing faith groups in need of places to worship and the local government planning system can be improved. These include:

  • Faith groups taking a more active involvement in the development of council Local Plans to ensure their views are included in the consultation process.
  • Councils reviewing data on planning applications to ascertain whether refusals are above average from faith groups and take appropriate action if required.
  • Protecting space for social infrastructure, including places of worship

Dr Gale added: “Our briefing identifies key challenges for both faith groups and the planning sector. Ultimately both sides need a greater understanding of each other if growing religious communities in our cities are to thrive and be able to worship with dignity.

“We have evidence of Christian and other faith groups resorting to industrial estates and retail parks to establish sites of worship. Clearly this isn’t ideal for them, and it rarely accords with the wishes of councillors who want to encourage business growth.”

Justin Wellby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has spoken out in favour of the briefing, encouraging planners and faith groups to ‘engage seriously with the Faith and Place Network's recommendations.' The briefing has also been favourably received by The Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP, Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Faith and Place Network has been supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute. Following a launch event at the House of Commons last week, the policy briefing will be circulated to all local planning authorities in England and Wales.

A University-led project is testing ways of automatically repairing concrete without human intervention  

The first major trial of self-healing concrete in the UK, led by a team of researchers from the School of Engineering, is being undertaken at a site in the South Wales Valleys.

The project, entitled Materials for Life (M4L), is piloting three separate concrete-healing technologies for the first time in real-world settings, with a view to incorporating them into a single system that could be used to automatically repair concrete in the built environment.

At present, billions of pounds are spent every year maintaining, fixing and restoring structures such as bridges, buildings, tunnels and roads.

It is estimated that around £40 billion a year is spent in the UK on the repair and maintenance of structures, the majority of which are made from concrete.

The overall aim of the Cardiff-led project is to develop a single system that can be embedded into concrete when it is initially set, and then automatically sense when damage occurs. Once damage is detected, the system will be able to repair itself autonomously without the need for human intervention.

The trial is being undertaken in collaboration with one of the major industrial partners on the project, Costain, and is taking place at one of their construction sites on the Heads of the Valleys road improvement scheme in South Wales – the A465.

The research team, which also includes academics from the University of Bath and the University of Cambridge, is trialling three separate technologies at the site.

The first technique uses shape-shifting materials, known as shape-memory polymers, to repair large cracks in concrete. When these materials are heated with a small current, they can transform into a different shape that the material has ‘memorised’. The researchers believe that these materials can be embedded into concrete and used to close cracks or make them smaller.

In the second technique, researchers will pump both organic and inorganic healing agents through a network of thin tunnels in the concrete to help repair damage.

In the third technique, the team will embed tiny capsules, or lightweight aggregates, containing both bacteria and healing agents into the concrete. It is anticipated that once cracks occur, these capsules will release their cargos and, in the case of the bacteria, the nutrients that will enable them to function and produce calcium carbonate, which the researchers envisage will heal the cracks in the concrete.

The researchers have cast six concrete walls at the test site, each containing the different technologies. Over time the team will load the concrete at specific angles to induce cracks, and then monitor how effective each of the self-healing techniques is.

Professor Bob Lark, the principal investigator on the project from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, said: “Our vision is to create sustainable and resilient systems that continually monitor, regulate, adapt and repair themselves without the need for human intervention.

“These self-healing materials and intelligent structures will significantly enhance durability, improve safety and reduce the extremely high maintenance costs that are spent each year. This major trial, the first of its kind in the UK, will provide us with important insights to help transfer the technologies from the lab into real-world settings.”

Oliver Teall, a civil engineer at Costain, said: “We are supporting this innovative research to unlock the many potential benefits of self-healing concrete for use within infrastructure. From this trial we should gain an insight into the feasibility of constructing a full-scale structure using these techniques and their early-stage effects on structural properties. We will be monitoring properties such as stiffness, permeability and the mechanical damage recovery of the trial walls in comparison with conventional reinforced concrete walls.”

An opportunity to play a key role in the success of a major sporting event that will bring some of the world’s best athletes to Cardiff is up for grabs

The IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships, which takes place in just 150 days’ time on Easter Saturday 26th March 2016, requires 1,500 volunteers to ensure athletes and spectators have the best day possible.

The volunteer ‘Extra-Milers’ follow in the footsteps of the huge success of the 70,000 ‘Games Makers’ at the London Olympics in 2012 and the ‘Clyde-siders’ at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The global half marathon event, sponsored by Cardiff University, features an elite race with more than 200 top athletes and a mass participation race involving 25,000 runners.

Among those supporting the race are former Wales rugby union star turned extreme environment athlete Richard Parks, who is a Cardiff University Honorary Fellow.

He said: "As an honorary fellow and former student, it's awesome to be a part of Cardiff University's World Half Marathon. It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our great city, Cardiff.

“The impact that world class events such as this can have on Wales cannot be underestimated and I am proud to help support this exciting event.

“It's also a great opportunity for volunteers to be part of such a unique and special occasion, and help create some wonderful memories alongside all the elite athletes taking part."

There are various opportunities for volunteers to get involved, including being a race steward, handing out medals and goody bags, looking after water stations and helping to set up the start and finish areas.

Volunteers will receive a Cardiff 2016 uniform provided by global sportswear manufacturer Adidas after it confirmed its partnership with the race.

Cardiff University’s involvement will go beyond simply providing sponsorship.

Public health is a major part of the University’s work, not only undertaking important research in this area, but also training the people who will become the healthcare professionals of the future.

The University aims to bring together its local communities and the health sector to promote the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.

Students and staff from all parts of the University are expected to get involved.

Further information about volunteering at the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships can be found at and volunteers can get involved in the discussion about the event on Twitter using the hashtag #extramilers.

Cardiff has been named a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in a network of hubs to develop precision medicine across the UK

Cardiff University’s expertise in researching and developing innovative technologies for the UK healthcare sector will support the Precision Medicine Catapult’s Cardiff Centre. It is one of six centres named in the £50m Precision Medicine Catapult project funded by Innovate UK, the UK Government's innovation agency.

Led by a consortium headed by Welsh Government, NHS Wales and the University, the Centre will work on local programmes, building expert teams across the city. The centre will collaborate with local, national and global stakeholders including Welsh Government, academia, health systems and SMEs, to identify and resolve barriers to building a leading UK precision medicine industry.

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, said: “The announcement highlights both the city’s expertise in precision medicine, and the University’s reputation for outstanding UK research. The Cardiff Centre will support major UK clinical and data programmes, such as testing of new clinical trial models and the development of NHS adoption routes. Bringing Cardiff inside the UK Catapult Network will also bring wider benefits to the Welsh economy.”

The centre, which will also be supported by Swansea University, will collaborate with local, national and global partners to identify and resolve barriers to building a leading UK precision medicine industry.

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Officer for Wales and Dean of Research at Cardiff’s Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, said: “Precision medicine uses diagnostic tests and data-based insights to understand a patient's disease more precisely and so helps develop treatments with more predictable, safer, and cost-effective outcomes. The Cardiff Centre will work with UK and Welsh Government initiatives, industry and regulators to build the sector.”

First Minster of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said: “Wales has a thriving life sciences sector and a worldwide reputation for excellence in research. Today’s announcement of Cardiff as one of the centres of excellence to develop precision medicine is a further boost to the sector.”

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said, “The UK is a world leader in the life sciences and we are committed to strengthening our capability in this crucial industry. These centres of excellence will support researchers across the country in developing precision medicine technologies that will save lives and help grow the sector.”

New research has prompted scientists to call on policymakers to plant more trees alongside upland rivers and streams, in an effort to save their habitats from the future harm of climate change

Published today in the leading international journal Global Change Biology, experts from the University describe having discovered a previously unknown benefit of trees to the resilience of river ecosystems.

Britain’s 242,334 miles of running waters are among the most sensitive of all habitats to climate change, with cool water species at greatest risk.

Previous studies by the Cardiff team on warming effects in the Rivers Wye and Tywi reveal significant reductions in insect numbers and even an instance of local species extinction due to climate change. A growing body of evidence shows that deciduous trees can protect river species from damagingly high temperatures owing to the cooling effect of the shade they give.

Yet in this latest study of Welsh streams, scientists demonstrate for the first time that trees offer much more than just a cooling influence. The researchers show that river ecosystems also benefit from large inputs of energy each autumn in the form of falling leaves.

Some insects use this leaf litter as food. Their numbers are greatest in upland rivers where bankside broadleaf trees have been retained, and so their food source is in abundance. Insects are in turn a vital food source for fish, river birds and bats, so where there are healthy insect populations these other species also benefit.

Each autumn, around 5-8 kg of dry, dead leaves fall into every metre of woodland streams. The Cardiff researchers think that this annual gulp of biomass keeps insect populations high and might be crucial in making stream ecosystems more able to withstand climate change effects.  

To reach their findings the researchers counted river insects and measured brown trout in over 20 Welsh mountain streams running through moorland, conifer forests or deciduous woodland.  They also measured special ‘stable isotopes’ of carbon and nitrogen in river organisms to trace how much of the energy in their bodies came originally from leaf litter.

“We were surprised that, no matter where we looked, roughly half of the carbon in river insects had originated from vegetation in the surrounding landscape rather than the river itself – in other words leaves falling or being blown into the river,” said lead author Dr Stephen Thomas, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences.

“But, because there was so much more leaf litter at deciduous woodland sites, the numbers of insects supported by these streams was at least double that in any other stream type,” he added.

River biodiversity and climate change expert, Professor Steve Ormerod, also from the School of Biosciences, who supervised the study, said:

“This important evidence gives hope to the fact we can protect some of the world’s ecosystems against climate change.  Further global warming is looking increasingly inevitable in the years ahead, and we need to plan for conditions that could be outside anything that we’ve ever experienced and adapt to them as far as we can”.  

“In rivers, reducing pollution or restoring bankside broadleaves appear to be very effective ways to increase resilience, but these actions take decades.  We want to impress on decision makers the urgency of taking action now to protect against climate change effects in future.” 

Climate change adaptation is expected to be a key feature of the forthcoming “COP21” Global Climate Change conference this November in Paris, making these results particularly timely. 

The work was funded by a Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS).

Award-winning architects with a track record of high-profile public projects have been chosen to design Cardiff University’s Centre for Student Life

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) has been selected to design the new building, proposed for Park Place, which is part of a £45m investment in the student experience at the University.

FCBS has experience working on university projects both in the UK and internationally and has worked on numerous flagship schemes for major clients such as the Manchester School of Art, National Trust, Royal Airforce Museum and the Southbank Centre.

The Centre for Student Life, developed in partnership with the Students’ Union, will transform the delivery of all non-academic services to students.

Focused on customer service excellence, it will establish a single gateway to all non-academic student services, provide a welcome point for students and visitors, and will adjoin the current Students’ Union building.

It will house a state-of-the-art lecture theatre and a range of informal learning spaces alongside an exciting range of shops and catering outlets.

Professor Colin Riordan, Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor, said: “The Centre for Student Life is a significant investment in our students and their learning experience here in Cardiff.

“This project is all about the delivery of a world-leading student experience covering every facet of student life in a landmark building for the University and the city of Cardiff.

“Our students rightly expect the very best facilities in every part of their Cardiff education and I am therefore delighted that we have secured designers with a proven track record for this type of high-profile project.”

Students’ Union President Claire Blakeway said: “The Centre for Student Life is a huge investment in the student experience at Cardiff University.

“It is fantastic news for our students and will transform their non-academic services, while providing them with the very best facilities.

“The project underlines the strength and importance of the partnership between the University and the Students’ Union.”

FCBS partner Tom Jarman said: “FCBStudios are thrilled to have been selected to support Cardiff University as they embark on this innovative and exciting Student Centre at the heart of their campus.

“Situated on Park Place between the Main Building and the Students’ Union, the new facility will provide excellent learning and support environments to students at the University.

“The project will also serve to create much improved connections to the Students’ Union and Cathays railway station beyond.”

FCBS won the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize in 2008 for an innovative housing scheme in Cambridge, while in 2013 it won the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award for its new Business School and student hub at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Scientists design more effective approach to deliver drugs targeting cancer cells and other diseases

Scientists have designed a novel method for improving the delivery of therapeutic molecules into diseased cells such as those found in cancer and tuberculosis.

Many drug treatments do not work in patients because of their poor ability to reach their intended targets that lie inside cells.  

To address this, researchers from the University’s Schools of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Biosciences, sought to improve the delivery of a relatively new class of drugs called biotherapeutics.

These drugs include antibodies, such as Herceptin, that target breast and stomach cancer cells. Cancer cells often contain a unique protein on their surface that acts as a barcode, uniquely identifying these cells as cancerous against their healthy counterparts.

Published in the Nature publication Molecular Therapy, the researchers describe experimenting with new ways of targeting breast cancer cells with Herceptin that interacts specifically with a barcode protein called ‘Her2’.

Scientists know this protein barcode to be a major driver of cancer cell growth and division.

In the paper, the researchers describe being able to manipulate how Herceptin interacts with Her2, which sits on the surface of some breast cancer cells.  By modifying how Herceptin interacts with Her2, they show that Herceptin and Her2 were rapidly engulfed by the cancer cells that then proceeded to destroy the protein barcode. 

Lead author Professor Arwyn T. Jones, from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, believes this new approach for drug delivery - called “receptor crosslinking” - could be used to target a wide range of diseases, from different types of cancers and inherited genetic diseases to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.

“The striking thing is that we have tested our approach on both Her2, as well as other barcode proteins, and each one gave the same result,” said Professor Jones. “It looks like this could be a universal strategy to increase the uptake of drugs into different kinds of cells involved in many types of diseases.”

Professor David Needham, from the University of Southern Denmark, said: “I think the data is spectacular, and paves the way for nanoparticles to be taken in by cancer using one of many receptors.”

The research was funded by the EPSRC.